07.16.2018
Gang Gang Dance
Kazuashita

Gang Gang Dance is the type of group that I always feel has the potential to do something truly transcendent. Despite not really being "my kind of thing," their last album Eye Contact really blew me away, and had a few moments on it where I just wanted to stand up and find anyone around me to yell "are you hearing this‽" at. Other moments of it, meanwhile, were just kinda good. So then here, after like 5 years, we have Kazuashita, which is better than just kinda good, but at the same time doesn't seem to have any of the "are you hearing this‽" moments in it that I wish it had. It's just mostly very chill, and borderline new-age. So yes, it's a very pleasant listen all the way through, with one almost transcendent moment, although it's a bit of a cheat because it comes from a spoken word vocal sample layed over the music rather than the music itself ("buffalo".) But hey. It's a nice listen and I like it.

07.11.2018
Self Defense Family
Have You Considered Punk Music

So this is a band called Self Defense Family, and the album is called Have You Considered Punk Music, and it's one the most earnest collections of musical recordings I've ever heard. It's good and you should listen to it.

07.09.2018
Kamasi Washington
Heaven and Earth

I'll be honest—I haven't actually listened to Heaven and Earth in full yet. I'm not even sure how that's supposed to be done; every song on it is the biggest, fullest, most epic jazz odyssey ever recorded, and there's two discs worth of it! It's like watching 2001 front to back and then turning on Andrei Rublev without even getting up from the couch.

That's a terrible comparison and I'm going to edit it out later. But I'm just trying to get this music blog done so I can go to bed, so let's keep moving, yes? So: everything that Kamasi Washington has recorded so far is astounding, and Heaven and Earth is too. Just the most correct shit, over and over again, one track after another. Choirs, strings, dueling drum sets, vintage synthesizers, noise prog guitar solos, spoken poetry, wah pedals, talk boxes. Everything is on this album. You're probably on this album. Bet you didn't know it. The craziest thing about all of it is that it all makes sense.

07.09.2018
Natalie Prass
The Future and the Past

I didn't like the first Natalie Prass album all that much at first. But then I liked it a little more. And then I liked it a lot more. And now it's one of my favorites of the last few years.

I don't like this new Natalie Prass album all that much.

06.19.2018
Father John Misty
God's Favorite Customer

It's interesting how little I have to say about this album, in relation to how much I like it. I mean, not that interesting. But like, know what I mean? It's a completely solid album from front to back, and Father John Misty is a songwriter par excellence, truly and not even ironically the Randy Newman of our generation; which isn't to say that he sounds like Randy Newman or that you'd ever confuse the work of the two, but he's a too smart for his own good asshole, who treats the art of songwriting itself like a test that he has to ace, blindfolded and with his left hand, a tight rope slung in between towers with no net that he's going to walk across even though nobody asked him to. But the motherfucker nails it, is the thing, every time, even if tight rope walking isn't that big with the kids these days.

06.19.2018
Ryley Walker
Deafman's Glance

I liked this Ryley Walker album a lot, but then it struck me just how much it sounds like Jim O'Rourke. Now I still like it a lot.

05.26.2018
Courtney Barnett
Tell Me How You Really Feel

I've been as much of a Courtney Barnett advocate as anybody in the last few years, proclaiming to anyone who will listen how she is One Of The Great Music Authors of our generation, a rare Genuine Voice in a world full of poseurs and trend hoppers. What I'm saying is that's she's the fuckin best. Listen to "Avant Gardener"! Listen to it! Do you hear it??

So anyway, she just released her third album, which very learned people will tell you is um actually he second album, since her first album is just a collection of 3 EPs, even though that's nonsense and this is her third album whether you like it or not. It's a bit of a departure, in that it's all a bit darker, slower, seemingly basking in ennui rather than writing circles around it. It's good, I like it. It just seems like she's going through some stuff, man, you know? Except there's this one part on "Need A Little Time," in the chorus, where she switches from "Me...eeee...eeee.eeee" to "You...ooooo...ooo," and the chord changes and the guitars crunch a little more, and it's glorious. Listen to it! Do you hear it??

05.24.2018
Eleanor Friedberger
Rebound

Good tunes.

05.22.2018
Beach House
7

This new Beach House album has really great cover art. It's printed on a shiny, metallic, somewhat opalescent paper that cuts through the black and white pop art, and is very psychedelic and cool and was probably very expensive for Sub Pop to manufacture. This is also the review of the Beach House album. 7/10.

05.02.2018
Yazan
Hahaha

Weirdo psych blues rock that sounds kinda like Retribution Gospel Choir is Retribution Gospel Choir was a lot funner and a little goofy. To be honest I bought this on a whim, and I keep forgetting about it.

04.16.2018
R.E.M.
Monster

I've been listening to "What's The Frequency Kenneth" endlessly in the last few days. It's a strange choice, I know, but the song has completely hooked itself into me. The proximate blame goes to Scott Aukerman and Adam Scott's new podcast "R U Talking R.E.M. Re: Me?", where they talk about R.E.M. for an hour every week, even though they haven't even gotten to Monster yet, and really I don't find their analysis and discussion of the band all that interesting. It's just a fun goofy listen. But what it has done is made me revisit their records with fresher ears, and ultimately that's what's making me think I've grossly underestimated these guys my whole life. They're really fascinating once you lay it all out, almost by being so un fascinating. There are no major peaks and valleys to their career; there's no drama, no grand failed experiments, no major lineup changes. And yet since 1983, these dudes have released so many undeniable hit songs, entirely in their own voice, making (practically) no concessions to fashion or popularity. Every single album (at least until the 21st century, where you can forgive them for being 20 years into their career) has at least one song on it, usually 2 or 3 and sometimes 4, which would be any other band's creative pinnacle, most of which have since entered whatever we can describe as the modern rock/pop canon. It's remarkable.

Even Monster, which at the time perhaps got some criticism for selling out to some grungy, alt-rock zeitgeist, has mostly aged beautifully, and contains at least 2 all time greats. One of which, to take us back to the lede, is "What's The Frequency Kenneth", which, again, was kinda made fun of at the time for being alt rock nonsense. But listen to it! It's great! It's an undeniable jam. And even though they might've distorted the guitar a little more than previous albums, it is anything but a grunge cash in. It's pure and beautiful and perfect. And lucky for all of us, you can find dozens of copies Monster for $2 or less at every used record store and thrift shop in the country.

04.15.2018
Hop Along
Bark Your Head Off

I wish this rocked more.

04.04.2018
Daphne & Celeste
Daphne & Celeste Save The World

Okay, the title up there says "Daphne & Celeste Save The World," which is technically true, albeit probably meaningless to anyone reading this right now. But in reality, this is really a Max Tundra album, his first in a decade. Whu-whu-whaaat? Let me explain, because it's bizarre!

Backstory #1 is that Daphne & Celeste were a thoroughly disposable teen pop duo in England back in 2000, who had one or two earworm bubblegum pop hits that apparently had no traction in the US, but drove the Brits completely crazy. Like "Barbie Girl" and "Crazy Frog" levels of crazy. There's a famous story about them playing at some festival and basically having shit thrown at them from the crowd to get off the stage. Backstory #2, is that Max Tundra is this insane genius electronic experimentalist with a knack for undeniable pop melodicism and a cheeky sense of humor, who spends years and years completely out of the public eye, seemingly too clever for his own well being, crafting his music like one of those guys who carves photorealistic landscapes on thousands of grains of rice. It's been 10 years since the last Max Tundra album, Parallax Error Beheads You, and I basically assumed he was dead.

But what happened is he was actually writing and recording his new album. Except instead of a Max Tundra album, it's a Daphne & Celeste album??? Listening to this record, there is no confusion about who's music this is. This is Max Tundra through and through, from the batshit cut up production, to the melodic signatures, to the fact that there is at least one love song to a synthesizer. No, not recorded with a synthesizer, but about a synthesizer. Did I mention Max Tundra is the best? Anyway, while his own voice is nowhere to be heard, Daphne & Celeste do just fine taking his place, and give the whole album a surreal feel of a bubblegum pop album completely out of time, frankensteined together almost as a joke, but way too comprehensive and smart to actually be a joke. I don't know how this project came together, how Tundra convinced Daphne & Celeste to jump off a cliff with him, but holy hell is it weird and fascinating and a complete joy.

04.03.2018
Mount Eerie
Now Only

The last Mount Eerie album was a towering masterpiece of grief and honesty and poetry, born out real life death and mourning, completely uncritiqueable and undeniably perfect. Now Only feels like a lesser, lighter follow up to that one, even though it is also all of those things. But it couldn't really be anything else, and that's okay. RIYL: crying.

04.02.2018
4th Curtis
I Won the Pageant

Holy cow, it's a local band that's actually good and actually excites me! 4th Curtis—not to be confused with Cowboy Curtis—plays totally solid 90's alt-rock-inspired indie pop on Girlpool-Trust Fund-Frankie Cosmos spectrum. I saw them performing randomly at halftime of a roller derby event, expected absolutely nothing of them, and after just a couple songs was totally sold. They're good! Good songs! Good music! Cool!

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.


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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).