07.16.2018
Gang Gang Dance
Kazuashita

Gang Gang Dance is the type of group that I always feel has the potential to do something truly transcendent. Despite not really being "my kind of thing," their last album Eye Contact really blew me away, and had a few moments on it where I just wanted to stand up and find anyone around me to yell "are you hearing this‽" at. Other moments of it, meanwhile, were just kinda good. So then here, after like 5 years, we have Kazuashita, which is better than just kinda good, but at the same time doesn't seem to have any of the "are you hearing this‽" moments in it that I wish it had. It's just mostly very chill, and borderline new-age. So yes, it's a very pleasant listen all the way through, with one almost transcendent moment, although it's a bit of a cheat because it comes from a spoken word vocal sample layed over the music rather than the music itself ("buffalo".) But hey. It's a nice listen and I like it.

07.11.2018
Self Defense Family
Have You Considered Punk Music

So this is a band called Self Defense Family, and the album is called Have You Considered Punk Music, and it's one the most earnest collections of musical recordings I've ever heard. It's good and you should listen to it.

07.09.2018
Kamasi Washington
Heaven and Earth

I'll be honest—I haven't actually listened to Heaven and Earth in full yet. I'm not even sure how that's supposed to be done; every song on it is the biggest, fullest, most epic jazz odyssey ever recorded, and there's two discs worth of it! It's like watching 2001 front to back and then turning on Andrei Rublev without even getting up from the couch.

That's a terrible comparison and I'm going to edit it out later. But I'm just trying to get this music blog done so I can go to bed, so let's keep moving, yes? So: everything that Kamasi Washington has recorded so far is astounding, and Heaven and Earth is too. Just the most correct shit, over and over again, one track after another. Choirs, strings, dueling drum sets, vintage synthesizers, noise prog guitar solos, spoken poetry, wah pedals, talk boxes. Everything is on this album. You're probably on this album. Bet you didn't know it. The craziest thing about all of it is that it all makes sense.

07.09.2018
Natalie Prass
The Future and the Past

I didn't like the first Natalie Prass album all that much at first. But then I liked it a little more. And then I liked it a lot more. And now it's one of my favorites of the last few years.

I don't like this new Natalie Prass album all that much.

06.19.2018
Father John Misty
God's Favorite Customer

It's interesting how little I have to say about this album, in relation to how much I like it. I mean, not that interesting. But like, know what I mean? It's a completely solid album from front to back, and Father John Misty is a songwriter par excellence, truly and not even ironically the Randy Newman of our generation; which isn't to say that he sounds like Randy Newman or that you'd ever confuse the work of the two, but he's a too smart for his own good asshole, who treats the art of songwriting itself like a test that he has to ace, blindfolded and with his left hand, a tight rope slung in between towers with no net that he's going to walk across even though nobody asked him to. But the motherfucker nails it, is the thing, every time, even if tight rope walking isn't that big with the kids these days.

06.19.2018
Ryley Walker
Deafman's Glance

I liked this Ryley Walker album a lot, but then it struck me just how much it sounds like Jim O'Rourke. Now I still like it a lot.

05.26.2018
Courtney Barnett
Tell Me How You Really Feel

I've been as much of a Courtney Barnett advocate as anybody in the last few years, proclaiming to anyone who will listen how she is One Of The Great Music Authors of our generation, a rare Genuine Voice in a world full of poseurs and trend hoppers. What I'm saying is that's she's the fuckin best. Listen to "Avant Gardener"! Listen to it! Do you hear it??

So anyway, she just released her third album, which very learned people will tell you is um actually he second album, since her first album is just a collection of 3 EPs, even though that's nonsense and this is her third album whether you like it or not. It's a bit of a departure, in that it's all a bit darker, slower, seemingly basking in ennui rather than writing circles around it. It's good, I like it. It just seems like she's going through some stuff, man, you know? Except there's this one part on "Need A Little Time," in the chorus, where she switches from "Me...eeee...eeee.eeee" to "You...ooooo...ooo," and the chord changes and the guitars crunch a little more, and it's glorious. Listen to it! Do you hear it??

05.24.2018
Eleanor Friedberger
Rebound

Good tunes.

05.22.2018
Beach House
7

This new Beach House album has really great cover art. It's printed on a shiny, metallic, somewhat opalescent paper that cuts through the black and white pop art, and is very psychedelic and cool and was probably very expensive for Sub Pop to manufacture. This is also the review of the Beach House album. 7/10.

05.02.2018
Yazan
Hahaha

Weirdo psych blues rock that sounds kinda like Retribution Gospel Choir is Retribution Gospel Choir was a lot funner and a little goofy. To be honest I bought this on a whim, and I keep forgetting about it.

04.16.2018
R.E.M.
Monster

I've been listening to "What's The Frequency Kenneth" endlessly in the last few days. It's a strange choice, I know, but the song has completely hooked itself into me. The proximate blame goes to Scott Aukerman and Adam Scott's new podcast "R U Talking R.E.M. Re: Me?", where they talk about R.E.M. for an hour every week, even though they haven't even gotten to Monster yet, and really I don't find their analysis and discussion of the band all that interesting. It's just a fun goofy listen. But what it has done is made me revisit their records with fresher ears, and ultimately that's what's making me think I've grossly underestimated these guys my whole life. They're really fascinating once you lay it all out, almost by being so un fascinating. There are no major peaks and valleys to their career; there's no drama, no grand failed experiments, no major lineup changes. And yet since 1983, these dudes have released so many undeniable hit songs, entirely in their own voice, making (practically) no concessions to fashion or popularity. Every single album (at least until the 21st century, where you can forgive them for being 20 years into their career) has at least one song on it, usually 2 or 3 and sometimes 4, which would be any other band's creative pinnacle, most of which have since entered whatever we can describe as the modern rock/pop canon. It's remarkable.

Even Monster, which at the time perhaps got some criticism for selling out to some grungy, alt-rock zeitgeist, has mostly aged beautifully, and contains at least 2 all time greats. One of which, to take us back to the lede, is "What's The Frequency Kenneth", which, again, was kinda made fun of at the time for being alt rock nonsense. But listen to it! It's great! It's an undeniable jam. And even though they might've distorted the guitar a little more than previous albums, it is anything but a grunge cash in. It's pure and beautiful and perfect. And lucky for all of us, you can find dozens of copies Monster for $2 or less at every used record store and thrift shop in the country.

04.15.2018
Hop Along
Bark Your Head Off

I wish this rocked more.

04.04.2018
Daphne & Celeste
Daphne & Celeste Save The World

Okay, the title up there says "Daphne & Celeste Save The World," which is technically true, albeit probably meaningless to anyone reading this right now. But in reality, this is really a Max Tundra album, his first in a decade. Whu-whu-whaaat? Let me explain, because it's bizarre!

Backstory #1 is that Daphne & Celeste were a thoroughly disposable teen pop duo in England back in 2000, who had one or two earworm bubblegum pop hits that apparently had no traction in the US, but drove the Brits completely crazy. Like "Barbie Girl" and "Crazy Frog" levels of crazy. There's a famous story about them playing at some festival and basically having shit thrown at them from the crowd to get off the stage. Backstory #2, is that Max Tundra is this insane genius electronic experimentalist with a knack for undeniable pop melodicism and a cheeky sense of humor, who spends years and years completely out of the public eye, seemingly too clever for his own well being, crafting his music like one of those guys who carves photorealistic landscapes on thousands of grains of rice. It's been 10 years since the last Max Tundra album, Parallax Error Beheads You, and I basically assumed he was dead.

But what happened is he was actually writing and recording his new album. Except instead of a Max Tundra album, it's a Daphne & Celeste album??? Listening to this record, there is no confusion about who's music this is. This is Max Tundra through and through, from the batshit cut up production, to the melodic signatures, to the fact that there is at least one love song to a synthesizer. No, not recorded with a synthesizer, but about a synthesizer. Did I mention Max Tundra is the best? Anyway, while his own voice is nowhere to be heard, Daphne & Celeste do just fine taking his place, and give the whole album a surreal feel of a bubblegum pop album completely out of time, frankensteined together almost as a joke, but way too comprehensive and smart to actually be a joke. I don't know how this project came together, how Tundra convinced Daphne & Celeste to jump off a cliff with him, but holy hell is it weird and fascinating and a complete joy.

04.03.2018
Mount Eerie
Now Only

The last Mount Eerie album was a towering masterpiece of grief and honesty and poetry, born out real life death and mourning, completely uncritiqueable and undeniably perfect. Now Only feels like a lesser, lighter follow up to that one, even though it is also all of those things. But it couldn't really be anything else, and that's okay. RIYL: crying.

04.02.2018
4th Curtis
I Won the Pageant

Holy cow, it's a local band that's actually good and actually excites me! 4th Curtis—not to be confused with Cowboy Curtis—plays totally solid 90's alt-rock-inspired indie pop on Girlpool-Trust Fund-Frankie Cosmos spectrum. I saw them performing randomly at halftime of a roller derby event, expected absolutely nothing of them, and after just a couple songs was totally sold. They're good! Good songs! Good music! Cool!

08.08.2017 - by Steve
Sweet ChickBrooklyn
Chicken and waffles

The great Williamsburg bang-bang, part 2: Sweet Chick! So, I walked past this place a handful of times throughout the night, simultaneously annoyed ("Ugh, of course, a hipster chicken and waffles joint on Bedford Avenue in fucking Williamsburg"), and intrigued ("Ugh, chicken and waffles sound really good"). But of course, since it's a hipster chicken and waffles joint on Beford Avenue in fucking Williamsburg, it was packed to the gills every time I checked back, even at 10:30 at night.

But eventually, I saw a spot at the bar open up, and my inner intrigued voice beat out my inner annoyed voice. After all, this was my real last night in New York, I may as well give in and pay through the nose for some Williamsburg fried hipster. I squeezed in at the bar (surrounded of course by local bartenders and other staff members who apparently just hang out at this place at all hours of the night even on their off nights), and ordered the regular fried chicken with the dried cherry waffles. Okay. Look. It was really good. Like perfectly good. Like, I've had chicken and waffles plenty of times, and it's always sort of good enough, but never quite reaches that magic pinnacle of what you assume chicken and waffles should hit. Well these hit it. Thoroughly satisfying.

I learned later, in a beautiful cosmic coincidence that did tie a nice bow around my trip, that Sweet Chick is owned by the same husband-and-wife duo that owns Pearl's, the first place I ate on this NYC adventure, and also one of the best. Whatever my misgivings about modern day restauranteurship may be, these two certainly know how to make some incredible food.

08.08.2017 - by Steve
Crif DogsBrooklyn
Hot dogs

So what happened is: My flight got cancelled and rescheduled for the next evening, so I got an extra night in the city! Lucky me! Lucky me? Well, I guess the place I was staying was free, so I can't complain. So to make the most of it, I decided to do a classic Louie-style bang bang!

Dinner 1: Hot dogs. Boring, yeah. But it sounded good. I hit up this little place in Williamsburg called Crif Dogs. They deep fry them there, which I hear is sort of a New Jersey thing. Which is funny, because the hot dog I had in New Jersey wasn't deep fried. Anyhow, I don't know, they were good! The chili dog was particularly good in that chili dog sort of way. Better than the NJ chili dog even. Otherwise, not a whole lot to report. On to the 2nd part of the bang bang!

08.08.2017 - by Steve
Frankie's SpuntinoBrooklyn
Meatballs, lima bean pasta

For my last night in New York (spoiler: it wasn't actually my last night!), I wanted to do an at least half-fancy, "nice" dinner, rather than the garbage that I'd been eating all week. But I also really wanted some meatballs—some real authentic New York a-spicy-meat-a-ball-za. A quick search of "best meatballs in New York" led me to this place Frankie's Spuntino, which was conveniently also a half-fancy "nice" spot in the Carroll Gardens neighborhood of Brooklyn. Perfect! I even rode a bike to get there!

Frankie's is a nice little 'neighborhood' place. I mean, it's newish and pricey and definitely not a hole in the wall, but it still has that no-bullshit feeling that I like in my restaurants. I ordered a small plate of the meatballs, which are beef and veal and stuffed with pine nuts and raisins, and are seemingly what this place is known for, as well as a lima bean pasta dish, because I didn't want to be the dummy just eating three meatballs by himself at the bar. The meatballs themselves were quite good. Really. I have zero complaints. Although I question whether they were truly 'Best Meatballs In New York' good. The pasta, however, was a wet sloppy mess, that sort of made me sad. I don't know what I was expecting, but it just seemed like a bad combination of flavors and textures, as if they were going for 'simple homestyle Italian,' but didn't really put enough effort into making sure it all came together correctly. It was a bummer.

07.18.2017 - by Steve
Pizza PartyBrooklyn
Pizza

I had more pizza at a bar called Pizza Party, which is this close to being an annoyingly twee hipster name, but I think is actually fun and charming. Anyway, the pizza reminded me of our beloved 'Minnesota style' pizza, if that's actually a thing. It was pretty good I guess. I don't remember what else I had to say about the place. Anyway.


(1)
07.18.2017 - by Steve
San LocoBrooklyn
Tacos

After the disappointment of La Lupe, I still had a taco jones to fix. San Loco did the trick. This is a tiny little take-out counter that advertises itself specifically as "Gringo-mex". Or as I like to call them: "Mom tacos." Interesting see a non-chain place specifically advertise this sort of Americanized, Taco Bell style taco as a feature rather than a bug. But I guess San Loco has been around for quite a while in the Lower East Side in Manhattan, and had a good enough reputation. Anyway, I got the San Loco equivalent of a double decker taco (basically the most perfect fast food item ever created, in my opinion; a hard shell taco coated in refried beans and wrapped in a flour soft shell. Get one next time you're at Taco Bell. It's great). And hey, it was great! Ground beef and cheddar cheese and iceberg lettuce. Not trying to be a "real" taco, but absolutely satisfied me. Talk about authenticity all you want, but there's something to say about this global cultural exchange of ours.

07.17.2017 - by Steve
La Lupe CantinaBrooklyn
Tacos

La Lupe is a somewhat cool taco joint in Bushwick, but I'm not going to write much about it, because the service was unreasonably slow and the tacos were very boring. But the photo looks pretty, huh?

07.17.2017 - by Steve
Lucy'sBrooklyn
Smoked beef banh mi

You've already read my thoughts on the Brooklyn Vietnamese food scene. Actually, you probably haven't. Well scroll down to Little Mo and then come back up here maybe.

Back? Good. Hi there. Thing is, I didn't love Lucy's. I don't remember the details of why I didn't like it, but the bread felt wrong, the meat was a little tough, and in general it just didn't come together as I'd like it to. But part of that might have been spoiled expectations, because: Lucy's is the best smelling restaurant I've ever been or walked past. Not exaggerating. The place is tiny—it's basically a kitchen, a counter, and one table. So you're a lot closer to the smells of a kitchen than you often might be, making the smells that much stronger. But even then, the aroma coming out of Lucy's front door is incredible. Because aside from the standard smells of a Vietnamese kitchen, that pho broth and lemongrass and fish sauce, Lucy's is smoking meats back there. It's magical. I bet the pho is amazing, but my sandwich just didn't live up to the smell.

07.16.2017 - by Steve
Little MoBrooklyn
Short rib banh mi

I was surprised at the number of Vietnamese places in Brooklyn. Well, maybe not simply the number (there are plenty more to be found in Minneapolis and St. Paul), but the number of cool Vietnamese places. Where most of the Twin Cities spots are hole in the wall, family affairs, the Brooklyn places seem to operate out of the "Hey, pho and banh mi are hot new food trends!" mindset. Which, sure, why not? Lucy's is the real hot spot (you probably scrolled past it already), but the best one I tried is Little Mo's. Not much to report in terms of the makeup of their banh mi—it's got all the stuff you want, and some nicely flavored short ribs—but the best thing about it was the bread. To me, the hard crunchy crust of the French roll that tops of a banh mi is often what ruins it. It shouldn't be painful to eat a sandwich! But Little Mo's bread actually had a nice softness to it, without feeling cheap or lesser. A great sandwich! Sadly: I overheard the cashier mention that the place would probably be closing soon. There's some elevated train construction happening nearby that's going to tie up that corner for months, and the owners just decided to shut it down entirely. So, you'll have to go to Lucy's instead I guess.

07.16.2017 - by Steve
Pearl'sBrooklyn
Jerk chicken bake

First world problem, sure, but I'm a little bummed that my first dinner in New York was maybe the best meal of my entire trip! Pearl's is a Caribbean restaurant tucked around a corner, just barely away from the mustached and braless masses of Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg, who specifically announce themselves as "Pearl's Bake & Shark"—a bake being a sort of Caribbean sandwich on a corn-based fry bread, and shark being, yes, that. I didn't eat any shark, because it kinda creeps me out and makes me sad, but I did have a jerk chicken bake, with a side of rice and beans. And there's not a whole lot to say other than that it was delicious! Not too spicy, not too "jerky", just a well balanced pile of flavors in a slightly-hard-to-eat package. Maybe not as mind-bendingly good as the best meals at Harry Singh's, but far more approachable and not nearly as olfactorally exhausting. Highly recommended!

07.16.2017 - by Steve
Roberta'sBrooklyn
Fennel sausage pizza

There's a restaurant in Brooklyn with no windows and no signs and they have their own radio station and a secret garden on the roof, where the bartender looks like Morrissey and you have to wait two hours to get a table. Well, there's actually probably a handful of those. At least one other one on the same block, I'd bet. But this one is Roberta's, and it's the shit and their fennel sausage pizza is pretty great.

07.16.2017 - by Steve
Northeast KingdomBrooklyn
Burger

For our second NYC dinner, we met up with Libby's old friend Chris (who, insanely coincidentally, lived literally around the corner from where we were staying), and went to his favorite local spot called Northeast Kingdom. The food was fine. All you really need to know is "duck fat tater tots." Yes. But more important for me to note about this place is how it represents a eye-opening and noticeable trend in the world of Brooklyn restaurants (specifically Bushwick, Brooklyn restaurants). Maybe it's a European thing or something, but the branding happening on new restaurants there is absolutely minimal. No signs, no logos, no awnings. At most, the name of the place will be hand painted in a small corner of a window. Or written on a chalkboard on the sidewalk. Maybe some gold leaf window lettering. But it's almost as if there's an unspoken competition happening about who can make their bar/restaurant more inconspicuous (see: Roberta's). The interiors are all similar, too; dark, bricky, woody, earthy, desperately trying to feel lived-in. It works though!

08.24.2009 - by Steve
Oasis of WilliamsburgBrooklyn
Shawarma sandwich

I've had chicken shawarma before, and I've had plenty of gyros before, but this thing I ate at this randomly chosen Williamsburg deli was something else. It started as a standard pita stuffed with sliced shawarma--lamb and turkey in this case--but on top of that was a pile of red cabbage, some sort of peppered pickles (which, according to my research, may have been pickled gherkins), mystery onions, a tzatziki sauce unlike any I have ever seen, and a substance that can best be compared to Chipotle's hot salsa. It was like Egypt, Germany, and Mexico all crammed into one unfortunate pita. The meat, I'm sad to report, was a little bit dry, and the meat/veggie distribution demanded some creative bite-taking. But as I made my way to the middle, it was juicy and delicious and different. And just five bucks. I can't imagine finding a much better and equally filling five dollar meal anywhere, be it New York or wherever. Okay, so I could probably get a better deal on it if it was "Oasis of Cairo" (where it would likely be served to me by the immigrant deli owner, a guy from Kansas City named Andy), but the more I think about it, I don't know if I could ever find a similar sandwich in the Twin Cities. As soon as I get home, I'm storming into the Lyndale Deli and demanding gherkins, dammit! Gherkins!

08.22.2009 - by Steve
EggBrooklyn
Cheese omelette, candied bacon

The obvious first thought: "Oh god, someone opened a breakfast joint in the middle of Williamsburg and decided to call it Egg? Why don't you just shoot me in the head and feed my body to some free range chickens and get it over with? However, after eating there, I have nothing to complain about. For having the gall to name themselves "Egg," there was little or no sense of self-importance or preciousness in either the menu or the interior itself. The space was small and contemporary, but inviting--white walls, unfinished wood ceilings, reclaimed wood tables, that sort of thing, but lived-in enough that you wouldn't get kicked out if you spilled ketchup all over the floor (which I didn't do, thank you very much). The food was perhaps a little too pricey, but really no more than eating at French Meadow or such a place (and cheaper than Cafe Maude, although you should expect to pay a premium for suchcivilized leisure). I suffered major ordering regret--cognitive dissonance, if you will--about my omelette. I should've went with the biscuits and gravy, which Ben ordered and were spicy and just how I like them. The omelette was okay, a little too mushy in the middle, but the hashbrowns were fantastic. Very different, as well; they were basically a big ball of potato hash deep fried into what could easily be confused as a giant falafel ball. Crunchy on the outside, hash-browny in the middle. And of course, I wouldn't dare eat at this place without ordering their candied bacon, which sounds a lot more ridiculous than it really is. Basically, they cook up their bacon coated in maple syrup to create a nice layer of sweetness on the outside. Very tasty. All in all, it was probably a little too expensive, and it can be an awfully long wait to get in if you don't get there early enough. But I'd certainly go back there in the future if its space isn't taken over by a cupcake shop or discount keffiyah outlet. (Oh, and also, free homemade donut holes when you are seated.)