01.01.2020
Steve's Favorite Music of 2019
A List

Favorite Albums:
1. Jessica Pratt - Quiet Signs
2. Moon Tooth - CRUX
3. Young Guv - GUV I
4. Oozing Wound - High Anxiety
5. Weyes Blood - Titanic Rising
6. Big Thief - UFOF/Two Hands
7. Blood Incantation - Hidden History of the Human Race
8. SUNN O))) - Life Metal
9. Girlpool - What Chaos is Imaginary
10. Mount Eerie w/ Julie Doiron - Lost Wisdom pt. 2
11. FKA Twigs - Magdeline
12. Panda Bear - Buoys
13. Bruce Springsteen - Western Stars
14. Wilco - Ode to Joy
15. Billy Woods - Hiding Places
16. Elder - Gold & Silver Sessions
17. Black Midi - Schlagenheim
18. Mdou Moctar - Ilana: The Creator
19. Mylingar - Doda Sjalar
20. Earl Sweatshirt - Feet of Clay

Favorite Songs:
1. Big Thief - “Not”
2. Jay Som - “Superbike”

Everything after that is a tie.

Old Albums That I Discovered or Rediscovered:
1. Miracle Legion - Surprise, Surprise, Surprise
2. R.E.M. - Monster*
3. Soul Coughing - Irresistible Bliss
4. George McCrea - Rock Your Baby
5. Wuhling - Extra 6

* (Obviously I didn't "discover" Monster this year, but it morphed itself from a jokey afterthought in my conscious to one of my absolute favorite things to listen to all year.

12.31.2019
Steve's Favorite Music of the 2010s
A List

Favorite Albums:
1. Joanna Newsom - Have One On Me
2. Brad Mehldau - Highway Rider
3. Superchunk - Majesty Shredding
4. Shearwater - Animal Joy
5. Courtney Barnett - A Sea of Split Peas 
6. Frank Ocean - Channel Orange
7. Mount Moriah - Miracle Temple
8. Trust Fund - Seems Unfair
9. Screaming Females - Rose Mountain
10. Natalie Prass - Natalie Prass
11. The Decemberists - The King Is Dead
12. Walter Martin - Arts + Leisure
13. Fiona Apple - The Idler Wheel...
14. Moon Tooth - Chromaparagon
15. Eleanor Friedberger - Last Summer
16. Future Islands -In Evening Air
17. Girlpool - Powerplant
18. A.C. Newman - Shut Down The Streets
19. Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau - Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau
20. Courageous Endeavors - Prototype
21. Jessica Pratt - Quiet Signs
22. Michael Kiwanuka - Home Again
23. Young Guv - GUV I
24. Nude Beach - 77
25. Adult Jazz - Gist Is
26. The Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
27. Blake Mills - Heigh Ho
28. Okkervil River - Away
29. Sampha - Process
30. Mastodon - Cold Dark Place EP
31. Moon Tooth - CRUX
32. Kendrick Lamar - DAMN
33. The Darkness - Hot Cakes
34. D’Angelo - Black Messiah
35. Ought - More Than Any Other Day
36. Oozing Wound - High Anxiety
37. These New Puritans – Field of Reeds
38. Hailu Mergia - Lala Belu
39. Rhye – Woman
40. The Go! Team - The Scene Between
41. CFCF - Zellers Presents Slow R&B for Locations Canada-Wide
42. Father John Misty - Pure Comedy
43. Owen Pallett - Heartland
44. Blood Incantation - Hidden History of the Human Race
45. St. Vincent - Strange Mercy
46. Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool
47. Big Thief - UFOF / Two Hands
48. Cornelius - Mellow Waves
49. Okkervil River - Away
50. Riley Walker - The Lilywhite Sessions

Albums that are unimpeachably beautiful and profound pieces of work, but are just so dense and demanding to sit through that i have a hard time calling them my "favorites," thus not knowing where to put them on the first list, but feeling like a fraud by leaving them off altogether:
1. Mount Eerie - A Crow Looked At Me
2. Kendrick Lamar - Good Kid MAAD City
3. Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp a Butterfly
4. Sun Kill Moon - Benji
5. Billy Woods - Hiding Places
6. SUNN O)) - Life Metal
7. Low - Double Negative

Favorite Songs:
1. Japanese Breakfast - “Everybody Wants To Love You”
2. Frank Ocean - “Pyramids”
3. Sheer Mag - “Fan the Flames”
4. Big Thief - “Not”
5. Father John Misty - “Pure Comedy”
6. Courtney Barnett - “Avant Gardener” 
7. The Both - “Milwaukee”
8. Eleanor Friedberger - “Stare at the Sun”
9. Flying Lotus w/ Kendrick Lamar - "Never Catch Me"
10. Sydney Gish - “Sophisticated Space”
11. Fiona Apple - “Hot Knife”
12. Beach House - “Zebra”
13. Cornelius - “If You’re Here”
14. Elder - “The Falling Veil”
15. Steve Lacy - “Dark Red”
16. Bruce Springsteen - “Hello Sunshine”
17. Arcade Fire - “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)”
18. Natalie Prass - “Bird of Prey”
19. Jay Som - “Superbike”
20. Eleanor Friedberger - “Owl’s Head Park”
21. Ought - “Habit”
22. Erykah Badu - “Window Seat”
23. Gillian Welch - “Dark Turn of Mind”
24. David Byrne & Florence - "Here Lies Love"
25. Big Boi - "Shine Blockas"
26. Arcade Fire - "Reflektor"
27. Courtney Barnett - “History Eraser”
28. Laura Stevenson - “Torch Song”
29. Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment - "Sunday Candy"
30. Case/Lang/Veirs - “Atomic Number”
31. Superchunk - “This Summer”
32. Hammers of Misfortune - “The Grain”
33. Walter Martin - “Down By the Singing Sea”
34. Kanye West - “Runaway”
35. Real Estate - “Green Aisles”
36. Rhye - “Last Dance”
37. Kendrick - “DUCKWORTH”
38. David Bowie - “Where Are We Now?”
39. Gang Gang Dance - “Glass Jar”
40. Morgan Delt - “Barbarian Kings”
41. FKA Twigs - “Cellophane”
42. Girlpool - “1 2 3”
43. The Darkness - “She’s Just A Girl, Eddie”
44. Chastity - “Heaven Hell Anywhere Else”
45. Hailu Mergia - “Lala Belu”
46. American Pleasure Club - “this is heaven and id die for it”
47. Sampha - “Blood on Me”
48. Okkervil River - “Okkervil River R.I.P.”
49. Ian William Craig - “Contain (Cedar version)”
50. Danny Brown - “Dirty Laundry”

12.13.2019
Mylingar
Doda Sjalar

I was truly taken aback when I first heard Mylingar. So many metal bands, particularly of the death and black variety, try to sound like they're summoning demons with their music. They use distortion and dissonance and speed and guttural growls, often within long accepted structural forms of rock music—riffs and progressions and verses and choruses and solos.

Mylingar is the first metal band I've ever heard who not only sound like they're attempting to summon demons, but sounds like they're succeeding. This shit is so intense, so dark, so ghastly inhuman, there's no other explanation. I think there are guitars here—there might be riffs, there might be some drums down there, there's certainly a humanoid creature vocalizing—but holy shit this is barely even music. It's terrifiying. And thrilling.

This is probably lame, but I need to just paste their bio's description of the music here. Because it's fucking absurd—and every word of it is correct:

A tempest of whirlwind blackened death metal barbarity and animalistic filth, unrelenting in its intent to rend flesh from bone and inflict torment.

There is no peace here. The guitars and riffs burn through everything like scorched earth with the scraping, gritty bass barreling forward into total massacre. All the while the insanity presided over by a voice neither animal nor human but both at once, diseased, psychotic and commanding. The pace in general remains maddeningly frantic but relents as needed to revel in the violence of its creation.

Less an album of songs to passively enjoy, 'Döda Själar' is an all-encompassing specter of claustrophobic oppression and pestilence, draping its blackness over everything and leaving little but barren wasteland behind. An unexplainable, unknowable force for the malevolent villainy that envelops our world."

And lastly, an equally correct review by another listener: "If insanity itself caught leprosy and took a bunch of PCP in a pitch-black cave, this is what it would sound like."

This album is like nothing I've ever heard and I love it.

12.13.2019
Mount Eerie
Lost Wisdom Pt. 2

Phil Elverum can sing now.

12.13.2019
Bonnie 'Prince' Billy
I Have Made A Place

It's impossible to believe, but this is Will Oldham's first Bonnie Prince Billy album in 10 years. He's released other stuff—covers collections and collaborations and re-recordings and live records and other experiments—but as far as a full length collection of original material, this is the first in a decade. It's a very nice listen. I wish it was more than that.

11.25.2019
Blood Incantation
Hidden History of the Human Race

Metal. Death. Chaos. The cosmos. Annihilation. Infinity. Horror. Aliens. Nothingness. Ferocity. Psychosis. Incantation. Mesmerization. Reverb. Galaxies. Supernovae. Explosions. Megacosms. Microcosms. Vociferation. Blast beats. Pinch harmonics. So many pinch harmonics.

11.13.2019
FKA Twigs
Magdaline

This is the best Kate Bush album of the century.

11.13.2019
Brad Mehldau
Finding Gabriel

When I heard a few weeks ago that Brad Mehldau released a new album of original choral/synth/piano material earlier this year, I was pissed that I missed it. Then I heard it and I'm no longer pissed.

10.29.2019
Big Thief
Two Hands

Big Thief took over the world this year, and I'm totally fine with that. There's probably a good chance someone has tried to sell them on you, or that you're already fully sold (more likely), so instead of going down the bullet points of why Big Thief rules, just do this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UIcVwH47uxQ

10.29.2019
Young Guv
Guv II

Surprise, it's a new Young Guv album! Guv I came out of nowhere onto my radar, and I love it, dreamy jangly power pop at its finest, "There She Goes"-as-genre. Top 5 of the year for sure. So now Guv II comes out of nowhere, and it's also good but not as good but still good but not gonna be Top 5.

10.11.2019
Wilco
Ode to Joy

If Wilco The Album and The Whole Love and Star Wars and Schmilco never happened, and Ode to Joy was the follow up to Sky Blue Sky, I'd probably be confused and disappointed by it. But it would at least make sense. But those other albums did of course happen, and they've all left me in varying states of frustration and ambivalence, be it from Album and Love's lack of new ideas and general dispassion, or Star Wars and Schmilco's stubborn dryness. But Ode to Joy finally feels right. None of its individual songs—"Love Is Everywhere (Beware)" perhaps excluded—are nearly to the level of their catalog leading up to this 'frustration and ambivalence' era, but the album as a whole is refreshingly engaging. It contains little mysteries which I don't even know are there until they've hooked me, and it keeps inviting me back, and I'm happy to oblige. But most refreshing of all is that like every great Wilco album (which, again, is basically all of them up until those other ones), this feels like its own world. It has its own palette and speaks its own language. Yeah it kinda borrows some sounds from Star Wars and Schmilco, but it actually does something with them. Even the album cover works.

10.10.2019
Opeth
In Cauda Venunum

Jag vet inte vad "In cauda venenum" betyder på svenska, men jag antar att det är något som "minskar avkastningen."

10.05.2019
Sandro Perri
Soft Landing

Sandro Perri plays 20 minute soft rock mantras which land somewhere between Brian Eno and Pat Metheny, and I promise that's a good thing.

01.01.2020 - by Steve
Steve's Favorite Food of 2019Brooklyn
A List

1. Olmstead (Brooklyn) - Dry rubbed scallops
2. Buttermilk Channel (Brooklyn) - Duck meatloaf
3. Mu (Queens) - Burger
4. Foxfire Mountain House (The Catskills) - Roast pork
5. Junior’s (Brooklyn) - Cheesecake
6. Alma (Minneapolis) - Turkey burger
7. Beefrria Landia (Queens) - Birria tacos
8. Buffalo’s Famous (Brooklyn) - Garbage plate
9. Prince Street Pizza (Manhattan) - Pepperoni pizza (Detroit style)
10. 5 Rabanitos (Chicago) - Pork mole
11. Joju (Queens) - Banh mi
12. Eastwind Snack Shop (Brooklyn) - Dumplings
13. Andrew’s Luncheonette (Brooklyn) - Cheeseburger
14. Roll n Roaster (Brooklyn) - Roast beef sandwich
15. Tony Luke’s (Brooklyn) - Philly cheesesteak
16. Hudson and Charles (Manhattan) - Roast beef sandwich
17. Captain James Crabhouse (Baltimore) - Steamed crabs
18. Shanghai 21 (Manhattan) - Spare ribs
19. Taïm (Manhattan) - Falafel
20. Momofuku Noodle Bar (Manhattan) - Sausage buns

12.14.2019 - by Steve
Eastwind Snack ShopBrooklyn
Dumplings

This is a little joy of a restaurant. A cozy luncheonette style nook off the main drag of a quiet neighborhood just a few steps from a hidden subway entrance that's only two stops away from us, which serves a confidently concise menu of dumplings and noodles, created as a back-to-basics project by a legit chef and lauded as some of the best dumplings in the city by a good number of magazines and websites—and given that Anthony Bourdain seal of approval—yet never at any point overwhelmed with crowds or wait times or hipster accoutrement that might otherwise tank such a perfect place. Since going there for the first time last week, we've already been back once more just a few days later for a quick pre-dinner bite. A year into living in this city and I think this is finally the first place we've finally decided is "ours".

12.13.2019 - by Steve
Defonte'sBrooklyn
Italian sandwich

My open ended (closed face) sandwich quest in this city finally brought me to a place I've had on my list for nearly all of it, hidden back in a weird corner of Red Hook, seemingly purposefully attempting to keep people away with its sheer inaccessibility yet still swarming with construction dudes on lunch break and weird old guys who've never left Red Hook but will still be there long after you die, it's Defonte's.

To be honest I went there so long ago now that I don't remember exactly the details of my sandwich. But I do know it was good—very good in fact. One of the better deli sandwiches I've had here. What I mostly do remember is that Defonte's is really truly the real deal. The sandwich was great, all their specials looked great, their hot deli items looked well above average, and they've got a whole menu of stuff that made me wish it wasn't located in a place that's physically exhausting to get to, no matter the method of travel.

(As an addendum, I'd like to mention that after I got my Defonte's sandwich to go, I took it to a nearby Fairway supermarket that Erin and I occasionally like to frequent, to eat in the seating area of their deli. The reason I mention this part is that the Red Hook Fairway's deli seating area is legitimately a hidden gem of Brooklyn tourism. The store is on the bottom floor of an old waterfront shipping warehouse [see: On The Waterfront], and when you go through the glass sliding doors of the deli, you'll suddenly be treated to one of the best views of the Statue of Liberty in the city. Sure it's still far away, but it's closer than the view from Battery Park in Manhattan, plus you actually get to see the front of her instead of just her butt. It's a really nice place to sit and eat lunch; totally silly that it's just part of a regular grocery store, but that's probably better than it being taken up by some restaurant or brewery.)

11.21.2019 - by Steve
Junior'sBrooklyn
Cheesecake, brisket, latke

Junior's Bakery and Deli is a Brooklyn institution that I've just assumed—based on its cheesecake's ubiquitous presence in local grocery store aisles and its not one but two Times Square locations, as well as the general Perkins-level sleepiness of its interior that I see through its windows every time I walk by it—is past its expiration date. Comparing it to a place like Katz's, which revels in a dogged, hard-won legitimacy, or Russ & Daughter's and its craft-and-quality-above-all ethos, Junior's simply appears a place that's given up. Or rather, sold out.

I don't know what the going opinion on Junior's is amongst the locals here, but I'm comfortable taking this stand: Hey, Junior's is actually good!

Their cheesecake, obviously, is very good. I don't think that point is too heavily in dispute, even though the grocery store version lacks a little in comparison to the fresh stuff you find at their bakery counter—which is truly and non-hyperbolically the best cheesecake I've ever eaten. But what surprised me is that their actual food, at least what we ordered, is damn respectable! The menu, which I expected to be generic American/Greek diner fare, actually leans much more into the New York Jewish deli world, with pastrami and brisket and matzo ball soup. In fact, the item I ordered, which was featured years ago on the Village Voice's list of 50 Essential New York Dishes, was a monstrosity of a brisket sandwich that uses potato latke as a bun. It was truly obscene. But It was also truly delicious, far better than I feared it might be. Erin felt her matzo ball soup was a little canned tasting, but I honestly think it was better than she made it out to be, and even more enjoyable (really) than the bowl she had from Jack's Wife Frida a few weeks ago. I can't say it was better, quality wise, than Frida's, because it obviously wasn't. But I simply found it more satisfying to eat, which kind of sums up our entire meal. I enjoyed every bit of it.

And now I'm supposed to end this review like every Junior's review probably ends, by saying something like, "But you really go there for the cheesecake!" Which yeah is probably true. But y'know what? I just had such a fine evening from top to bottom at this place, that I'm not going to minimize it with the go-there-for-the-cheesecake bit. Junior's is a joy, and I hope they never actually sell out.

10.28.2019 - by Steve
Buttermilk ChannelBrooklyn
Duck meatloaf

Hey now we're on a roll! After months of eating things and saying "Hmm, nothing's really blown me away in this city yet," first came Olmstead's blueberry scallops, and now Buttermilk Channel's duck meatloaf. Nothing's going to top those scallops, but this meatloaf is easily the #2 best thing I've eaten this year. And like the scallops, it comes with a sweet fruity reduction—cherry, to be specific. Nothing else too crazy about it, although I'm not sure what percentage of it was actually duck (it can't be 100%, right? That's a lotta duck. I imagine there's some pork or something in there too). Otherwise just some roasted rutabaga and some arugula, but damn it was good. Everything else we had at Buttermilk Channel—their 'famous' fried chicken and some leek soup—was totally fine but not remarkable. But the meatloaf made it all worth it.

09.10.2019 - by Steve
Jay & Lloyd's Kosher DeliBrooklyn
Pastrami on rye, potato latke

I found a real, classic New York Jewish deli in Sheepshead Bay! You can tell it's authentic because the sandwiches are $24 each and a little bit disappointing. Good coleslaw though.

09.06.2019 - by Steve
Burger KingBrooklyn
Impossible Whopper

I'm sorry, but I'm allowing Burger King to infiltrate the unblemished columns of Music & Food. But it's for an important reason, which is that one afternoon I suddenly realized the world is falling apart and my fat guy is complicit, and the best way to make it better is to go eat an Impossible Whopper.

I hadn't had one of these Impossible things yet, even though they're starting to get advertised everywhere. I think even White Castle is doing them? Anyway, I have to say, they do a fine job of being burger-like. Right before my first bite, I got a gentle whiff of some odd nuttiness, and a bit of that not-quite-right essence I used to get from those Deli Expresses burgers you buy out of the the vending machine. But once I dug in, it more or less just tasted like a Whopper! The onion and pickles and mayo and ketchup and mustard probably helped a lot too, but still. I'd be interested to try this Impossible stuff in a more, uh, epicurean context. But if Burger King suddenly decided to secretly swap all their real Whoppers for fake ones, I honestly would be okay with that.

And I never ate real beef again. Also don't read anything else on this website ever.

08.17.2019 - by Steve
OlmstedBrooklyn
Dry rubbed scallops with blueberry, watermelon sushi, other stuff

I've got to tell you about these scallops. Shit, man. Seriously. Probably—no, easily—the best thing I've eaten in New York. In fact it's probably the best thing I've eaten anywhere in the last couple years.

So the restaurant is Olmsted, up nearby-ish in the Prospect Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, and while it's been around for 2 or 3 years now, it kept showing up on every Best Restaurant list I read. It's won James Beard stuff, Michelin stuff (okay, they don't have a star, but they're on the recommended list!). It's basically just become the restaurant in Brooklyn. And since it was Erin's birthday, and we've barely even touched the surface of the surface of this city's 'good' restaurants, this was a perfect opportunity.

Okay, okay, I'm going to scrap the rest of the intro because I seriously have to tell you about these fucking scallops

You know that magical moment in The Wizard of Oz, where Dorothy opens the door of her house after the tornado and suddenly the world is in full color? Or that part halfway through Elliott Smith's "Sweet Adeline" where he's playing a nice acoustic Elliott Smith song and then suddenly every instrument in the world comes in an you're soaring in the sky and everything is beautiful? More specifically, you know that stupid moment in commercials or cooking shows where someone takes a bite of some food and suddenly their eyes snap open and their head rears back and they can't contain themselves and how wonderfully delicious that bite of food was, even though it's always contrived nonsense because nobody ever does that? These scallops made me do that.

I don't remember how the menu describes them exactly, but basically what we're talking about is your standard scallops, but dry rubbed and grilled, served with some combination of a blueberry (smoked blueberry?) reduction, some sweet corn, chanterelle mushrooms, and another cream-based pan sauce of some sort. Oh and they're served as a kabob atop a husk of a leek or something. But what happened is, we ordered a bunch of small plates, it was all very good, and then the scallops show up. They look good, the sauces look a little dull or dark maybe, but whatever. So I take one off the kabob, run it through a little bit of the sauce, get a mushroom and a corn kernel on there, and I, you know, take a bite. The first thing I get is the blueberry. It's very sweet, very blueberry-y, I'm prepared to say "weird" and move on. But then, a fraction of a second later, Dorothy opens that sepia door and everything is technicolor and the world is a beautiful place. And I honest to god nearly dropped my fork, eyes snapped open, mouth agape in a stupid smile, and all I could do was laugh.

It's so good you guys!

You get it. I won't go on. Anyway, the rest of everything we had was very very good as well. You're probably wondering about the watermelon sushi, which was exactly what it sounds like but probably my least fave of all our plates. It's a hit with the public at large though.

Oh and I just read the chef here used to be Jerry Seinfeld's personal chef. Nice work if you can get it.

08.07.2019 - by Steve
MeMe'sBrooklyn
Brunch, meatloaf, chili oil eggs

MeMe's is a cool Brooklyn diner that has a decent brunch. They serve a little bowl of dry cereal before your meal which I thought was going to be annoying but it was actually pretty satisfying. They have nice paintings on their walls and they have cake.

08.07.2019 - by Steve
Island ExpressBrooklyn
Jerk chicken

I live about a mile west of all the Caribbean food I could ever want to eat, and I barely ever eat it. This is totally my own fault of course, but considering how much I love it (have I ever raved to you about Harry Singh's on Nicollet?), it bums me out that I haven't really made the most of it. But I did recently stop at one of the better rated places, a counter service place called Island Express. According to the big graphic designed graphics on the walls (it seems like Island Express came into some investors recently), they serve Guyanese food. I'd try to tell you what differentiates Guyanese from Jamaican or Trinidadian, but guess what I have no idea. But their menu was what you might expect; jerk chicken and oxtail and some curry and different greens and patties as sides. I was feeling straight up jerk, and was fully happy with it. A big pile of dark meat on rice and peas with some mustard pepper hot sauce and some spinach on the side. Only about 98 more jerk restaurants on Flatbush to try before I pick the best.

07.30.2019 - by Steve
Di Fara PizzaBrooklyn
Pizza

See item #3.

07.23.2019 - by Steve
L&B Spumoni GardensBrooklyn
PIzza

Music & Food is a blog that used to be about 3 things:

1.) Sky Blue Sky is actually a masterpiece.
2.) The Mars Volta rules even though sometimes I don't like them.
3.) The Modern isn't what it used to be.

Well the Modern doesn't exist anymore, so I need to change item #3. So as of today, Music & Food is about these three things:

1.) Sky Blue Sky is actually a masterpiece.
2.) The Mars Volta rules even though sometimes I don't like them.
3.) All New York pizza is the same; it's all good, but it's just the same.

I don't even know if I've written that much about the pizza here, because, well, read #3. But I figure I better write about L&B Spumoni Gardens, which is one of the small handful of truly venerated New York pizza places that just about anyone who's actually from here will tell you "ya gotta go" to. All those other places, naaaah—L&B and Di Fara*, those are the real deal!

But the thing is, L&B is fine. It's perfectly good. And it's a fun place, full of people, lots of outdoor seating, homemade spumoni, a quirky old Italian guy taking your order, and it's been around since the 40s. It's great! The pizza's great! Tastes good! Lotsa sauce! You should go there some time! But really, honestly, I could go to about a dozen other pizza places within 2 miles of L&B that are basically just as good. Basically. Because yeah, L&B is maybe a bit better, like ten percent better. But not so much better that everyone should spend an hour on the N train to Gravesend to have a square.

But maybe spend an hour on the N train anyway, because it's fun and it's good, even if it's the same.

* I'll get to Di Fara in a lil bit