The Bug Club
Pure Particles

Ignore the twee name and aughts-ass sketchpad cartoon bubble letter cover art. The Bug Club is simple and Welsh and fun as shit. Bare-bones rock-n-roll power-pop indie-boogie-woogie, blues licks and guitar solos, endless earworms and the dryest humored lead singer since Gruff Rhys. I love every one of its 20 minutes.

Peter Talisman
The Lord of the Harvest

An avant-garde electronic chamber prog folk instrumental rock opera which is also the soundtrack to a video game and one of the most beautiful things I've heard all year.

Courtney Barnett
Things Take Time, Take Time

This new Courtney Barnett album is kind of a bummer so far. But I'm going to give it some more time and get back you on it.


Geese is supposedly New York's hottest buzz band. They're four Brooklyn high schoolers whose primary influences are Interpol and The Strokes, and I'm as shocked as you are when I say holy shit they're actually good! Like really! I was so, so ready to hate everything about this, but they kinda nail it. Yes they clearly give off some early aughts Strokesy, dance punky, post-punky vibes, but they actually seem to have fun doing it. And with swagger! Meanwhile, the singer actually sounds like he knows what he's doing, he actually goes for it. Hitting notes, singing—holy shit—melodies.

I don't know man. This isn't the instant classic that Is This It and Turn On The Bright Lights were, but it's a deeply pleasant surprise, and something tells me that Geese (ugh) maybe has a masterpiece in them once they're old enough to start drinking.

If Orange Was A Place

Between this and the Obongjayar EP from earlier this year, I guess Nigerian Afrobeat is my thing now?

Hushed and Grim

There's a new Mastodon album, and while it's not as good as their last EP (which was great, best thing they've done in 10 years), it's got a lot of cool stuff on it. Problem is there's too damn much of it.

Chalk it up to the digital music era, but I had no idea until I was done listening to it that Hushed and Grim is a double album. It's long. Too long. And it covers a lot of the same territory and there's really no reason to double it up. Not only that, but the actual sequencing of the tracks feels at times completely random, giving the thing no flow whatsoever.

So as a handy guide for my loyal readers, I've distilled this mammoth (um pun intended!) collection down into one single-disc, single hour tracklist for your iTunes playlists and CDR burns to keep in your car.

1. The Beast*
2. Pushing the Tides
3. Peace and Tranquility
4. Had It All
5. Sickle and Peace
6. Dagger**
7. Teardrinker
8. The Crux
9. Eyes of Serpents
10. Pain with an Anchor
11. Gigantium

* The Beast is far and away the best on the album, and is also not coincidentally the most interesting song on the album. Like much of that EP that I love, it's essentially a Brent Hinds country-fried solo song translated into a Mastadonian context. It's truly great and even though it's not the usual album opener, I think it would knock people's socks off to lead with it. I just wish there were one or two more similar tracks on this album.

** Dagger is nearly as odd and interesting as The Beast, just not quite as good. But it has this part in the middle where the guitars essentially hold one chord, and it turns into a hypnotic, Middle-Eastern flavored percussion drone. That's the kind of thing that usually makes me roll my eyes, the whole Middle Eastern motif gets easily overused with some metal bands, but in this particular song Mastodon nails it. I have an alternate dream version of this album where they get to this part and then just keep repeating it, ad nauseam, for 10 minutes or something. Close the album with it. It would be incredible.

Valley Queen

Pillow Queens is the best new band I've heard in a while. They're from Dublin and play passionate, literate, grungy shoegazey alt rock, and their lead singer Sarah Corcoran sings with this barmbrack-thick Irish broogue that makes her one of the most distinctive lead singers you'll hear.

When I first listened to Valley Queen, I was perplexed. The band played a little looser, a little lighter, and something closer to Laurel Canyon classic rock rather than amp-blistering alt rock—but if you told me I was listening to an earlier Pillow Queens album, I would've believed you. The singer emotes with the same exact cadence, similar melodic tendencies, and that same distinctive Dublin accent. Uncanny.

Well obviously they must also be from Ireland, and simply share that same natural manner of singing? No! Valley Queen is from Los Angeles! Their singer was born and bred there! She went to college at Loyola Marymount! Why the fuck is she singing like her parents spent their youth on the run from the IRA?? What is going on??

I have no answers. I've looked into it, and the only thing that I can say is that she's cited The Cranberries as an influence, and I imagine both she and the members of Pillow Queens have done well to ingest some of Dolores O'Riordan's stylings into their arsenal. But when you sit and listen to the Cranberries, you hear a lot of different colorings from Dolores that never made their way to Pillow Queens or valley Queen, it's mostly just the accent. But still, that's all I've got. And I have to admit it's pretty fucking annoying to think about someone from LA singing with such an intensely put-on affectation. I'd say it makes me like the band less, but honestly I still think they're pretty good and the album is pretty enjoyable.

Furthermore: Pillow Queens! Valley Queen! Pillow Queens! Valley Queen! Do you see it? Do you see it?

Anyway. This particular Valley Queens record is from like 2016, and I've listened to a couple of their newer songs, and it sounds like they've toned down the fake Irish thing. If anything, she's singing with an equally put-on indie girl quirk, which is maybe even more annoying.

Cowboy Music

I usually hate this kinda shit, but something about these motherfuckers is working for me. File under: sassy hardcore.

Illusions in the Wake

I'm creating a new tier of metal bands in my mind palace. (NOTE: This portion of my mind palace is designed like a two-page spread in Kerrang! magazine). This tier includes bands like Necrot, SUMAC, Mare Cognitum, and can basically be summed up with "extreme metal bands who don't really engage me intellectually or otherwise leave much of an impression, but whose music is spiritually gratifying upon listening and goes down smooth as pudding."

Obviously the point here is that NOLTEM is one of these bands. I can tell you that they kinda sound like some combination of early-Opeth and Agalloch—and Mare Cognitum and Necrot—but otherwise I couldn't hum a single melody or lap-drum a single riff from this album. I don't currently remember any of it. But I've listened to it about a dozen times.

Actually You Can

Deerhoof is still doing it.

Sufjan Stevens
A Beginner's Mind

Sufjan Stevens has been in the mix for so long now. Michigan was like, what, 20 years ago? So long! And what's interesting is that, this whole time (so long), every Sufjan release has felt like some sort of event. They've been grand experiments, comforting returns to form, stylistic left turns, theatrical projects, deeply personal confessions. Whether or not they've all been successful (though he does have a better 20-year batting average than most), they've all felt like something happening. A Sufjan release makes you notice.

A Beginner's Mind is the first new Sufjan album that I can really remember that just kinda came out and that's that. I think there's a bit of a theme to it: it's technically an album co-attributed to Angelo De Augustine, written and recorded by the two of them during the pandemic, locked up in a cabin somewhere, seemingly writing songs about the movies they were watching and books they were reading. Or something like that? The point is that isn't really important in this case. It's not a grand testament about life and the cosmos. It's not a confessional ode to his parents. It's just a nice collection of songs, maybe his best in a handful of years. A comforting return to form.


I had a borderline religious experience listening to this album last week and extraordinarily high volume while walking around the city late at night. I'm certain it's the best Low album and I'm not sure when I'll ever listen to it again.

Shannon Lay

This is a mostly straightforward folkie Americana singer-songwriter album, but it's an awfully good one.

Sweeping Promises
Hunger For a Way Out

The first couple tracks on this album got me real excited to hear a new post punk band that eschews post punk monotony and revels in melody. Then the rest of the tracks just kinda do post punk stuff.

Gegrepen Door de Geest der Zielsontluiking

Fluisteraars has done this to me twice now. They got on my radar a couple years ago by releasing one of the most interesting black metal tracks I've ever heard—interesting in that it didn't seem to have much interest in black metal orthodoxy, occasionally throwing in some alt rock power chords and some actual humane vocals. Then they put their first full-length out, and seemed mostly to fall back into your standard black metal. I was bummed.

But then I kept listening to it. Something kept pulling and pulling me back, and I started to hear that humanity inside of it, even without any of the alt-rock tricks. It ended up being one of my faves of that year, and I listened to it a ton.

The same thing seems to be happening with this new one. The band recorded it almost on a whim, with the intention of creating something lo-fi and honest, the sound of a band in a room. And just like last time, my immediate reaction was disappointment. Because, well, it sounded lo-fi and like a few guys screaming in a room. But also like last time, I keep coming back to it, and man I think I like it.

If you sat me down and asked me to describe to you what makes Fluisteraars good, I couldn't do it. I don't know. I don't know what they're doing that other black metal bands aren't, I just feel it when I hear it. There's just more passion, more desperation, more soul in the sounds that they make. The screaming feels more human, the drums are hit with a little more catharsis, the guitars feel like they're in a room instead of plugged into a 4-track. And I guess also that they actually play melodies. Simple ones, but melodies nonetheless, which turn into earworms. There's a few other odd bits on this album that make for something—extended drum breakdowns, some trancy shit—but mostly it's Fluisteraars doing their Fluisteraars thing. And at this point I'm fully on board wherever they want to take me.


I did something last night that I almost never do. In fact I usually do my best to avoid it. What I did is I saw a swarm of Cool Brooklyn Children hovering around what appeared to be a cool new restaurant in a cool part of town, and instead of turning heel and going literally anywhere else, last night I decided to stick my nose into the scrum and—really—stand in line with everyone else.

The place is called Ramirez! (exclamation point included), and is a slick little minimalist box with a cool Bushwicky neon sign (even though it's in Greenpoint), which serves tacos and Coke and Topo Chico (yes New York City is in the midst of a Topo Chico revolution), and nothing else. Part of the reason for the mass of bodies was that, oddly, Ramirez! doesn't do take out. Every order comes on a cut colorful little plastic plate. You're free to take the plate wherever you want—inside, outside, across the street, down to the river, into your car if it's cold I suppose—as long as you bring it back. Thus the crush of people 10 years younger than me hanging out eating tacos on the sidewalk.

It's too exhausting to talk about how annoyed this all made me—because honestly it didn't. It's fine. Despite the popularity of the place, there was nothing outwardly obnoxious happening, and really I was there taking up just as much space as everyone else. And I'm maybe just over being over cool places. Fucking whatever man, let's just enjoy it all. Because ultimately: these were good fucking tacos. Absolutely nothing to complain about. And by "absolutely," I mean "I guess they were a little on the wet side and the tortillas got a bit soggy." But that's it. I had 3, al pastor, suadero, and longaniza, which is a sort of chorizo, the differences between which I won't explain to you because I can't. That one was my fave of the bunch, but they were really all superb. Too small (get 4), but superb.

So. Great tacos. Honestly some of the best I've had in this city. Don't even think about going there on the weekend.

Coriander crusted swordfish, crispy rock shrimp

Strangeways is a totally respectable hip-but-not-annoyingly-so modern new-American-ish restaurant in Williamsburg. My review of it is: it would be great if it was better.

Nene's Deli TaqueriaBrooklyn
Birria tacos

Birria tacos are officially a thing in New York. Just like 4 years after they became a thing in southern California.

You may remember my ravings about the first birria place to hit this city, Birria Landia (known at the time as "Beefria Landia"), just a little bit after I moved here. It's a whole long story and I don't want to rehash all of it. The bullet points are: birria tacos start appearing all over my Instagram feed, almost all of which are in and around LA; I look up where I can find some in NYC, and only one place, Birria Landia, existed at that point, and had literally just opened like a week or two before; we take a trip out to some crazy nowhere neighborhood in Queens* and are completely blown away by these tacos.

Anyway now it seems like the rest of the city has caught up. It first started in the direct vicinity of Birria Landia, with every taco shop and truck (and at least one pizza place) on that block advertising birria tacos of their own, seemingly hoping to, I don't know, trick people into thinking they were the real birria place? Meanwhile, a handful of more legitimate places have popped up as well. I imagine the pandemic has made the process a lot slower for these joints, since I would've imagined they all would've appeared about a year and a half ago instead of Summer 2021.

So one of these places is Nene's Deli Taqueria, on pretty regular street deep into Bushwick (but only on the very fringe of the cool part of Bushwick). It's an interesting place; it clearly was and is just a regular old corner deli, that took out all of the deli grill area and put their money all into birria. Because despite being called a taqueria, really birria is the only thing on the menu. In taco form, in quesadilla form, mulita, torta, pizza(!), it's all birria.

And it's great! Tastes great. I have no complaints whatsoever.

The big question of course is: Is it better than Birria Landia? No, I don't think so. It's close! But I tell you, the pure mind-warping pleasure I got from Landia that first time (and subsequent times) is a nearly impossible high to reach. It's no critique that they didn't quite get there. Actually my biggest takeaway from the place was their red salsa that came with the order. It was a peanut based salsa, and it was outstanding.

Anyway if you're in or around Bushwick and want a piece of the birria action, by all means hit up Nene's.

* I now live in this nowhere neighborhood in Queens. The Birria Landia truck is about 3 blocks from here. The only thing that keeps me from eating there every single night is that there is constantly a line down the block to get it; the only times we've eaten there since moving here have been in the middle of snowstorms and rainstorms and single-digit temperatures.

Blue Collar BurgerBrooklyn

Blue Collar Burger is okay but not great. Next.

Milk BarBrooklyn
Milk Bar Pie

Milk Bar has this famous pie called Milk Bar Pie that's extraordinarily popular. Celebrities post selfies with it, people send it across the country for friends' birthdays, every food publication in America has shared their own recipe for it. It's a thing. In fact it used to be called Crack Pie. But then someone decided that's not cool so they changed it to Milk Bar Pie.

Milk Bar Pie is just gooey butter cake. Everyone needs to calm down.

Fette SauBrooklyn

It's been literally a decade that I've wanted to go to Fette Sau. I imagined some secret Williamsburg speakeasy barbecue heaven, taking all the American barbecue dogma and shredding it to bits—wild cuts of meat, experimental smokes, sauces like you've never dreamed about. Some artisanal inversion of your standard smokehouse.

Turns out it's mostly just a barbecue joint.

But! A damn good one! I'm not fully confident of this stance, but I think it might be my favorite of all the barbecue (not much TBH) I've had in the city. The ribs were maybe a hair overdone for my taste, but the flavor was bonkers. And really truly a case where you really don't need the sauce! Really! The rub alone does the heavy lifting.

And less annoying than Hometown. Which, let me tell you I have a whole thing to write about, but I don't think I actually will because who has the time.

Guacamole, vegan tacos

I'm not going to bury the lede here. The lede is that this is the best guacamole I've ever had. It had pistachios and hot peppers in it, and was topped with this sort of green spicy dressing I guess you might call it? Like a Mexican balsamic pepper vinegar or something? It was incredible. Worth the trip into Cool Brooklyn on its own.

There's more to my thoughts about Xilonen, but it's all second fiddle to that guac. But what we're talking about here is a fully vegan, crisply designed, modern Mexican restaurant on a hoppin' corner in Greenpoint. It's the kind of thing that I should hate. Well, maybe not hate, but at least strenuously roll my eyes at. But something about Xilonen wins me over. Yes it's over-designed, but it's designed beautifully. Yes it's hard to get down with the idea of vegan Mexican food (one of the least vegan-friendly of all the foods), but everything we had was dang good. Well almost everything. The purple potato taco was a little blah. But the green chorizo! I don't know what was even in it (the menu says smoked pecans, roasted oyster mushrooms, salsa verde, so there ya go), but it was a hit.

But that guacamole. Really.

Win SonBrooklyn
Big chicken bun (aka chicken sandwich)

There were rumors of this place called Win Son in East Williamsburg having the best fried chicken sandwich in town. The place is, of course, cool and Williamsburgy, but not too cool and Williamsburgy, and the sandwich is $20 and comes with nothing else on the plate. So of course it's good.

But not too good. It comes on a sweet bun with a kinda sweet sauce, and that all overwhelmed the rest of the chicken more than I'd like. The thicken itself was quite good though, more of an almost schnitzel-style, flattened breaded cutlet, seasoned with some 5-spice situation. But it needed less sauce, and definitely needed some sort of acidic, pickled garnish to make it fully work. This is me being picky, yeah, but for $20 and no sides, I'm gonna be picky.

Funny enough, we also got an order of their sesame noodles, which was meant to be something like a supplement to the sandwich, but honestly it was the star of the meal. Simple but delicious. I don't think I would've left disappointed with just the sandwich (like I said, it was good, okay?), but the addition of the noodles definitely swung it all in the right direction.

Lil Stinker pizza, split pea soup

It's been damn near 10 years since I last went to Roberta's. From that time it's gone from a secret hipster foodie paradise to a well-known hipster foodie paradise with a line of frozen pizzas and a second location in LA. Roberta's is a deeply loaded concept at this point, and has gone through a mind-numbing series of hype and de-hype cycles over these years, and I don't feel the least bit interested in trying to unravel what Roberta's means in 2021 right now. Mostly because I have no idea and I don't usually go to that part of Bushwick anyway.

What I do know is that the pizza was real good, and the split pea soup was real good, and the bread that came with the split pea soup was real real good. It also took an hour for them to finish my order, they ran out of two different things I wanted, and then never alerted me that my order was ready so I waited an extra 10 minutes while it sat getting cold—but dang Roberta's is still pretty good u guyz.

F&F PizzaBrooklyn
Sausage and sage pizza

A few years ago, before I lived here, I made a visit to a restaurant called Frankie's 457 Spuntino. I wrote about it. Look it up, won't you? Well so about a year ago, Frankie's opened up a slice shop called F&F, right next door (although they also have a pizza restaurant called Frank's, on the same block. It's all very confusing), and I ran into one of those situations where suddenly, out of nowhere, every food-ish type media outlet was casually referring to F&F as one of the best pizza joints in the city. Lucky for me, I happen to get my hair cut at a place right across the street, and stopped by after a pre-pandemic haircut to get a slice. Pepperoni, I believe, because they were out of everything else that evening. It was good, but I wasn't fully moved to declare F&F the best anything.

Fast forward to this year—I dunno, August? (I'm just posting this now because I forgot to back then. It's been a stressful year okay?). I was in the neighborhood again, and thought I'd give it another shot. This time they were fully stocked, and specifically pushing this one particular pie, hot sausage with sage and brown butter. Say no more! And this time around, yes, absolutely ready to declare F&F the best something.

Without going too far, in terms of preparation or presentation or thankfully price, F&F is absolutely dabbling in "elevated" pizza. The dough has a sourdough bite, the sausage and sage are conservatively spread, and it's cooked to just a little more of a browned char than at your average slice place. And it all comes together absolutely beautifully, the cheese and grease and brown butter sage caramelizing together into a rich singular thing, all on a paper plate for about $4.50. Best pizza in the city? Impossible question. But as far as your standard NY style triangle slice joint goes, sure, yes, I don't think I've had better.

David's BrisketBrooklyn
Brisket on rye

The last place that was on my list of food to finally eat before I leave Brooklyn for Queens (because once you move to Queens you're never allowed back into Brooklyn. It's the law.) was David's Brisket, a secret dark-horse competitor in the ongoing debate of What's The Best Jewish Deli in New York.

(It's still Katz's, but lemme keep writing this anyway). You don't hear much about David's Brisket. It's a nearly invisible hole-in-the-wall in the middle of Bed Stuy—not exactly Jewish deli territory—and doesn't visually impress much on either the outside or the inside. You'd barely even consider it a 'Jewish deli' when you're in there. I don't think it serves blintzes or latke or matzah ball soup or any of those other standards, just the basics: brisket, pastrami, corned beef, and maybe smoked turkey, along with some basic potato and macaroni salads. I think the pastrami is perhaps the "right" sandwich to order there, but I decided to go with the brisket. Because it's David's Brisket! It's right there in the name!

And it was great! Tender, succulent, flavorful! And whatever rye bread they used gave juts enough bite on its own, that I wasn't too bummed that they forgot to give me a side of mustard. Walked down, sat on some stranger's iconic Bed Stuy stoop, and enjoyed the hell out of every bite.

I'd love to go back for the pastrami, but I don't think Brooklyn will let me.

Hassan Halal Meat & GroceryBrooklyn
Chicken kebab

Hassan Halal Meat & Grocery currently has 1 star on Google. I'm actually surprised you can even look it up on Google, because to some extent it may as well not even exist—I'm surprised simply by the fact that I was able to find that it's actually called Hassan Halal Meat & Grocery and not simply "that shitty bodega next to the other shitty bodega," or "that place where I think they sell meat in the back." There are innumerable places like this in Brooklyn, that you walk by 100 times without noticing, or when you do notice them, you have to wonder for a few seconds how they can possibly still be in business, or what their business even is, and then you consequently forget about them immediately.

Early last year I started frequenting the laundromat a few doors down from this place. It was bigger than the next closest laundromat, and they have a parking lot, so I could lug more bags there without having to hire neighborhood kids to help me carry it all. While waiting for the wash cycle to finish, I'd often walk around outside, and maybe hit up the other shitty bodega for a Coke or candy bar. It never even occurred to me to go to this one, the view from outside was so despairing.

Then one day, when the whether got nicer, a charcoal grill appeared outside. And the next laundry trip, a guy was out there grilling kebabs. Then the next time, he was grilling chicken legs. Every time I walked past, someone would be out there grilling, sometimes alone, sometimes with a few customers or friends—mostly likely Pakistani—sitting around. It always smelled amazing. But it was never clear who they were grilling for. Were they selling this stuff? Was it just for themselves for dinner? Nothing on the windows of this place advertised any cooked meat. Yeah there was seemingly a butcher that sold bulk cuts in the back, but this was not a place you'd stop in to get a bite at. I saw this grill outside for months, just assuming it was not for me. But shit did I love smelling them every time I walked past.

Then on a recent night, waiting for another wash cycle, the other shitty bodega was shuttered. Permanently? Temporarily? I don't know. But I wanted a Coke, and didn't want to go down the block to the other other bodega. So I popped in to Hassan. The grill wasn't outside that night, so I wasn't thinking much about it. I went to the fridge, grabbed a can of Coke, and went to give the man my dollar.

And there I saw it: sitting in an Ikea tupperware bin on the counter, unrefrigerated, probably breaking a dozen different health laws, unrepentant, a pile of kebabs. It was finally happening. "Are those kebabs for sale?" A dumb question in hindsight, but you have to understand the laissez-faire nature of this place's merchandising methods. He looked at me—I read puzzlement on his face—"Yes, one dollar. Do you want it heated?". I replied no, to another period of puzzlement, and he handed me the cold floppy kebab on wax paper and I took my Coke and left.

Cold, yes, floppy, yes, and one of the best kebabs I've ever eaten.

Nicely seasoned but still a good dark meat chicken flavor, surprisingly spicy, and a kiss of char. I immediately wanted to go back and buy three more. Maybe heated this time. Or at least catch them as they were grilling them rather than buying them out of the tub. That'd be weird though, right? Anyway it was a deeply rewarding kebab. This whole idea of finding a secret little hole in the wall; I mean, that's a dumb cliche and probably classist and racist on our part to think about, right? Like that Seinfeld episode where Jerry befriends Babu? But I can't stress this enough in this case, you guys: No cool white yuppies or Instagram food influencers are going in there to find the secret kebabs they read about on Eater or something. It's just an invisible Halal butcher shop that serves parts of the huge neighborhood of Pakistani and Bangladeshi people. But the feeling of knowing that this guy on his grill outside this 1-star nothing grocery store is making the best fucking kebabs you've ever eaten—it tickles.

Postscript: We moved to Queens last week, so I probably won't be back to Hassan Halal Meat & Grocery. But a week before we left, when I was out doing one last load of laundry before packing, I had to stop in to see if I was imagining this kebab experience. So I grabbed a pop, went to the counter, and interrupted the owner's conversation with the 4 guys that were all sitting around shooting the shit. "I'll have a kebab, heated please." There was a little puzzlement again, but of a different stripe. He grabbed the kebab from the tupperware, nuked it in the microwave for a few seconds, and handed it to me in the wax paper. As I paid, he stopped and asked me straight up, "How do you know about—", rough English kind of ending his question short. I told him how I see them grilling outside all the time and it smells great, and I bought one a few weeks earlier. Honest to god, I don't say this to make myself look like some fucking white savior do-gooder bravely supporting his neighbors or whatever—that Seinfeld Babu thing—but when I told him that, his face lit up with a genuine smile. I'm sure those dudes talked shit about me when I left, but whatever. The kebab was even better hot.