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.

09.06.2019 - by Steve
Esker GroveDowntown Minneapolis
Chicken

Esker Grove is one of the highest rated new restaurants in Minneapolis, but we had a very odd experience there. Weird service, slow service, a drastic and constant gust of wind coming through the propped-open patio door, the general feeling that something was off. And my chicken wasn't that great. But that's on me for ordering chicken at a fancy restaurant. Never do that.

04.15.2018 - by Steve
Spoon and StableDowntown Minneapolis
Duck breast laab

My previous trip to the hottest newest bestest restaurant in the North Loop, Spoon and Stable, happened a year and a half ago on my birthday, when I sat by myself at the bar and ate as much food as I could afford. I went in skeptical but left impressed. But I went no further than 10 feet from the front door to the bar. This time was entirely different; a Sunday morning brunch with some out of town visitors, I saw that the restaurant is a good bit smaller than I first thought it was, and actually has some lovely natural light from the ceiling, and all in all isn't quite as annoying as I might have thought it was. I mean, it's still all white-tile-and-natural-wood-edison-bulb-in-industrial-lighting, leather-apron'd-barkeeps and denim-uniformed-server Pinterest-chic, but it's not that bad. What was bad, regretfully, was my food. The brunch menu was fairly diverse as these things go, and I ordered a duck breast laab salad with crispy wild rice and a duck egg. It just didn't work. The duck was tough, the wild rice was soft, and the whole thing was way, way too salty. Whatever flavors were in there were just overwhelmed by soy sauce or fish sauce or whatever they had in there. Meanwhile, nothing else I tasted between everyone else at my table was much better. And to be honest I don't really remember what those dishes were. The only great takeaway from the entire meal was the small plate of hash browns that they brought the table (every brunch spot should do this!), which were satisfyingly crispy, and were infused with a sort of garlicky oniony oil. They were great. Everything else was a big bummer. So while I still think I stand by Spoon and Stable based on my great birthday dinner, I'll go ahead and recommend you skip brunch.

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.