2021-09-19
Nala Sinephro
Space 1.8

This is a kinda spacey kinda electronic jazz trio album that still mostly sounds like a traditional jazz trio album, which has been getting rave reviews in the last few weeks. Honestly I don't hear much remarkable from it yet; it's good, sure! But not sure what else it has to offer yet. But it has really great cover art so I'm going to stick with it for a while.

2021-09-18
Deafheaven
Infinite Granite

At first, this album bummed me out because Deafheaven no longer really sounds like Deafheaven. Shit, they sound more like Failure than Deafheaven. Which should be exciting for me, but mostly just leaves me confused.

But then after running through the album once or twice, I found myself continually coming back to it. Trying to crack its code, trying to connect the dots of how the end of almost every track kinda ruled, but it took work to get there each time.

Well the ends kinda ruled because they sound like Deafheaven. Fucking big and fucking huge and fucking metal and fucking somehow simultaneously something altogether outside metal. Like Deafheaven. It's all the stuff leading up to it which just sounds weirdly like somewhat psych-y alt rock with kinda weak vocals and way too much tinkly delay guitar that turns me off. So ultimately, I just don't think this thing is going to sit with me for the long run.

2021-09-01
Turnstile
GLOW ON

I absolutely love this album and I wish I was 22 again so I could go lose my shit at one of their shows.

2021-08-11
Typical Sisters
Love Beam

Cool, lively, Tortoise-y, post-jazz guitar jams that make for a very nice listen while doing other things, but I don't think I'm going to be telling all my friends about Typical Sisters for the rest of the year. I mean I just had to look up that they're called Typical Sisters because I've forgotten their band name a dozen times already.

2021-08-02
Laura Mvula
Pink Noise

Laura Mvula finally came back after like 6 years with a new album, and it's inexplicably an 80s-inspired, wet-drum dance party, which is better than that flippant description would lead you to imagine, but still nothing I really need in my rotation.

2021-07-22
King Crimson
Three of a Perfect Pair

Nobody ever told me that Three of a Perfect Pair rules. Like it's kinda like Discipline, and I've always liked Discipline but it's never been my favorite or anything. This one came later and I always thought it was, like, King Crimson's ReLoad. Well, Beat was ReLoad so this is more like ReReLoad.

But nope. Spanks.

2021-06-24
Japanese Breakfast
Jubilee

The first Japanese Breakfast album was real good. The next one wasn't as good. This one isn't as good, but it's sure better than the last one.

Well, no. Actually this might be better than the first one? Maybe? I just get confused because the first one has "Everybody Wants To Love You" on it, which is such a good song that it warps the gravity of all the other songs around it. So really I don't even know how good that album is. But I also know it's the best thing anyone has ever recorded.

This one only has "Be Sweet," which is only the second best song they ever recorded, even though it would maybe be another band's best song if another band had written it. But alas Japanese Breakfast is the unlucky band who wrote "Everybody Wants To Love You," and I'm sitting here trying to do the math.

2021-06-17
Black Midi
Cavalcade

Black Midi sounds like King Crimson now and I think that's a great decision on their part.

2021-05-20
Matt Sweeney & Bonnie Prince Billy
Superwolves

Every time Will Oldham releases something new, I immediately think "It's his best album in a decade!", and then immediately forget about it. But I think this one might actually be the one.

2021-05-09
Arooj Aftab
Vulture Prince

Arooj Aftab makes music that lands somewhere between Jose Gonzalez, Nick Drake, and Sade, all filtered through the melodic intuition of someone raised with a deep love and knowledge of her native Pakastani music. It's totally beautiful, and flawless from top to bottom. Even the somehow-not-regrettable reggae track.

2021-05-08
Cumbie
EP

A few years ago I fell in love with this English band called Trust Fund. They released 3 albums in fairly quick succession, and then more or less retired from music.

Cumbie sounds a weird amount like Trust Fund. Like if you told me one or two of these tracks were new (or archival) Trust Fund recordings, I wouldn't question it. But the one thing that sets Cumbie apart is that, every now and then, once or twice per song, they become metal. Like yeah the black metal logo and dark doomy cover artwork is kinda tongue-in-cheek, but also kinda not. You can tell that this band, for all their indie power pop punk jamming and twee sing-song melodicism, come from a place of long-haired, double-bass-pedal heaviness. They've got guts. So much so that those moments make me stop comparing them to Trust Fund. But then they start singing again and I can't get past it.

Cool little EP though. I think this band has the potential to do some killer stuff if they keep at it.

2021-05-08
Brother Guy
The Wavey Session 1

Here's a weird one!

Bandcamp earlier this week posted a little list of "Jam bands for people who don't like jam bands." Hey, I'm a person who doesn't like jam bands! So I scrubbed down the list, and it was mostly experimental, jazz-adjacent stuff that was interestingish, but not exactly "jammy." Then the last entry on the page, Brother Guy, appeared, with its wavy gravy cartoon bird cover art, its literal wavey title, and an actual hedging apology from the list's author. "Ok so this one actually sounds like a jam band, but hear me out!"

So I hit play on The Wavey Session 1, and yep it sounds like a jam band! But true to the spirit of the list, it felt different. A little looser, scragglier, a sense of people in a room jamming, missing notes, feeling each other out, all with something closer to an "indie" flavor rather than something more phishy. Like these guys had been playing all day, and were just a little sleepy and tired of trying to impress anybody.

It also went on for 42 minutes. One song. Like, really truly a jam, more or less on one chord progression, no vocals, one little hook of a melody that repeated throughout, and slowly changed and morphed. 42 minutes, and I enjoyed every one of them! Then the next track clocked in at 26, the next another 26, with an added sax section and a more hypnotic jazz vibe. But again, I really enjoyed all of it! I ended up listening to the entire collection later that day, and again the next day!

I don't even know what I'd point to as being remarkable with this band. They don't seem particularly talented, there's nothing going on here that's pushing any boundaries or creating any unique moments of transcendence. But they just play with such patience and ease that 40 minutes of one dang song breezes by in no time. I might even go buy part 2.

2021-05-04
WILD POWWERS
What You Wanted

I randomly stumbled on this band Wild Powwers (I will not style it as WILD POWWERS) on Bandcamp, just looking through their best sellers. Bandcamp: it's good.

Anyway not a ton to say about it, other than that it's another case of a heavy, grunge-inspired, female-fronted indie rock band that is just pitch-perfect in its presentation and construction. It's a damn pleasure to listen to. It vibes. But unlike last year's Pillow Queens, an equally pitch-perfect rock outfit, I don't really remember the songs. Unfair to compare to Pillow Queens because that album is seriously this close to being a modern classic, but WILD POWWERS (oops) just doesn't quite have the songwriting chops (or the Irish brogues) as that group.

Still! Rocks.

2021-04-29
Andy Stott
Never The Right Time

Andy Stott has appeared on my radar a couple times in the last few years, as the sort of moody, melodic, progressive electronic artist that might move the needle for me. I'm still not totally sold on his music (it's nice enough), but the album cover of Never The Right Time is so great that I just went ahead and bought it anyway.

2021-04-22
Horndal
Lake Drinker

This band sounds more like Mastodon than any band I've ever heard (other than Mastodon. And that includes Baroness, who I once claimed released that year's best Mastodon album*. This is a concept album about how a Google data center is destroying their blue collar Norwegian town and their lead singer sounds like a cartoon bear, and it all works incredibly well.

* This was a fucking harebrained and wrong statement for me to have made in the first place and I can't stop apologizing for making you read it. That was the year that Crack the Skye came out for cripes sake, which I've come to recognize is actually the best Mastodon album. I've also come to recognize that Baroness kinda stinks. Well they don't stink, but they're dull. I'm happy to let Horndal replace them in non-Mastodon years.

2021-04-22
Tedeschi Trucks Band
Revelator

"Midnight In Harlem" is still one of the most perfect things ever recorded. 10 years ago I posted about this album and was very carefully self-effacing about it, and yeah it's a corny song on a corny album from a corny band, but seriously. That song.

2021-08-11
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.

2021-08-02
Fette SauBrooklyn
Ribs

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.

2021-06-24
XilonenBrooklyn
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.

2021-06-13
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.

2021-03-10
Roberta'sBrooklyn
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.

2020-12-31
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.

2020-11-13
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.

2020-11-02
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.

2020-11-02
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.

2020-11-02
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.

2020-11-02
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.

2020-10-12
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?