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!

04.02.2018
Augie March
Bootikins

Once again, as is standard practice with me and this band over the last decade, Augie March has released an album completely under the radar. These guys basically don't exist outside Australia at this point, so any announcement of new music was probably contained in the southern hemisphere. But as also is standard practice with Augie March, this album is skillfully constructed and thoroughly enjoyable.

04.02.2018
Screaming Females
All At Once

It's always a funny criticism to levy, but I think I'd like this album a lot more if it was half the length that it is. 15 tracks! Who needs 15 tracks in 2018? Gimme your best 8 rockers, cut out all the oddball dirges and half-electro experiments, and we've got another winner on our hands. Not a Rose Mountain level winner, but good shit nonetheless. But as it stands, it's a good album with some skippable tracks, and some more hummable leanings than their previous albums—a couple downright radio-ready tracks, if rock radio was still a thing. It's good. They're good.

03.19.2018
The Decemberists
I'll Be Your Girl

I was going to say this is the worst Decemberists album, but then I remembered Hazards of Love exists, so I'm not very sure anymore.

02.24.2018
Ought
Room Inside The World

Ought has never fully won me over on a single album. I'm fully in love with 3-4 of their songs, but a lot of their other ones are just a little too Wire/Fall/post-punky for my baby ears. But when they're on, they're on. Italicized. This new one, then, is a bit surprising; it doesn't have that 1 killer single, but at the same time, the whole record comes together better for me than their others. Mostly that's because they've clearly shifted their sound into a more "melodic" direction. Scare quotes mandatory, since their singer has a, um, unique (italicized) way of delivering words into a microphone. Speaking of unique vocalizing, do you like Future Islands?

02.24.2018
Andy Shauf
The Party

Here's one I seriously missed from 2016. In fact I think most people missed it. Most people except for Cornelius and Jeff Tweedy, both of which are on record in interviews mentioning Andy Shauf as one of their favorite new artists. And if Jeff Tweedy and Cornelius recommend somebody, I am absolutely on board, and it took me less than 30 seconds of listening to one track on this album to be totally sold. This is some Jim O'Rourke-level guitar pop arrangement, with melodies that are immediately impactful (and winding and dreamy and all those other good words), sung by a guy who almost sounds like the singer from Clinic. Just weird enough. And I guess this record is a concept album about a party. Anyway, had I known about this in 2016, it certainly would've made my Best Of The Year list. Maybe not #1, but damn high anyway.

02.24.2018
Rhye
Blood

I'm a little bummed that this new Rhye album isn't better than it is.

02.24.2018
Jeff Rosenstock
POST

This dude Jeff Rosenstock is a famous and respected figurehead of the 21st century punk-ska scene. I'll pause until you stop laughing. Anyway he's actually a legit good dude, and writes songs that far exceed what you'd expect from such a dude; his solo stuff, like this new POST record is really more power pop than pop punk. But it's a little of that, too. Anyway, POST is really frikkin good, and he yells "FUCK NO!" in one song and it gives me shivers, man.

Oh, and a couple songs sound like Aqueduct, which is weird.

01.16.2018
Steve's Favorite Music of 2017
A List

1. Girlpool - Powerplant
2. Cornelius - Mellow Waves
3. Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau - Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau
4. Ryan Adams - Prisoner
5. One And Future Band - Once and Future Band
6. Sampha - Process
7. Mastodon - Cold Dark Place EP
8. Kendrick Lamar - Damn
9. Mount Eerie - A Crow Looked At Me
10. Father John Misty - Pure Comedy

10.31.2017
Bell Witch
Mirror Reaper

Slow.

10.17.2017
St. Vincent
Masseduction

I had prepared myself to spew my righteous rockist anger at this, St. Vincent's ironic-but-not-ironic-but-maybe-ironic pop cash grab. Produced by that guy who produces everything. Beats by cool beatmakers. A self consciously sexy and colorful marketing push. Pre-release singles that were about Weezer-level dumb things like Los Angeles phonies and, like, pills. Holy shit was I going to tear this album a new one. Or maybe I'd say "Um actually it's a work of genius!". One of those two.

But really, all I have to say is that it's just good. That's it. It's really not much different stylistically than her last album and a half. The pop thing isn't really a thing, and there's just as much guitar wizardry as I'd hope. But still, "Pills"? Really?

04.21.2017 - by Steve
ByteDowntown Minneapolis
Black vinegar pork bowl

Byte (get it!?) is a new counter-service eatery and bar downtown who's tagline promises some sort of nerdy, techy something or other. "Eat Drink Geek," it says. Well I did notice the table numbers had drawings of superheroes on them (we got Green Lantern), but beyond that I'm stumped. More importantly though, is the food, a which reminds me quite a bit of World Street Kitchen in its worldly-yet-ethnically-agnostic mix of bowls and burritos and salads. I got the black vinegar pork bowl, which I think was Korean, or at least Korean-inspired, but hey it was really good! It had some nice pickled veggies in there, and some cashews on there, and bok choy (so maybe it was Chinese?) and the rice was good, and it was actually more than I could finish in a single sitting! Thanks Byte! So hey, I like this place! It's bright and chill and tasty, and I guess there's a bar in back, so maybe there's some arcade games back there or something? Or maybe some tech startup offices? We'll never know.

12.06.2016 - by Steve
Spoon & StableDowntown Minneapolis
Grilled venison, beet cured trout, goat goulash

The cycle continues, and Spoon & Stable is now the "best" restaurant in the city, which mostly means it's the newest restaurant in the city to charge premium prices for premium food in a premium setting filled with premium people, and all of your Facebook friends talk about going there like it's no big deal because they just like good things, so of course they love it, duh, and oh, you've probably been there too because it's the best restaurant in the city, and you need your friends to know that you're good too. So Spoon & Stable. What does that even mean, spoon and stable? Are we eating horse soup? This getting away from me, I'm going to regroup...

So I went to Spoon & Stable by myself on my birthday, because I deserve it. I think? It's been a long time since I've been to a "good" restaurant, and I didn't have any other plans, so I just said Screw It, I'm gonna go and sit at the bar throw down 100 bucks on a ridiculous dinner. Usually in these cases I'd try my best to be careful and thoughtful about my choices, or maybe I'd actually be there with another human to be able to split and try things. But nah, I just went for it. Here's the rundown: Beet-cured trout, served kinda like lox, with some citrus and beets and other assorted nibbles... Grilled venison with malted jus and some kinda puree over a big fat celery root... Goat goulash pasta. The food itself (not the surroundings) reminded me of the 112. Favorably even! Which was a pleasant surprise; the cynic in me half expected to hate it, given its bound-to-come-back-down-to-earth-in-time reputation. But nah, it was good. In fact, the venison was one of the best dishes I've had anywhere in a long time. It's one of those entrees that you've had a dozen times before—quality piece of meat atop some starchy puree with some deglazed pan sauce and a some greens—but this was pretty much flawless. Every bite of the meat was lean and perfect, and the sauce had a deep rich body that came as a surprise. If I had any gripes (other than the fact that I don't love celery, so the celery root wasn't exactly my favorite), it's that the whole dish was so richly savory that it needed an extra stab of something else. Some little sweet or vinegary burst somewhere. But really it was fantastic. The beet trout, I won't blab much about, because I don't have much to say about it. It had that deconstructed Travail sort of vibe, without the Travail surprises. But it was fine. So then after ate those, I tallied the damage and decided that I'd be wasting a birthday dinner if I didn't get one more dish. Which of course was the goat goulash, because of course I'm going to order the goat goulash. If I'd never been to the 112 or La Grassa before (or the late lamented JP's) I would've sworn this was an incredible plate of food. But in truth it just made me wish I was eating the comparable—and slightly better—pastas at 112 and La Grassa. But whatever. It was still delicious!

Oh, and I also made the mistake (?) of mentioning to the bartender that it was my birthday. Because as I was paying up, he brought me an embarrassingly large ball of cotton candy. It was the Uptown Cafeteria Pork Rind Incident all over again. Everybody stared at me. People commented under their breath. I literally died. But I also shared some with the rest of the bar, so I guess I made some friends. And isn't that what it's all about? No?


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03.25.2016 - by Steve
Il ForoDowntown Minneapolis
Steak, meatballs, vodka sauce pasta

This doesn't really count as a real Food review, because I was just at Il Foro for an event that had a buffet-style meal. So it's not like I sat down with a menu and chose an entree and saw the prices and this and that. But given that, I can say I was quite happy with the food I ate, and surprised at its very traditional Italian appeal. This isn't, like, a modern Italian kitchen or some nonsense (see: Monello), it was meatballs in a hearty red sauce, some sort of elbowed hollow rigatoni-like pasta in a creamy vodka sauce, and a fairly traditional—but absolutely perfectly prepared—steak at a carving station, with horseradish. I guess it would be really expensive if I was actually paying for it, but I wasn't. Really though, nobody's going to this place for the food. It's all about the interior, which is a lovingly restored art deco era interior. It's fancy. But like, legit fancy. Very fun. I'll never eat there again.

09.22.2015 - by Steve
Naf Naf GrillDowntown Minneapolis
Chicken shawarma

It's hard to get too excited about new "good" fast food chains when places like Smashburger and Rusty Taco and Which Which (gross) consistently tend to underwhelm upon their big splashy entry into the cities. Even more so when the new restaurant can so quickly be described as "Chipotle for _____." Chipotle for pizza. Chipotle for sushi. Chipotle for mac and cheese. Or that guy who won the NBC reality show and started a Chipotle for soul food in the Mall of America which shut down within 2 months, leaving this guy and his newly uprooted family to fend for themselves in Minneapolis. But that has zero to do with this. This, in fact, is about Naf Naf Grill, the brand new Chipotle for shawarma joint that just opened downtown after hitting it big in Chicago. And this, also, is where I totally eat my hat. Because, the thing is, Naf Naf is the real deal!. I say that as a lover of shawarma. And a guy with a food blog. So you can trust me. But as much as I love and appreciate places like Shish and Aida and the random bodega-style deli, Naf Naf has managed to out-shawarma them. I'm so sorry. I want those little guys to win, but the Chicago chain beat them fair and square. This shit is delicious, and it's so much more than meat and rice on a pita. They've got pickled stuff. They've got oniony salad stuff. They've got sauces that the employees could barely pronounce. It's honestly the best shawarma sandwich I've had since the Oasis of Williamsburg on my trip to Brooklyn a few years ago (yes, I'm rolling my eyes too). That was actually the closest analogue I can find to Naf Naf, with some of the same types of fixings that nobody else in Minneapolis seems to bother with. Top it all off with the fact that they bake all their pita bread in house, and that the shawarma itself was juicy and tender and flavorful, I can't wait for these guys to open up more stores. And three years from now, when you hear me complaining about how there are Naf Nafs opening everywhere, slap me in the face and make me read this review again.

11.23.2014 - by Steve
Hen HouseDowntown Minneapolis
Biscuits and gravy

I wanted to make this post a eulogy for Peter's Grill, Minneapolis' only truly historic diner, which shut down and is now Hen House. However, that would have been disingenuous, because I only ever at at Peter's once, and felt the food was truly uninspiring, no matter how historic it was. So as much as I hate that it closed, I was part of the problem. But now we have Hen House, which at least kept a lot of Peter's cool old style booths and counter. They also kept Peter's uninspiring food. It's really just standard, slightly-better-than-Perkins breakfast food. You could get the exact same quality of meal literally two blocks away at Key's (where, I was not surprised to learn, Hen House's ownership began their food careers). That space deserves better.

11.23.2014 - by Steve
Runyon'sDowntown Minneapolis
Cheeseburger

In the words of Iowa's own Andrew Voss: "The great thing about Runyon's is..." And, well, I don't remember the rest of what he said. But he was right. There's a great thing about Runyon's, but it's so inconspicuous as to be practically invisible in downtown's obnoxious bar scene. But Runyon's is just a humble little (not quite) dive bar, with a humble little menu of a few burgers and some wings and fries and beer. As far as greasy bar burgers go, theirs is one of the better one's I've had in town, especially with the horseradish cheddar cheese. The fries aren't hand cut, but they were perfectly fried. The wings were... wings. But if 'm ever looking for a quick bite downtown, you can bet your ass I'll be going back here instead of battling all the other nonsense down the street.

10.08.2014 - by Steve
The Third BirdDowntown Minneapolis
Bison burger

Hey, not bad!

10.08.2014 - by Steve
The Corner BarDowntown Minneapolis
Chicken sandwich

Well apparently "I don't care" is a flavoring agent, and the Corner Bar puts a dash of it in everything. I don't think I've ever been less satisfied with a meal that totaled over $20.

06.25.2014 - by Steve
Butcher & the BoarDowntown Minneapolis
Texas beef link

Okay. I've been to Butcher & the Boar now, are you happy? Am I credible enough to continue to maintain a food related weblog now? Here's my hot take: Look, it was good. It was a spicy beef link with spicy pepper sauce and some slaw. For what it was, I don't know if it could have been any better. And for $12, I feel like was worth it. Great, awesome. But considering it was Tuesday night and you needed reservations not to get stuck at the bar, and every table in the place was taken up by a group of dress-shirt-tucked-in, silver-fox-hair-cropped-conservatively, expense-account-sucking business travelers who had clearly just walked there from their hotels by the convention center because they read about it in New York Times Travel & Leisure, and B&tB can go ahead and charge whatever they want for everything on the menu because this clientele of theirs isn't actually spending their own money, I don't know if they really need me back any time soon. So I won't bother.

05.03.2014 - by Steve
Target FieldDowntown Minneapolis
Butcher and the Boar rib tips

I'm not cool (read: "rich" [read: "cool"]) enough to have actually gone to the Butcher and the Boar yet. I'm sorry. I'm really sorry. I feel terrible about it and I'm trying my best to remedy the issue. But in the meantime, this year they've got a stand at Target Field serving rib tips. And they're great! I dare say, despite the $12 price tag (which is actually reasonable to me, considering the quality and quantity), they've actually supplanted the Loon chili and the Cuban sandwich and the big cheese filled meatball as the Best Food In Target Field. Just bring some dental floss to the game with you. Seriously.


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04.03.2014 - by Steve
Copper PotDowntown Minneapolis
Indian Buffet

It's no Gandhi Mahal, but I'll go ahead and say the Copper Pot is a welcome addition to downtown, particularly to the 5th and Hennepin area, which otherwise is nothing but gross pizza slices and roofie bars. I can only speak for this one lunch buffet however, not their menu in general, which might affect my feelings about it. The flavors were all nice–-dynamic, but not very spicy--but all of the buffet options seemed a little picked over; lots of sauce, but not a lot of heft. And the chunks of chicken that were available were a minefield of bones. Still, it was quality. Give it a shot before it turns into a burrito place and then a pizza place and then another pizza place and then an Indian place.

04.03.2014 - by Steve
Mason'sDowntown Minneapolis
Burger

I almost forgot to write about this new downtown spot, Mason's*. Basically, don't worry about it. You're not missing anything if you never give it a second thought beyond reading this post. You don't need it, and it doesn't need you. If anything, I guess, if you really want a burger, it might be a step above Gluek's, and a step blow Ike's, and less of a headache than Hell's Kitchen. And their burgers are from Wisconsin beef producers. So that's something. But, really, don't worry about it. Forget I even brought it up.

* The actual name of this restaurant is Mason's Restaurant Barre. Really. They spell it with two R's and an E. I'll leave that here as a warning.

04.03.2014 - by Steve
Dancing Ganesha Downtown Minneapolis
Chicken vindaloo, lamb rogan josh

Have any of you ever eaten at this place? Has anybody ever eaten at this place? I can tell you I've biked past it at least a half dozen times, down its hidden little stretch of Harmon Place downtown, with the intention of maybe eating there and watching a ballgame on their bar TV, but they never have the ballgame on their bar TV, and it's always about 90% empty. It's never seemed weird or scary or gross, just, like discounted? All of this, though, makes it the perfect spot to go downtown when you want something other than bar food, and you don't want to fight crowds. And, hey, it's good! A hair expensive maybe. But as far as Indian restaurants go, it's competitive. Better than the cruddy ones, not as good as Gandhi Mahal. I'd say go try it before it shuts down, but it's been open for a number of years now, so something is keeping them in business.