02.13.2019
The Mars Volta
Amputechture

I'm not always in the mood for the Mars Volta. But when I'm in the mood for the Mars Volta, the Mars Volta is the greatest band of all time.

02.12.2019
Jessica Pratt
Quiet Signs

I used to not like Jessica Pratt, but then she released this new album and now I do. This is some beautiful spooky stuff.

(Side note: Jessica Pratt has a notably odd voice. It's lovely and she sings well, but it sounds almost like someone else's voice sped up. At one point I got curious and wanted to hear what it might sound like slowed down, so I dragged a song into my audio editing program and shifted the pitch down about a half octave. What came out is honestly one of the most enchanting "male" voices I've ever heard—somewhere between Jose Gonzalez and Sam Beam and Joao Gilberto, but with a control and purity that none of them can match. I know this is just make believe, and a construction of digital manipulation, but damn. As much as I like Jessica Pratt's voice, I'm finding myself crestfallen that this fantasy man singer doesn't actually exist.)

01.29.2019
Walter Martin
Reminisce Bar & Grill

God I hate when this happnes one of my favorite music guys Walter Martin who had my favorite album of a couple yaera a go released a new album in Frebruary of last year and I didn't even know about it and I missed a whole year of listening to it and it probably would've been in my top 10 because guess what it's super good but I just heard about it today and why didn't anyone etell me about it befor e now????

01.24.2019
Makayla McCraven
Universal Beings

This is a very nice jazz album to listen to.

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.

09.19.2017 - by Steve
Pequod'sChicago
Deep dish sausage pizza

Since a polish and cheese fries and lime Oreo shake weren't quite enough, and since it's been a solid 7 or 8 years since I've last had "real" Chicago style pizza, we went for a legit bang bang, and ventured down to Pequod's, the former punk-rock bar in Lincoln Park that some of the more in-touch locals (and Anthony Bourdain, for what it's worth) would happily tell you is the best deep dish in town, better than that slop they serve you at Gino's East and Lou Malnatti's, and, god forbid, Giordano's. I wouldn't disagree with them necessarily, but in fairness it's been years and years since I've had Gino's, I don't think I've ever had Lou's. But yes, Giordano's is trash. But Pequod's, hell, I have have no complaints! It was a damn good pie! So, sure! Trust those who know. And just order a small. You'll be fine.

09.19.2017 - by Steve
Susie's Drive ThruChicago
Polish, Green River Oreo shake

Stop #2 on my one-day whirlwind trip to Chicago: Susie's Drive Thru. This is some Chicago insider shit, you guys. You won't find it on lists, you won't find it in your local alt-weekly, you won't see it on the Food Network. But it's what dreams are made of. One of those tiny little corner joints way out in the boonies of Chicago, far enough away from the train that the cool kids will never make it there, with a menu that somehow has about 120 items on it, all of which are terrible for your health, but great for everything else, and at least 60 of which are probably delicious. I can personally vouch for the Maxwell polish and the Chicago dog and the cheese fries. But the main attraction here is some real batshit nonesense: The Green River Oreo shake. Green River, see, is some little midwestern-based citrus soda—think a slightly more limey Sprite. The Green River Oreo shake, then, is a shake with Green River and Oreos in it. The idea of mixing Oreos with limey citrus pop doesn't immediately sound too appealing. But let me tell you, it works. God knows how, but it works. Susie's isn't going to franchise any time soon, and I couldn't even tell you how to get there if you're ever in Chicago (do they even have a website or Yelp listing?), but if you happen to get lost and look up and see its glorious neon trim, do it.

09.19.2017 - by Steve
Jaimito'sChicago
Al pastor taco

Jaimito's is one of hundreds of neighborhood taco joints in Chicago, so this isn't me trying to rank it or compare to any of the others. This just just me saying, "Hey, I was in Chicago and I was hungry so I popped in to this place called Jaimito's and got a taco. It was pretty good, and even though it was a traditional style taco place, they also put lettuce and shredded cheese on the taco, and I'm totally okay with that because it tasted good."

04.01.2015 - by Steve
Bang Bang Pie & BiscuitsChicago
Malted chocolate pie

So here's Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits, a cool homey little nook of a cafe in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago, that makes, yes, pie and biscuits. It's a totally righteous little spot; cool but not annoying-cool, a clearly focused menu that's small but not too small. But mostly it's got delicious pie. I got the malted chocolate, which was sort of like a french silk (my favorite thing in the world), but had a thick, almost torte-like texture, on a graham cracker crust. Guess what? It was great. Not too rich, not too malty. It was a subtle malt, not like a goddamn Whopper or something. I tried to go back the next morning to get a breakfast biscuit, but it was a Saturday morning, and every cool mom in the city was lined up down the block for brunch. I hightailed it out of there. Next time, maybe.


(1)
04.01.2015 - by Steve
Al's BeefChicago
Italian beef

Al's Beef isn't a quality establishment. It isn't grass fed beef and locally-pickled peppers on home-baked buns dipped in craft-ale au jus. It's garbage food for drunk people to eat at 1 in the morning, for construction workers to stuff in their gullet on their lunch break. It's a Chicago chain that has probably seen better days, and isn't necessarily universally beloved. But their garbage sandwich was so, so, so tasty at midnight after a day of endless walking. I loved every bite of it. Possibly the most satisfying thing I ate in Chicago.

03.27.2015 - by Steve
Do-Rite DonutsChicago
Lemon pistachio donut

I think beyond being "trendy," good quality donut shops are in for the long haul. Because donuts are great. They're way better than cupcakes. And while the Twin Cities hasn't quite experienced the full-on renaissance yet (close, though), it seems Chicago is well into it. I basically picked Do-Rite by closing my eyes and putting my finger down on a map. And I wasn't disappointed. Just look at that donut up there. Doesn't it look tasty? It was. And there's probably a twenty other equally good donut shops in that city. I am not complaining.

03.27.2015 - by Steve
Green Street Smoked MeatsChicago
Chopped brisket sandwich

Surprisingly affordable barbecue in a super cool "hidden" warehouse space in between a bunch of much more exclusive restaurants for much more exclusive people. There's definitely a regrettable sense of trying-too-hard-to-make-it-look-like-you're-not-trying-hard at Green Street Smoked Meats (like, just call it "barbecue, man!"), but they pull it off. This is a cool place, with great, but not epiphany-inducing, barbecue and interesting sides. It's cheap for what you get, the service is fast, and the seating is plentiful. My only complaint is I should have ordered the sliced brisket rather than the chopped. The chopped tasted a little like it had been sitting in a pot for too long, rather than the fresh cut juiciness that the slices would've got me. Oh well. Next time!

03.27.2015 - by Steve
Cozy NoodlesChicago
Crispy pad kee mao

Wrigley Field is an American treasure. I love it. Wrigleyville, its surrounding neighborhood, is a nightmare. A Bud-fueled, tramp-tatted, Tapout-shirted, frozen-chicken-wing defrosted dude-bro nightmare. It also hosts the surprisingly hospitable Wrigleyville Hostel, where I decided to stay for my Chicago weekend because I'm a cheapskate with little self respect. But since I at least have some self respect, I skipped all the Wrigleyville sports bars, and instead had dinner at the one place in the entire neighborhood with dignity, Cozy Noodles. It's small and tucked away, and inexplicably decorated with all sorts of retro Americana ephemera, but it serves totally solid Thai food. Their "specialty" is that they do crispy fried noodles in their pad thai and pad kee mao, which ends up being just too crispy for my taste. But otherwise, it's a great place. Don't go out of your way (I'm sure there are plenty of equally good Thai restaurants in Chicago), but if you're stuck in Wrigleyville, you'll have no other choice.

03.27.2015 - by Steve
ArtopolisChicago
Roast lamb leg

I'm currently staying the night in a hostel above a Greek restaurant in the Greektown neighborhood of Chicago. No joke. So I have to have some Greek food for dinner, right? The running joke about Greektown, as far as I could tell from my brief scans through Chowhound, is that all the restaurants in Greektown share the same kitchen. They're all apparently good, but just very similar. And walking down the street here, I really get that vibe. Lots of white table cloths. Lots of blue and white. Lots of logos designed around 1988. The one I chose, Artopolis, is supposedly a newer, fresher take. It actually touts itself as a bakery, and the best comparison I can make is French Meadow. It has both a bakery counter and full dining service. It has a big menu with everything from light sandwiches to full entrees. It has many deserts. And most of all, like French Meadow, I ordered the most expensive thing on the menu and it was... okay. I was expecting a bone-in lamb shank, and got slices. And they were a bit dry. But the sauce, a light tomato and mint based number, was great, as were the roasted vegetables (squash, zucchini, and red pepper? Get original, Artopolis!). I had a desert, as well, a sort of lemon custardy thing inside a phyllo dough shell. It would've been great if it was chilled, but they... microwaved it?. As far as I can tell, they did. So Artopolis did everything they could to ruin my meal, and I probably payed about $5 too much, but I still left satisfied. Now if only this hostel would turn their AC up a bit!

03.27.2015 - by Steve
Lito's EmpanadasChicago
Empanadas

An empanada is a delicious little fried pocket of dough, stuffed with fillings of your choice. "A Hot Pocket?" Yes. But a Columbian Hot Pocket. Everyone really enjoyed theirs, but my personal favorite was filled with ground beef, potatoes, olives, raisins, and dipped in homemade jalapeno, onion, and cilantro salsa. It was our last "meal" (heavy snack, really) in Chicago, and made me want to find a good empanada source in Minneapolis. Or I'll just buy a Hot Pocket and tell the cashier about how much better the real ones are.

03.27.2015 - by Steve
WishboneChicago
Andouille sausage hash

Wishbone is is what Sunny Side Up would be if it wasn't a total dump. Great breakfast food, based on 'southern-style' cooking. Grits, corn muffins, catfish, all that stuff, and my andouille sausage hash was probably the best thing I ate on this trip. I'd wanted to go there the whole weekend, and we finally found some time to do so. Plus, it's only a block away from where Oprah films her show! OMG!

03.27.2015 - by Steve
Chicago DinerChicago
Black bean burger

It's hard to believe that, of all the diners and eateries in Chicago, the one that actually gets to be called "The Chicago Diner" is located in a classic old diner space in a big gay neighborhood and is entirely vegetarian. And yet their menu contains buffalo wings, Philly cheesesteaks, bacon cheeseburgers. Entirely fake meat, yes, but as I recently learned with the fake pork at Evergreen, this can totally work--and it pretty much did. The buffalo "wings" (their usage of quotes, not mine) were weird at first, but then once you realized that the sauce contained no butter (50% of wing sauce, really), and the chicken obviously wasn't chicken, they were pretty tasty, and very spicy. My black bean burger was good, and had a great mustard sauce on it. Everyone else had good to great food, and were all impressed that such a place can even exist. And in a city as ridiculously large as Chicago, it actually does a ton of business.

03.27.2015 - by Steve
Eleven City DinerChicago
Chicken Sandwich

This was the second time eating at Eleven City Diner near downtown Chicago, and it was nearly as good as the first. In a place where you need to order corned beef or pastrami or something of that meat family to really get the full experience, I was worried about the potential of a cajun chicken sandwich, but it ended up being a well-above-average cajun chicken (which can often be pretty boring). The bread really made it. Big, fat, soft, and almost french-toast-like. Well worth the 5 hour wait. Or maybe a little less.

03.27.2015 - by Steve
Gino's EastChicago
Deep dish pizza

Because eating a big deep dish pizza is a required activity for anyone who ever visits Chicago, we finally got around to getting to one of the standard deep dish spots (which are, in generally-accepted order of quality: Lou Malnati's, Gino's East, Giordano's). The actual experience of going to the downtown Gino's East was something akin to waiting for the cable guy. You wait and wait and wait, get yanked around and treated like crap, and then you watch hours upon hours of Bravo and think to yourself, "What am I doing?" Then you get the bill. And yet, in the end, you are really glad you got cable. Yeah, that's about right.

03.27.2015 - by Steve
DaoChicago
Stir fried basil and beef

Our first meal on our New Years Chicago trip was at a random Thai place right by our hotel, called Dao. We had to kill 45 minutes to get our room ready (ack...), and just happened upon it while walking away from some of the more ridiculous Miracle Mile mega-restaurants. It wasn't a hole in the wall, by any means, but probably at about one step below a Sawatdee (in size and decor, but certainly not taste). My beef dish was simple, but very tasty, just beef, basil, peppers, and sauce. Libby's chicken curry was above average (and subtly unique). And our potstickers (not Thai, but whatever) were honestly some of the best I've had anywhere. But best of all is that it was surprisingly cheap, considering its location in between Michigan Ave and Navy Pier. And there were cool hole-in-the-ground booths that made it look like you were sitting cross-legged on the floor, without actually having to do so (because that would be totally un-American).