11.25.2019
Blood Incantation
Hidden History of the Human Race

Metal. Death. Chaos. The cosmos. Annihilation. Infinity. Horror. Aliens. Nothingness. Ferocity. Psychosis. Incantation. Mesmerization. Reverb. Galaxies. Supernovae. Explosions. Megacosms. Microcosms. Vociferation. Blast beats. Pinch harmonics. So many pinch harmonics.

11.13.2019
FKA Twigs
Magdaline

This is the best Kate Bush album of the century.

11.13.2019
Brad Mehldau
Finding Gabriel

When I heard a few weeks ago that Brad Mehldau released a new album of original choral/synth/piano material earlier this year, I was pissed that I missed it. Then I heard it and I'm no longer pissed.

10.29.2019
Big Thief
Two Hands

Big Thief took over the world this year, and I'm totally fine with that. There's probably a good chance someone has tried to sell them on you, or that you're already fully sold (more likely), so instead of going down the bullet points of why Big Thief rules, just do this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UIcVwH47uxQ

10.29.2019
Young Guv
Guv II

Surprise, it's a new Young Guv album! Guv I came out of nowhere onto my radar, and I love it, dreamy jangly power pop at its finest, "There She Goes"-as-genre. Top 5 of the year for sure. So now Guv II comes out of nowhere, and it's also good but not as good but still good but not gonna be Top 5.

10.11.2019
Wilco
Ode to Joy

If Wilco The Album and The Whole Love and Star Wars and Schmilco never happened, and Ode to Joy was the follow up to Sky Blue Sky, I'd probably be confused and disappointed by it. But it would at least make sense. But those other albums did of course happen, and they've all left me in varying states of frustration and ambivalence, be it from Album and Love's lack of new ideas and general dispassion, or Star Wars and Schmilco's stubborn dryness. But Ode to Joy finally feels right. None of its individual songs—"Love Is Everywhere (Beware)" perhaps excluded—are nearly to the level of their catalog leading up to this 'frustration and ambivalence' era, but the album as a whole is refreshingly engaging. It contains little mysteries which I don't even know are there until they've hooked me, and it keeps inviting me back, and I'm happy to oblige. But most refreshing of all is that like every great Wilco album (which, again, is basically all of them up until those other ones), this feels like its own world. It has its own palette and speaks its own language. Yeah it kinda borrows some sounds from Star Wars and Schmilco, but it actually does something with them. Even the album cover works.

10.10.2019
Opeth
In Cauda Venunum

Jag vet inte vad "In cauda venenum" betyder på svenska, men jag antar att det är något som "minskar avkastningen."

10.05.2019
Sandro Perri
Soft Landing

Sandro Perri plays 20 minute soft rock mantras which land somewhere between Brian Eno and Pat Metheny, and I promise that's a good thing.

09.23.2019
Jay Som
Anak Ko

A cool and welcome trend in young new indie rock bands in the last year or two is the noticeable influence of dreamy early-mid 90s groups like the Sundays, the La's, the Cocteau Twins, and the Cranberries. The new Young Guv album, just a few posts down from here, is one of my favorite albums of the year, and it's basically an example of "There She Goes" as genre.

The influence is welcome, because while those bands certainly traded in a mood (serene) and a style (jangly), they were also resolutely melodic. They've got songs.

Jay Som has one song. On this album at least. "Superbike" rules. Depending on what angle your head is tilted, it could be a Sundays song, or a Cranberries song, or a La's song. Serene, check, jangly, check, resolutely melodic, double check. Nothing else here really stacks up, and on about half he tracks they seem to be aiming for something else entirely, which, fine, but we all know what's up. It's right there. How do you record "Superbike" and not say "Oh shit, this is it"? Then again, the La's recorded "There She Goes" and then disappeared entirely.

09.10.2019
Tool
Fear Inoculum

The thought of sitting at my keyboard and typing out my thoughts about this album is fucking exhausting.

08.22.2019
Young Guv
Guv I

The original selling point with me and Young Guv was that it's the side project of Ben Cook, the main guitarist from Fucked Up. One of the main selling points of Fucked Up, of course, is that underneath the throat-destroying hardcore vocals is a bunch of super layered, pan-genre, too-pretty-for-hardcore guitar work. So the idea of hearing what Cook has up his sleeve for his own non-hardcore project, even one with as dumb of a name as Young Guv, is enticing.

So Fucked Up got me into the door, but what happened next is that I can't stop listening to this dang thing. I've already thrown away any association I have with that other band, and am enjoying this record on repeat (seriously, I listened to it about 6 times in the first couple days) solely as one of the best power pop albums I've heard in a long time. I'm sure every review of it out there has used the word "jangly," but that's only because thing thing is jangly as fuck! So yeah, Cook knows how to layer a guitar or two, but he can also write a hell of a melody. and I cannot get enough of it. Kind of like Nude Beach a few years ago, it's just an album that hooks into you, feeling like you've been hearing these songs for years, even though you don't remember where they came from.

Fucked Up? More like Thumbs Up!

08.09.2019
Elder
The Gold & Silver Sessions

Elder rules and this is a quick one-off instrumental EP they did where they just kinda jam for a while and Elder rules.

08.05.2019
Miracle Legion
Surprise Surprise Surprise

You probably remember—fondly, I assume—The Adventures of Pete and Pete. You probably fondly remember the theme song of The Adventures of Pete and Pete. You might not necessarily remember that the theme song of The Adventures of Pete and Pete was called "Hey Sandy," and was by a band called Polaris. (Side note: If you were me, you probably spent almost 20 years thinking that Polaris was a local Minneapolis band, because you confused them with an actual Minneapolis band called Polera. But you aren't me). You might, after fondly remembering all of these things, go and look into Polaris's other music, but you'll find very little. But the one important thing you will find is Miracle Legion.

Polaris wasn't really a band; it was a one-off side project made up of a couple members of Miracle Legion, a New Haven based indie rock band which had released a couple college rock radio hits in the mid and late 80s and gathered a respectable regional following, as well as more than a few comparisons to their mid-late-80s indie rock peers R.E.M. In the mid 90s, when the makers of Pete and Pete—two of those devoted regional fans—wanted to get Miracle Legion to write and perform the theme song to the show, they discovered that they were just a bit too late; the band was basically on the verge of breaking up. Instead, Mark Mulcahy and the one or two other members that didn't currently hate each other got together under the name Polaris to record for the show.

The rest is history I guess. Except that Polaris never gained a following or recorded any other albums, and hordes of Nickelodeon fans didn't exactly flood record stores to pick up any Miracle Legion albums. But I did. 20 years later at least. And I'm absolutely delighted. Miracle Legion's discography is a secret cache of beautifully sentimental indie pop, sitting there unspoiled waiting for us. I'm probably more primed for this type of music than I might've been in previous years thanks to my recentish deep dive into R.E.M., because, yes, the old complaint is that they do sort of sound like R.E.M. But also not; Mulcahy's voice and vocalizations and lyricism immediately stands apart (not saying it's better, just apart) from Stipe's, even if some of the jangly, arpeggiating, clean electric guitar sounds and slightly wet straightforward drumming might, sure, come off a little Athens. But I've already wasted too much text talking about the comparison.

I've liked what I've heard from their few other albums, but I absolutely love Surprise Surprise Surprise. It's not the catchiest thing you've ever heard—I couldn't even hum you any of its melodies right now if I tried—but the mood and depth and sheer competency of the whole thing is a breath of fresh air. It's adult music. Maybe that speaks to how they never 'made it,' because there's no easy takeaways here for teenagers of the time to latch on to (as they did with that other band that keeps coming up), no obvious hit singles, nothing really in particular that would make them stand out. But hearing it now, at this age, it's clearly a special record, an honest record, and one that is giving me a singular sensation of feeling like it's been missing from my life until now. I mean, that sounds pretty dramatic I guess, but it's true.

I have a whole other paragraph to write about the serendipity of finding Surprise Surprise Surprise on vinyl at Academy Records the other week, but this post is so dang long already I'll not bore you with that. Just, hey, Miracle Temple is a miracle. That's not a pun.

07.29.2019
Joanna Sternberg
Then I Try Some More

Then I Try Some More initially excited me. It's a folk album that actually sounds like folk, not just some quiet singing over some guitary strums. It has real melodies, sing songy in the way that Woody Guthry and Burl Ives were, these trusty prehistoric song structures that have been sitting around waiting to get used again. Sure, she sings a shit lot like the other Joanna, and occasionally even maybe borrows a melodic line now and then, but that's okay because the other Joanna was just borrowing it from Joni Mitchell anyway, kind of a white elephant thing.

The problem is that these songs are bummers. There's a dark pessimism, bordering on depression, in just about every song here—but not the tortured-poet Elliott Smith kind of pessimism that makes you dream about being in a punk in LA or something. This is more of a "I'm young and the world sucks and nobody around me understands the real pain I'm in" kind. Just look at that album title. I'm not complaining that it's some phony, put-on pain to write songs, you can feel the real tendrils of sadness here. It's all too real. Even her singing voice sounds like a scared person holding back tears. And my 2nd or 3rd time through the album, I just hit the wall. I can't do it anymore. Joanna Sternberg is going to break through whatever darkness helped create this album, and I'll be there to listen to it. But for now I'm going to put it on the shelf with A Crow Looked At Me and feel okay with not basking in someone else's pain.

11.21.2019 - by Steve
Junior'sBrooklyn
Cheesecake, brisket, latke

Junior's Bakery and Deli is a Brooklyn institution that I've just assumed—based on its cheesecake's ubiquitous presence in local grocery store aisles and its not one but two Times Square locations, as well as the general Perkins-level sleepiness of its interior that I see through its windows every time I walk by it—is past its expiration date. Comparing it to a place like Katz's, which revels in a dogged, hard-won legitimacy, or Russ & Daughter's and its craft-and-quality-above-all ethos, Junior's simply appears a place that's given up. Or rather, sold out.

I don't know what the going opinion on Junior's is amongst the locals here, but I'm comfortable taking this stand: Hey, Junior's is actually good!

Their cheesecake, obviously, is very good. I don't think that point is too heavily in dispute, even though the grocery store version lacks a little in comparison to the fresh stuff you find at their bakery counter—which is truly and non-hyperbolically the best cheesecake I've ever eaten. But what surprised me is that their actual food, at least what we ordered, is damn respectable! The menu, which I expected to be generic American/Greek diner fare, actually leans much more into the New York Jewish deli world, with pastrami and brisket and matzo ball soup. In fact, the item I ordered, which was featured years ago on the Village Voice's list of 50 Essential New York Dishes, was a monstrosity of a brisket sandwich that uses potato latke as a bun. It was truly obscene. But It was also truly delicious, far better than I feared it might be. Erin felt her matzo ball soup was a little canned tasting, but I honestly think it was better than she made it out to be, and even more enjoyable (really) than the bowl she had from Jack's Wife Frida a few weeks ago. I can't say it was better, quality wise, than Frida's, because it obviously wasn't. But I simply found it more satisfying to eat, which kind of sums up our entire meal. I enjoyed every bit of it.

And now I'm supposed to end this review like every Junior's review probably ends, by saying something like, "But you really go there for the cheesecake!" Which yeah is probably true. But y'know what? I just had such a fine evening from top to bottom at this place, that I'm not going to minimize it with the go-there-for-the-cheesecake bit. Junior's is a joy, and I hope they never actually sell out.

10.28.2019 - by Steve
Buttermilk ChannelBrooklyn
Duck meatloaf

Hey now we're on a roll! After months of eating things and saying "Hmm, nothing's really blown me away in this city yet," first came Olmstead's blueberry scallops, and now Buttermilk Channel's duck meatloaf. Nothing's going to top those scallops, but this meatloaf is easily the #2 best thing I've eaten this year. And like the scallops, it comes with a sweet fruity reduction—cherry, to be specific. Nothing else too crazy about it, although I'm not sure what percentage of it was actually duck (it can't be 100%, right? That's a lotta duck. I imagine there's some pork or something in there too). Otherwise just some roasted rutabaga and some arugula, but damn it was good. Everything else we had at Buttermilk Channel—their 'famous' fried chicken and some leek soup—was totally fine but not remarkable. But the meatloaf made it all worth it.

09.10.2019 - by Steve
Jay & Lloyd's Kosher DeliBrooklyn
Pastrami on rye, potato latke

I found a real, classic New York Jewish deli in Sheepshead Bay! You can tell it's authentic because the sandwiches are $24 each and a little bit disappointing. Good coleslaw though.

09.06.2019 - by Steve
Burger KingBrooklyn
Impossible Whopper

I'm sorry, but I'm allowing Burger King to infiltrate the unblemished columns of Music & Food. But it's for an important reason, which is that one afternoon I suddenly realized the world is falling apart and my fat guy is complicit, and the best way to make it better is to go eat an Impossible Whopper.

I hadn't had one of these Impossible things yet, even though they're starting to get advertised everywhere. I think even White Castle is doing them? Anyway, I have to say, they do a fine job of being burger-like. Right before my first bite, I got a gentle whiff of some odd nuttiness, and a bit of that not-quite-right essence I used to get from those Deli Expresses burgers you buy out of the the vending machine. But once I dug in, it more or less just tasted like a Whopper! The onion and pickles and mayo and ketchup and mustard probably helped a lot too, but still. I'd be interested to try this Impossible stuff in a more, uh, epicurean context. But if Burger King suddenly decided to secretly swap all their real Whoppers for fake ones, I honestly would be okay with that.

And I never ate real beef again. Also don't read anything else on this website ever.

08.17.2019 - by Steve
OlmstedBrooklyn
Dry rubbed scallops with blueberry, watermelon sushi, other stuff

I've got to tell you about these scallops. Shit, man. Seriously. Probably—no, easily—the best thing I've eaten in New York. In fact it's probably the best thing I've eaten anywhere in the last couple years.

So the restaurant is Olmsted, up nearby-ish in the Prospect Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, and while it's been around for 2 or 3 years now, it kept showing up on every Best Restaurant list I read. It's won James Beard stuff, Michelin stuff (okay, they don't have a star, but they're on the recommended list!). It's basically just become the restaurant in Brooklyn. And since it was Erin's birthday, and we've barely even touched the surface of the surface of this city's 'good' restaurants, this was a perfect opportunity.

Okay, okay, I'm going to scrap the rest of the intro because I seriously have to tell you about these fucking scallops

You know that magical moment in The Wizard of Oz, where Dorothy opens the door of her house after the tornado and suddenly the world is in full color? Or that part halfway through Elliott Smith's "Sweet Adeline" where he's playing a nice acoustic Elliott Smith song and then suddenly every instrument in the world comes in an you're soaring in the sky and everything is beautiful? More specifically, you know that stupid moment in commercials or cooking shows where someone takes a bite of some food and suddenly their eyes snap open and their head rears back and they can't contain themselves and how wonderfully delicious that bite of food was, even though it's always contrived nonsense because nobody ever does that? These scallops made me do that.

I don't remember how the menu describes them exactly, but basically what we're talking about is your standard scallops, but dry rubbed and grilled, served with some combination of a blueberry (smoked blueberry?) reduction, some sweet corn, chanterelle mushrooms, and another cream-based pan sauce of some sort. Oh and they're served as a kabob atop a husk of a leek or something. But what happened is, we ordered a bunch of small plates, it was all very good, and then the scallops show up. They look good, the sauces look a little dull or dark maybe, but whatever. So I take one off the kabob, run it through a little bit of the sauce, get a mushroom and a corn kernel on there, and I, you know, take a bite. The first thing I get is the blueberry. It's very sweet, very blueberry-y, I'm prepared to say "weird" and move on. But then, a fraction of a second later, Dorothy opens that sepia door and everything is technicolor and the world is a beautiful place. And I honest to god nearly dropped my fork, eyes snapped open, mouth agape in a stupid smile, and all I could do was laugh.

It's so good you guys!

You get it. I won't go on. Anyway, the rest of everything we had was very very good as well. You're probably wondering about the watermelon sushi, which was exactly what it sounds like but probably my least fave of all our plates. It's a hit with the public at large though.

Oh and I just read the chef here used to be Jerry Seinfeld's personal chef. Nice work if you can get it.

08.07.2019 - by Steve
MeMe'sBrooklyn
Brunch, meatloaf, chili oil eggs

MeMe's is a cool Brooklyn diner that has a decent brunch. They serve a little bowl of dry cereal before your meal which I thought was going to be annoying but it was actually pretty satisfying. They have nice paintings on their walls and they have cake.

08.07.2019 - by Steve
Island ExpressBrooklyn
Jerk chicken

I live about a mile west of all the Caribbean food I could ever want to eat, and I barely ever eat it. This is totally my own fault of course, but considering how much I love it (have I ever raved to you about Harry Singh's on Nicollet?), it bums me out that I haven't really made the most of it. But I did recently stop at one of the better rated places, a counter service place called Island Express. According to the big graphic designed graphics on the walls (it seems like Island Express came into some investors recently), they serve Guyanese food. I'd try to tell you what differentiates Guyanese from Jamaican or Trinidadian, but guess what I have no idea. But their menu was what you might expect; jerk chicken and oxtail and some curry and different greens and patties as sides. I was feeling straight up jerk, and was fully happy with it. A big pile of dark meat on rice and peas with some mustard pepper hot sauce and some spinach on the side. Only about 98 more jerk restaurants on Flatbush to try before I pick the best.

07.30.2019 - by Steve
Di Fara PizzaBrooklyn
Pizza

See item #3.

07.23.2019 - by Steve
L&B Spumoni GardensBrooklyn
PIzza

Music & Food is a blog that used to be about 3 things:

1.) Sky Blue Sky is actually a masterpiece.
2.) The Mars Volta rules even though sometimes I don't like them.
3.) The Modern isn't what it used to be.

Well the Modern doesn't exist anymore, so I need to change item #3. So as of today, Music & Food is about these three things:

1.) Sky Blue Sky is actually a masterpiece.
2.) The Mars Volta rules even though sometimes I don't like them.
3.) All New York pizza is the same; it's all good, but it's just the same.

I don't even know if I've written that much about the pizza here, because, well, read #3. But I figure I better write about L&B Spumoni Gardens, which is one of the small handful of truly venerated New York pizza places that just about anyone who's actually from here will tell you "ya gotta go" to. All those other places, naaaah—L&B and Di Fara*, those are the real deal!

But the thing is, L&B is fine. It's perfectly good. And it's a fun place, full of people, lots of outdoor seating, homemade spumoni, a quirky old Italian guy taking your order, and it's been around since the 40s. It's great! The pizza's great! Tastes good! Lotsa sauce! You should go there some time! But really, honestly, I could go to about a dozen other pizza places within 2 miles of L&B that are basically just as good. Basically. Because yeah, L&B is maybe a bit better, like ten percent better. But not so much better that everyone should spend an hour on the N train to Gravesend to have a square.

But maybe spend an hour on the N train anyway, because it's fun and it's good, even if it's the same.

* I'll get to Di Fara in a lil bit

06.22.2019 - by Steve
Roll N RoasterBrooklyn
Roast beef sandwich

If you follow me on any given social media platform, or perhaps on occasion even speak to me casually or professionally or otherwise, or maybe if you've sat in the same subway car or lingered within 100 feet of my open apartment windows in the last 3 weeks, you've probably heard me claim at least once that Roll N Roaster is the best restaurant in New York. Look, I know it's actually not. That's just hyperbole, ok? But what it is is a beautifully odd, oddly perfect, perfectly out-of-touch fast food institution in the equally out-of-touch deep Brooklyn neighborhood of Sheepshead Bay. It's one of those rare places that genuinely feels like it's from another era—untouched, unchanged, balancing on a terrifying equilibrium since 1970 of being successful enough that they didn't have to reinvent the wheel, but not so successful that monied interests tried to harness its name. Yellow formica booths, golden bubble glass features, sign-painted menu boards—Don Draper could've eaten at this place. He would've hated it but his kids would've loved it, so he'd just let them eat while staring at the window and thinking about the ocean. I'd bet money that multiple movies and shows have filmed here. I'd tell you which ones, but I can't seem to find any info. But Anthony Bourdain filmed here, and probably swore.

Why Roll? Because they bake their own rolls. Why Roaster? Because they serve roast beef sandwiches (on the rolls). It's also somewhat kinda almost close to Coney Island, which has a roller coaster, so I think that must've been part of their thinking. But even closer by, just a mile north on the same road, is the ancient Brooklyn restaurant institution Brennan & Carr, which I wrote about a few months ago. I have to think that R'N'R's decision to go into roast beef was inspired by Brennan & Carr's famous roast beef, but they do a much better job. My sandwich was damn good, much more tender and fresh than B&C's, and even better than some of the sandwiches I've had at Minneapolis' own roast beef institutions of Wally's and Maverick's. I got it with a side of mashed potatoes and gravy, which were actually (I think) homemade, and just as delicious. And root beer!

Roll N Roaster is not the best restaurant in New York City. But it's a true and rare gem, and I'm almost sad I discovered it because now for the rest of my life I'm going to have to worry about whether or not it's still around. 5 years from now, I'll see a rollercoaster on TV, and suddenly my mind will snap to "Oh shit, I hope Roll N Roaster is still around!". But some day it won't be, so you better go there next time you're here. Maybe just, like, go to Momofuku first.

06.18.2019 - by Steve
Hand Pull Noodles and Dumpling HouseBrooklyn
Pork rib noodle soup

These hand pull noodles and dumplings aren't up to the standards of Xi'an Famous Foods, which for me and a million other people in this city is the standard, but hey, it was good. And cheap. And nearby.

Addendum: Everyone knows Chinatown in lower Manhattan, and a lot of people know about the even-China-er-own of Flushing, Queens. But there's a couple burgeoning little Chinese/Asian neighborhoods in deep Brooklyn that offer a whole lot of decent looking food options (and a lot of hot pot) that are far enough away from the young and beautiful people of New York that they fly a little under the radar. All the dying and angry old Italians might not be too happy about it, but as long as you can get a solid bowl of soup and dumplings for five bucks on a random corner in Bensonhurst, it's hard to see a downside.

05.31.2019 - by Steve
Tacos El BroncoBrooklyn
Tacos

There's a running thread in my New York food adventures, which I may or may not have written about already, and you may or may not have read about already, and it's this: Mexican food isn't that great here. I can't say that's true across the board, as I'm sure there's some exceptional Mexican spots to be found somewhere, but it seems to suffer from the same problem as this town's pizza, bagels, and deli sandwiches. It's as if every place, whether it's a counter service taqueria, a sit down joint, or a truck, gets all the same ingredients from all the same distributors. But unlike pizza and bagels, where the redundant offerings are at least of generally high quality, the average New York taco is just mostly fine I guess.

This does bring us to the Tacos El Bronco truck, which you think might be a "but here's the exception!" moment, but naaah. It's just as okay as every other one. But then it becomes even more disappointing because just a few hours before stumbling upon the truck in Sunset Park, I'd just read El Bronco mentioned on a short list of Best Tacos In Brooklyn. So I had my hopes up, and it didn't happen for me.