01.21.2019
Foxwarren
Foxwarren

At the beginning of 2018, I discovered this record The Party by a Canadian singer songwriter named Andy Shauff. It's a great album of great songs, and it was one of my favorite albums of the year. Except I couldn't put it on my Best of 2018 list because it came out in 2016. Oops. But then, late in December, like a traveling magi visiting my midnight stable with the region's finest frankincense, Andy Shauff's band Foxwarren releases their new album. And while it's not quite as great as The Party, it's still damn good, and more or less sounds like a Shauff album. See Best Of list below.

12.31.2018
Steve's Favorite Music of 2018
A List

Oh crap it's New Years Eve and I haven't posted my year end lists yet oh my god oh my god I better hurry up! Here's the deal for this year: I'm gonna go ahead and throw EPs and singles and compilations on the list. Because there are 4 specifically that really did it for me this year, and I'm just going to treat them all like equals. It's (almost) 2019, and it's a new landscape for media! Anything goes! Content! Here's my list:

1. Ryley Walker - The Lilywhite Sessions*
2. Hailu Mergia - Lala Belu
3. Chastity - Death Lust
4. Ought - Room Inside the World
5. Sidney Gish - No Dogs Allowed
6/7. Jeff Rosenstock - POST**
6/7. Barely March - Marely Barch**
8. Khadja Bonet - Childqueen
9. American Pleasure Club - A Whole Fucking Lifetime of This
10. Fluisteraars - De Oord
11. The Mountain Goats - Hex of Infinite Binding
12. Superchunk - What A Time To Be Alive
13. Warthog - Warthog
14. Mick Jenkins - Pieces of a Man
15. Prince - Piano and a Microphone 1983
16. Self Defense Family - Self Defense Family
17. Natalie Prass - The Future and the Past
18. Sandro Perri - In Another Life
19. Foxwarren - Foxwarren
20. The Internet - Hive Mind

*I can't fuckin believe it either
** These are tied, because they're so spiritually similar that it seems silly to separate them. Barely March basically got his break by covering a Jeff Rosenstock song for a compilation.

12.30.2018
Fluisteraars
De Oord

This is one of those beautiful rare black metal releases that makes me want to open up a window like the reformed Mr. Scrooge on Christmas Day and shout, "You there, boy, tell me, why can't all black metal be this good??". And the boy will look up and answer, "Why, because it's Danish sir!" Well, I don't know if the Danish part has anything to do with it other than making their band name nearly unpronouncable, but the point is that Fluisteraars have unlocked some sort of black metal composition holy writ, and every one of the 15 minutes of this song (yes it's just one song, but it may as well be a full album. A symphony, even) is perfect. I've dug into some older work of theirs, and while it's quite good, I feel like De Oord is where they've really figured it out. So kind of like VRTRA from a couple years ago, I'm going to be on the edge of my seat waiting for these Danes to release a new full length as soon as possible.

12.30.2018
Mitski
Be The Cowboy

Everyone's real into this Mitski album but I'm kinda not. I think it sounds like St. Vincent but not as good.

12.13.2018
Blake Mills
Look

Blake Mills released a beautifully unique alt country (?) album back in 2014 that I can no longer listen to because it's just one of those albums. Then I guess he just started producing for other artists ($), which is remarkable in 2018 because he's what you might call a guitar guy and it's 2018. But now he's finally returned! With an all-synth instrumental EP? Okay. It's very chill, which, by the way, in 2019 I'm hoping chill will no longer be an adjective. Or verb. I also hope Blake Mills puts out some more music. Because, look, Look is good and chill (shit!), but this guy has to have more up his sleeve.

12.08.2018
Ryley Walker
The Lilywhite Sessions

My relationship with Dave Matthews and his band is a complicated one which I won't get into here. Well actually, it's not that complicated and I will get into it here: I don't really like Dave Matthews Band, but sometimes they do something that I like. There. So. Ryley Walker, whom I have already written about on this blog during this calendar year, apparently grew up a huge Dave Matthews fan, and even though he's now an infamously scuzzy Chicago post-Tortoise-rock figurehead, he has not let go of his love. So after releasing one fantastic album this year (Deafman Glance, as seen on my top ten albums of the year list, I'm sure), he decided to get some of his cuzzy Chicago post-Tortoise-rock friends together and record a full album cover of a Dave Matthews Band album. And it's shockingly good. Maybe even better than Deafman Glance, which I've already pointed out as being in my top ten this year. It's a passionately earnest album; although I don't know the original DMB version of The Lilywhite Sessions, it's clear that Walker isn't trying to deconstruct or reinterpret or otherwise ironically play these songs. Yes, he's doing it in his own voice, and changing arrangements here or there, but it's fully from the heart, lovingly performed, and fully musical. Almost makes me want to dig in to the original Dave version lol jk yeah right.

11.08.2018
Warthog
Warthog

I hate when people say things "rip," but this album rips.

10.02.2018
Low
Double Negative

This new Low album is indeed the best Low album in a long time, but also isn't the paradigm shifting masterpiece that some people are making out to be. It's a real cool headfuck and a good listen while out for a walk late on a cool autumn night though.

09.16.2018
George Clanton
Slide

I got this album by this "George Clanton" kid, who does "vaporwave"—which I can hardly stand to type without using scare quotes—and it's so dreamy and odd nebulous and that I forgot that I even bought it until I just saw it in my iTunes. This has happened every other day for the last two weeks. I mean "dreamy and odd and nebulous" in the best way though. I honestly don't exactly know what "vaporwave" usually sounds like, although I sort of kind of have the general idea of it, but this isn't exactly that. This is something else, some kind of millennial fantasy of XTC with trip hop breakbeats and shoegazey drones, and a bit of modern day bedroom r&b. Actually it plays well with this year's American Music Club's A Whole Fucking Lifetime Of This, the idea of a young 20-something taking a bunch of "old" 90s touch points and throw them seemingly blindly into a home recording blender and pouring out a mix that is, my god, something interesting and listenable. Also it makes me wonder if Jack Drag is ever going to have a renaissance.

08.22.2018
Trust Fund
Bringing the backline

Apparently this is going to be Trust Fund's last album, which is a bummer because I feel like Trust Fund still has unexplored greatness in them. That's unfair actually; their Seems Unfair album is truly great. Really everything they've done is some shade of great, even if this one is a little paler than the others. But I still don't want them to stop. We'll see.

08.22.2018
The Internet
Hive Mind

I'm gonna make this statement, but I'm not gonna be too passionate about it: The Internet's "La Di Da" is my Summer Jam of 2018. Except I still can't figure out where the beat actually lands; it's as if they took the ProTools file and shifted every track over by a half beat. Still a cool song though. Steve Lacy gets it.

07.25.2018
Melody's Echo Chamber
Bon Voyage

This album is basically Dungen and Tame Impala jamming while a French girl coo's some vocals over it. Your mileage may vary. My mileage, however, will very.

07.24.2018
Deafheaven
Ordinary Corrupt Human Love

I'm still not sure what to make of Deafheaven. When they do metal they're great, doing shit that no other black or death or whatever metal band has the guts to do. Major chords, earworm melodies, true subgenre agnosticism, flipping between blastbeat noise and cool thrash riffs, and the occasional bit of glam rock boogie. Unlike so much of the metal world, they follow their muse. But then, more often than not, the muse takes them right into post-rock. When Deafheaven does post-rock, it's rote, tedious, Explosions In The Sky knocking bullshit. It's boring. That's part of why their first album Sunbather didn't excite me as much as it did for everyone else in the world. But then New Bermuda cut out a lot of that and focused more on riffs and momentum, and they felt like a whole new band. So it bums me out that so much of this new one is filled with this meandering post-rock filler, because when they turn up the volume and get down to business, it's as incredible as advertised.

07.20.2018
Chastity
Death Lust

Hey, who wants some rock music?? Here's this band Chastity I just starting digging into, and they do pretty sweet sounding sort of Hum/Deftones/Failure/Pumpkins inspired huge rock that was pretty uncool for a while but now is halfway coming back into vogue with some more random Bandcampy corners of 20-something guitar kids (see also: Bilge Rat, Nothing, Cloakroom). I like it a lot. Plus tracks 5 and 6 would be legit hit singles if hit loud rock singles were still a thing.

07.20.2018
Imperial Triumphant
Vile Luxury

I've never heard any metal band like Imperial Triumphant, and that's such a rare thing to happen these days that I want to go out and tell everyone I know how fucking crazy this album is and that they should listen to it. Except it's so fucking crazy that nobody I know would even know where to begin to make sense of it, and they'd probably be mad at me. But dudes! This shit is like, free jazz black metal! Or is it blackened death jazz? I don't know what it is. But it's absolutely colossal and I wish more metal bands would have the guts (Gorguts?) these guys have to just try something.

01.21.2019 - by Steve
Hometown BarbecueBrooklyn
Barbecue pulled pork

Hometown Barbecue, way out in Red Hook, is supposedly one of the best barbecue joints in New York. Eater even had it on its list of 37(ish) "essential" NY restaurants. So it's kind of a bummer that we went there on a whim—a very fast whim before grocery shopping right next door on some random Wednesday night—rather than really planning out and luxuriating in its barbecueness. What did I get? I got the pulled pork and baked beans. How was it? It was quite good, although maybe a little too wet, with all the cole slaw slopped on the top. And the beans had been seemingly been sitting in the bottom of their pot for too long, and just had that "thrice cooked" kind of taste. I couldn've lived without the beans. But, yeah, the sandwich was good from what I remember of it. But also nothing terribly remarkable. Really what it reminded me of was Green Street Meats in Chicago. Almost like the owners visited Green Street during the planning stages and said, "This is the barbecue place we want to be!" Right down to the service style and christmas-lights-in-old-warehouse decor. So for further detail, scroll back to, say, 2011, and read my Green Street Meats write-up. I'm sure it'll apply here.

12.31.2018 - by Steve
Steve's Favorite Food of 2018Brooklyn
A List

Holy cow this is a jet-setting, internacional version of a year end food list! Minneapolis! St. Paul! And other cities! Anyway here's the list:

1. Hai Hai (Minneapolis) - Balinese chicken
2. Berber and Q (London) - Lamb shawarma
3. Nandos (Manchester) - Piri Piri Chicken
4. Paesano’s (Philadelphia) - Roast pork sandwich
5. Thai Cafe (St. Paul) - Sour pork ribs
6. Porchetteria (Minneapolis) - Porchetta
7. Werkstatt (Brooklyn) - Wienerschnitzel
8. The Naughty Greek (St. Paul) - Lamb
9. MT Noodles (Brooklyn Park) - Banh mi
10. Camping (North shore) - Grilled bbq chicken
11. Crepe and Spoon (Minneapolis) - Peanut butter and jelly vegan ice cream
12. Mission Chinese (Manhattan) - Kung pao pastrami
13. Sorriso’s (Queens) - Meatball sandwich
14. Tavial (St. Paul) - Al pastor tacos
15. Kingfisher (Manchester) - Fish and chips

12.31.2018 - by Steve
WerkstattBrooklyn
Wienerschnitzel

I live within walking distance 4 halal Chinese restaurants, 3 Chinese-owned taco shops, 2 Uzbek restaurants, 5 Bangladeshi sweets shops, 3 kosher sushi bars, at least 1 Fiipino barbeque, and 1 very specifically Buffalo themed burger joint. And yet somehow the most surprising ethnic food I've found here in this beautiful melting pot of Kensington Brooklyn is an Austrian bar called Werkstatt. It's kind of like when you see Ingbertsen's Swedish store in the middle of Lake Street; something as seemingly dull and master-racey as that in the middle of all these seemingly endless spicy global options makes it stand out in a way that it might not otherwise. More exciting still is that Werkstatt is delicious! We split a plate of wienerschnitzel (and spaetzle, of course), and some paprika chicken, as well as a big fat fresh pretzel, and honestly I think it was my favorite meal in New York so far. Nothing was super unique or foodie about any of it, but it was just perfectly prepared and balanced, and whatever I was hoping for that night, they delivered. Plus the space is a pretty chill neighborhood bar, no hip European irony, no obnoxious minimalist modern touches. Just a place to chill and eat some fried pork and pickled starch.

12.13.2018 - by Steve
Church Avenue Deli CorpBrooklyn
Bacon egg and cheese on a roll

There are two things you need to do to officially become a Real New Yorker. One, you have to carry around a New Yorker canvas tote bag. You know the one. Second, you have to eat a bacon egg and cheese sandwich from a local bodega. This second one, I finally did, at my local unnamed generic Deli & Grocery. (Their official legal name is Church Avenue Deli Corp, which is what it says in small letters in their window, so for the sake of keeping this music and food blog impeccably organized on the back end, that's what I'm calling it). It cost me $3 (exactly) and tasted like bacon egg and cheese on a roll (exactly). That's all I have to say about it.

12.08.2018 - by Steve
Yummy TacoBrooklyn
Tacos

Oh man, I've been living in Brooklyn (did I mention I'm living in Brooklyn?) for over a month now and I realized I've only updated Music and Food once. I'm a busy man, okay! And also, there's just too much. I couldn't really cook for the first couple weeks, so I ate way too many meals out at way too many places, and I don't even want to start trying to M&F all of them. Which isn't to say this is some wonderland of the best food you've ever eaten on every block. In reality, it's just a place with some restaurants like anywhere else. There just happens to be so many people everywhere that there are so many restaurants and delis and cafes to feed them all. But what this really means is that there's mediocrity everywhere. Which I mean lovingly. Just regular weird "how does this place stay open?" food everywhere you look. Case in point: Yummy Taco. This is a taco joint, obviously, but one that is fully owned and operated by Chinese people, in the space which very obviously used to be a Chinese restaurant. As a relief from New York's many "real" Mexican places—which are surprisingly not very good, and deserving of an entire essay on their own—this is very much American Mexican. "Mom tacos," as a friend once called them. Flour tortillas, cheddar cheese, iceberg lettuce. I kinda love it. And for as weird as Yummy Taco is, weirder still: it's a chain. There's at least 4 other locations of this Chinese owned American Mexican restaurant. New York is weird.

07.20.2018 - by Steve
Ripper'sBrooklyn
Hot dog

I went to Rockaway Beach on the hottest day of the year in New York. It was a scene. Like, every 20-something from every corner of Brooklyn dressed up in their most Instagrammable beach gear—which in one case meant full jeans and combat boots—trying to be the coolest and casualest beachgoer at the beach, quietly judging each other's tattoos, sometimes even swimming. I was there with two bags full of packed clothes and laptop gear, basically killing time before going to the airport, so I wasn't able to catch any waves. But I did hit up Ripper's, the beachside grill and bar that is apparently operated by some popular Brooklyn burger joint or another, and was completely swarmed with all of the very cool Brooklynites mentioned above. Usually I never would've bothered standing in such a long line, but I had nothing else to do, so I did. And it was a good hot dog! Like a classic charcoal-grilled dog you'd have at a barbecue. It was delicious. And not at all worth it.

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.


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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.