11.13.2020
Kahil El'Zabar
Kahil El'Zabar's America the Beautiful

There's still hope for this country, and this album is proof.

11.02.2020
Future Islands
As Long as You Are

There's absolutely nothing about this new Future Islands album that makes it any different than their last two or three. When I heard the advance singles, I could only shake my head and sigh and admit that, after the bummer that was The Far Field maybe I was done with Future Islands.

And then it comes out and I listen to it in full, and it might actually be their 2nd or 3rd best album! I can't account for it, I can't point out what makes it stand out. It just works. The songs are "better," the vocals are "feeling it". Whatever any of that means. I've already listened to it more than I ever listened to Far Field, maybe more than Singles and On the Water. Sometimes it just works I guess.

10.22.2020
Necrot
Mortal

Guess what kind of music these guys play?

10.21.2020
Deerhoof
Love-Lore

Deerhoof released a new album in which they cover and melodize songs (and poems and drones and excerpts and process experiments) by Ornette Coleman, J.D. Robb, Voivod, Earl Kim, Knight Rider, Raymond Scott, Mauricio Kagel, Eddie Grant, Gary Numan, Stockhausen, The Beach Boys, Gerald Fried, Pauline Oliveros, Kermit the Frog, James Tenney, Silver Apples, The Police, Kraftwerk, John Williams, Morton Feldman, Sun Ra, Parliament, Asha Puthli, Ennio Morricone, Milton Babbitt, The B52s, Sofia Gubaidulina, Vinicius De Moraes & Baden Powell, Dionne Warwick, David Graeber, Derek Bailey, William Hanna & Hoyt Curtin, Anthony Braxton, Gyorgy Kurtag, Eric Siday, Igor Stravinsky, Caetano Veloso, Luigi Nono, Krzysztof Penderecki, John Cage, George Brecht, The Velvet Underground, and Laurie Anderson, and it shockingly—although not really shockingly because this is Deerhoof we're talking about—works. Honestly I'd already put it in the top 5 of their catalog.

10.17.2020
The Microphones
The Microphones in 2020

The Microphones in 2020 is a beautiful personal essay in the form of a beautiful personal 40 minute song in the form of a beautiful personal 1 track album. Like much of Phil Elverum's recent beautiful personal output, it deserves an award and I'll never listen to it a second time.

09.03.2020
Boris
NO

I've never really enjoyed Boris before. More than that, I've never even really understood Boris. Who are they? What are they doing? Is it drone? Is it noise? Is it metal? Is it electronic? Is it a band? Or a person? Do they only collaborate with other artists? What's the deal with Boris?

But then they put out this new album NO, and answer all my questions with very little room for confusion. This is a metal album by a metal band, hard stop. Okay well maybe not total trad metal, it has bits of hardcore and maybe some noise and punk in there, but not unlike the Oozing Wound album from last year (which I loved), this is just straight up nasty riffage. Crushingly intense. Not terribly intricate, but limber enough to make me wonder why they'd just been doing drone shit all those years. Or maybe they didn't? Did they? What were they doing that whole time?

08.29.2020
Hum
Inlet

20 years ago, Hum broke up and I accepted it and moved on. 10 years ago, they got together for some reunion shows, and I caught them in Chicago and it was pretty sweet, but once again I moved on. I haven't really spent any emotional energy for the last two decades worrying or wondering about if Hum would ever get back together or release new music or anything like that. In fact, as years went on, and as whispers and hints of a new album started percolating, I never once thought "wow I can't wait to hear it." Reunion albums can be major bummers, and I didn't necessarily trust a bunch of 40-50 year old guys who have long since moved on to have the same obsessive attention to detail that could match their work from the 90s.

But then they surprise dropped Inlet about a month and a half ago, and it's the only thing I've listened to since and it fucking rules.

06.14.2020
Neil Young
Zuma

I've been very dumb for ignoring Zuma my whole life. Well not totally ignoring it, because I've listened to "Cortez the Killer" a thousand times, but somehow I missed the fact that this is the album it was from. I blame the cover art. Anyway Zuma rules. L8r.

06.13.2020
Shamir
Cataclysm

This album sounds like if that one fateful night Prince would've met Hüsker Dü instead of Jimmy Jam.

More impressive than this album though, is a single Shamir just released called "On My Own," which I've listened to like 20 times in the last few days. To offer another overly sweaty metaphor, it sounds like Natalie Imbruglia's "Torn" reborn as a 21st century post-genre lo-fi genderqueer global pandemic dance anthem. I'm totally fine with it being my official Song Of The Summer. Haven't had one of those in a while.

06.13.2020
Blake Mills
Mutable Set

This is excellent music. But it's extremely excellent walking around at night music. Try it.

06.12.2020
Armand Hammer
Shrines

About this time last year I was writing a glowing review of Billy Woods' Hiding Places. I was new to Woods, a Brooklyn rapper who's been quietly and anonymously (he doesn't share publicity photos, and he generally covers his face in videos) putting out a string of records and collaborations over the last decade, but after hearing just one song, I was sold. He's not the most exciting performer in the world, but he writes lyrics that will knock you flat. We're talking like Faulkner and McCarthy level wordsmithery, minimal and vital, all atop beats that hum with paranoid psychedelica. He's barely even a rapper; he's a poet with great taste in producers.

Armand Hammer is one of Woods' small handful of projects, along with another Brooklyn rapper Elucid. Remember all that probably overhyped praise I just wrote about Billy Woods? Well Elucid can keep up, verse for verse. The two share a profound outlook on the world, and the ability to find the words. Really all I want to do to review this stuff is to copy and paste line after line, but that seems kinda cheap. And maybe unlawful?

Anyway Shrines plays more or less like Hiding Places did, although with the addition of Elucid on every track, and a whole lot more guests, who all seem down with what Armand Hammer is doing. The music itself is a little more abstract, as are the lyrics, but it's just as gripping of a listen, from start to finish.

Plus the cover is a fucking crazy photo of a tiger in a Harlem apartment. They rap about it. They'll make you want to be that tiger.

06.12.2020
Run the Jewels
RTJ4

Let's do this shit.

06.08.2020
Oranssi Pazuzu
Mestarin Kynsi

It's frustratingly difficult to find metal that sounds truly new. (Not "nu"). So much of the genre seems to be built on lateral movement rather than forward movement, x-meets-y, dialing this aspect up and this aspect down, mixing this sub genre with this sub genre, referencing the guitar style of this old band with the vocals of that old band. This certainly works every now and then—nothing Blood Incantation did on their last album was particularly new, yet it's already a modern classic—but for the most part it makes sifting through new metal releases a joyless chore. But then once every few years you find Oranssi Pazuzu.

I guess there are references here—Can? Nine Inch Nails? Pink Floyd? Ministry? Soft Machine? Kraftwerk? Black Sabbath? Slint? Depeche Mode?—but they forge it into something. It's dark, it's sinister, it moves forward with a ceaseless pulse, even in its quiet moments. It's just barely metal. In just the first minute, you've already been transported and hypnotized, elated that your joyless digging has finally paid off.

And then the vocals come in, and it's like fucking Skeletor is choking on a hot dog. It's infuriating. Here is a band that's doing something, making new music within the world of metal. But these vocals are absolute C-grade black metal nonsense. Fully tuneless, usually out of sync with the music, adding absolutely nothing—and worst of all, not breaking any rules of the genre. It's a guy doing a silly voice.

This album is still a fulfilling listen, because everything surrounding those vocals is rich, enveloping, and beautiful. And I'd love to see Oranssi Pazuzu live to see how they unfold this stuff. But shit, for a metal band who has finally stopped caring about being a metal band, it's depressing that they couldn't take that final step.

06.07.2020
Jeff Rosenstock
NO DREAM

No matter what medium it is, it's always invigorating to see the work of somebody who's mastered their art. Jeff Rosenstock's art is pop punk, but goddamn he's figured it out. Total mastery.

05.14.2020
Little Wings
Zephyr

It's been over 10 years since I was last compelled to listen to a new Little Wings album. This is partly because in the mid aughts he released a few odder, less interesting albums in a row that I couldn't engage with, a sort of diminishing results of weirdness when all I really wanted was more of his perfectly constructed diy ditties. But it's also partly because he straight up stopped releasing stuff for a while. But then suddenly in April, whether because of the lockdown or Bandcamp's occasional artist-friendly sales, or just because he got bored, he opened up the floodgates. He's released (or re-released) 4 or 5 full albums in the last month or two, and one of them is Zephyr, which according to the description is an official release and reworking of an Australia-tour-only cassette from a few years ago, that he had been meaning to flesh out into a full studio album. I'm glad he didn't, though, because this is a fantastic little collection as-is. It's mostly (or all?) Kyle Field and one guitar, no slapped-together backing band, no extraneous experiments or improvised goofiness, no waste, no nonsense. The songwriting on every track is focused and thoughtful, almost every track showing a more mature side of Little Wings, versus the K-Records teenage-symphonies-to-god fantasias that he often works in. But if that sounds a little too dad rock for you, don't worry, he also released a full band improvised garage recording of his make believe surf rock bar band The Be Gulls if that also interests you. I mean to be honest it interests me, too.

11.13.2020 - by Steve
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.

11.02.2020 - by Steve
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.

11.02.2020 - by Steve
KorzoBrooklyn
Korzo burger

Korzo is a Polish restaurant with some totally solid Polish food. But they're only really known for their house burger. I'm realizing now as I type this out, it doesn't sound very special at all, but just bear with me. The burger is a regular beef burger, topped with bacon and house-made pickles and European cheese and a sort of beet-mustard concoction. Fine, good so far. But instead of a bun, this is all wrapped—encased, really—in a totally sealed pocket of dough, and deep fried. The result is outstanding. I don't understand how exactly they get the whole burger sealed inside this thing, with the toppings sitting nicely on top, but they do it. Like you're eating a fried pierogi with a full cheeseburger inside. It makes for a totally satisfying bite—and the dough all holds together so well that you don't have that annoying thing you often get with regular burgers where the toppings or meat starts to slide away from the bun, or maybe you run out one and end up with just the other. It's a clean eat! Top it off with great fries, great goulash, great brynzové halušky (you heard me). It's fantastic. And now I don't live anywhere near it, so shit.

11.02.2020 - by Steve
The Kettle BlackBrooklyn
Buffalo wings

If you ever read a list of the best wings in NYC, you will likely see the Kettle Black. You might get so curious after seeing it appear so often that you will want to travel all the way to Bay Ridge (i.e. the place where all the cops live) to try them.

Don't bother.

11.02.2020 - by Steve
Ugly BabyBrooklyn
Kang prik, khao soi nuer

Ugly Baby is a hipster-but-in-a-good-way epicurean-but-in-a-good-way, minimalist-but-in-a-good-way Thai restaurant hidden behind an elevated subway track on the border of Carrol Gardens and Gowanus. It's absolutely delicious—some of the best and most interesting Thai food I've ever had. Their website is just raw HTML text telling you to go to their Instagram page to see their menu, in the form of a pinned IG story. But in a good way. Absolutely recommended.

10.12.2020 - by Steve
ZuriLeeBrooklyn
Jerk chicken pizz

I'm so far behind on food updates that I'm just gonna leave this one here and hopefully get back to it later. Things have been crazy, ok?

10.12.2020 - by Steve
Honey BadgerBrooklyn
Weird foraged spicy berry

I'm so far behind on food updates that I'm just gonna leave this one here and hopefully get back to it later. Things have been crazy, ok?

10.12.2020 - by Steve
Peter Pan DonutsBrooklyn
Donuts

Some people say Peter Pan Donuts are the best donuts in New York. Some people say that those people are just being tricked by the the aw-shucks old timeyness of Peter Pan's setup and the fact that those people probably just live in Greenpoint or Williamsburg or Bushwick already so Peter Pan just happens to be the closest cute donut place to them, and so they overrate Peter Pan's donuts as a form of atonement for their own guilt in gentrifying a large chunk of Brooklyn; begging for absolution through glazed donut consumption.

Except this time the first people are right.

09.03.2020 - by Steve
Gong chaBrooklyn
Bubble tea

This is the year I've gone fully headlong into icy milk-based drinks. Horchata, Thai iced tea, bubble teas of all sorts. If it's got milk and sugar and ice cubes, sign me the heck up. I even made homemade horchata, and it was great! I just didn't take a picture of it, so I'm making this post technically about Gong cha bubble tea.

That's all I really have to say though. Bye.

06.15.2020 - by Steve
HanoiBrooklyn
Noodle salad with pork

In the last couple weeks of this Covid lockdown, I've been enjoying the basic pleasure of eating outside. Not on a restaurant patio (they're still closed, and I've never liked those anyway), not in my backyard (lol) or fire escape (hmm...), but mostly just on random park benches. The street I live on is a big wide parkway that connects Prospect Park all the way down to Coney Island, and is lined with an ungodly number of park benches. Just one after another for about 5 miles. When I first moved here, it was November, so the benches were generally empty, and I almost had to laugh at the sight of them. Like, who's idea was it to invest how many thousands of dollars into what was probably literally 1000 park benches? But when winter ended and the weather improved, I'll be damned if there weren't people all over those benches. Old folks that can't walk too far from home, delivery guys taking a break, teenagers doing teenager things, entire multi-generation families just hanging out on the benches. And now while you can't sit and eat in a restaurant, it's become a minor pleasure to get some food to go from some place near the parkway, take it to a bench, and enjoy a half hour of eating in peace!

That's mostly what I wanted to express in this food post. Which is funny because the bench I ate my Hanoi noodle salad at wasn't even a parkway bench, it was a bench actually up at Prospect Park. But Hanoi is located on kind of the south edge of Park Slope, not just a couple blocks from the park, and I wanted some Vietnamese and I wanted to sit on a bench, so it all came together. I can't imagine you care that much about how the food was. But it was good. A little too sweet as I got to the end of it, but I'd go back.

06.13.2020 - by Steve
SansimianBrooklyn
Jerk chicken

About a mile east of me is Flatbush Avenue, one of the main avenues that spans the entire length of Brooklyn. The point east of here is basically the halfway point of Flatbush, and from this point until about 3/4 point south of here, you will find all the Caribbean food you could ever dream of. Jamaican, Trinidadian, Haitian, Guyanese, Bahamian, Grenadan. All of it.

Sansimian is one of them. Jamaican. They have jerk chicken and oxtail and rice and peas and cabbage and curry and roti and saltfish and everything else. All of it.

Anyway it's real good and like 10 bucks for a big pile of explosively flavored chicken and rice and cabbage. Then you can bike down to Marine Park to sit on a bench and eat it and then go take a nature walk in a salt marsh and get destroyed by mosquitoes except those mosquitoes will combust upon biting you because of the jerk rub and oxtail gravy that's flowing through your system.

06.07.2020 - by Steve
Tung TungBrooklyn
Char siu on rice

There's a lot of roast pork and roast duck on rice in this town. You can get it anywhere you see a duck hanging in the window. It's almost always 5 dollars, and it's almost always good. It's sometimes great. This pork from Tung Tung, way down in Bensonhurst, was great. Some of the best I've had. I picked it up to take home, snuck one bite on the sidewalk, and ended up eating every bite of it just standing by a fire hydrant trying not to get grease on my mask.

05.20.2020 - by Steve
Randazzo PizzaBrooklyn
Chorizo jalapeno pizza

It's possible you've read my precedent on this website that all New York pizza is equally good. More or less, exceptions to the rule, all that. As such, I'm not going around posting about all the pizza I eat on here, just trust me that it's generally good.

Randazzo is one of those good places, a regular ol slice joint within walking distance of my place. But the other day they had a new slice on offer: jalapeno, onion, and chorizo. I wasn't necessarily in the mood for this combination, but it looked fresh out of the oven and I was curious. My friends, am I ever glad I did, because this slice was good enough to break my rule and post about a slice of pizza. It's extremely probable that chorizo and jalapeno and onion slices can be found at random slice joints all over town, but on this one afternoon, for one sweet moment, during the global confusion of a mass viral pandemic, Randazzo PIzza was the best pizza place in town.