03.19.2019
Panda Bear
Buoys

It's been a long time since I've really had faith or excitement in anything Animal Collective related. In my own estimation, it's been diminishing returns since Feels, which was a long time ago now. Actually I don't want to think about how long. Same goes for Panda Bear himself, whose Person Pitch album was pretty great, but has generally ridden the same slow slide in the last decade as his band. No shame, it happens to everyone. So it feels like a breath of fresh air listening to Buoys, which, sure, feels a little 'minor' compared to some of his more epic work, but is otherwise a incredibly pleasant return to some of the more wide-open melodicism and DIY construct of the Collective's earlier work. You know, the Good Shit. Really Buoys is probably the closest to Sung Tongs as anything anyone from the group has done in the last decade. But lighter, more 'mature,' and comfortably less showy. Which is maybe what he's needed to do all along.

03.19.2019
Bob Mould
Sunshine Rock

This new Bob Mould album rips hard bro. But that cover. That cover. My god.

03.11.2019
Will Oldham
Joya

I did that thing with Will Oldham / slash / Bonnie Prince Billy where I jumped into his career kind of in the middle, and then mostly just went forward from there, assuming (erroneously) that the body of work before that entry point would be lesser than from that point forward. This is a dumb thing to do and I shouldn't do it. Because, as I've recently learned, in Will Oldham's particular case, his early stuff apparently rules. Joya is a joy. No shit.

02.28.2019
Windhand
Eternal Return

Doom metal is so fucking boring. But Windhand is so fucking good. What am I supposed to do? Well what I'm going to is sit here and type about how frustrating it is to listen to this band, because they're so, so, so close to really breaking through and making something transcendent, but are hamstrung by the conventions is the dumb genre they've tied themselves to. These guys/girl have a real sense of how to spin a melody and construct a riff that's way beyond what most metal bands are able to do. This shit actually gets stuck in my head! Like, legitimate hooks! Plus they sing! I mean, kind of in a Jerry Cantrell sorta 90s melodic grunge kind of way, but dammit they sing! They harmonize! They go for those high notes! But it's all in service of this by-the-numbers, detuned syncopated distorted blues riffage that defines the entire world of "doom" metal. The guitar and bass barely depart from one another, just mirroring each other until maybe it's time for a solo. These so much opportunity in these songs, so much space for melodic counterpoints and chord construction, but instead they just play real slow Sabbath shit. Look, they do it better than most other bands playing slow Sabbath shit these days (and did I mention they sing??). But there's so much potential in this band that I get a little frustrated listening to them—and I'm going to now listen for the 12th time this week because they rule.

02.28.2019
Sunny Day Real Estate
LP2

I don't think I ever sat and listened to this Sunny Day Real Estate album front to back before, but something about it this morning just felt right, so I put it on. And it's doing its job admirably. Plus it's pink which is nice.

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.

03.16.2019 - by Steve
Lions and Tigers and SquaresManhattan
Detroit style pizza

I'm going to try to keep this short. Because there's so many levels to it that I'm just exhausted from it already, especially having just written a 30 page essay about black and white cookies. Here's what's up: Detroit-style pizza is a thing now. It's a thing. Do they really make pizza like this in Detroit? Because if you ask me, what's known as Detroit-style pizza is what Rocky Rococo has been making my entire life. Square pan, thick crust with butter-crispy edges, personal sized pizza. You can even find versions of it in this city called something like "Sicilian style" or "grandma style." Where did this Detroit thing come from? Are you from Detroit? Can you help me?

That said: Detroit style pizza is delicious. Lions and Tigers and Squares, a new little shop that's decided to kickstart the trend in Chelsea, does a fine job of making it. It's probably an insult to them for me to say I like Rocky Rococo better though. But that's okay; Rocky Rococo is the best. Have you been there lately? There's one left in Brooklyn Center. Check it out.

And I have to admit, despite my annoyance at this whole "Detroit" thing, Lions and Tigers and Squares is an extremely clever name. Think about it.

03.09.2019 - by Steve
Zabar's Manhattan
Black and white cookie

I'm here to talk about the black and white cookie. This post specifically says "Zabar's" on it, which is where I purchased and photographed this particular black and white cookie, but having eaten a handful of different cookies from various locations—from trashy deli to beloved contemporary bakery—I have thoughts on this style of cookie in a more general sense, and subsequently thoughts about New York City's cultivation of a unique and hyper-local cuisine. If you would allow me to elucidate? Thank you.

There are certain foods that have been used for decades as a shorthand for "New York." Hot dogs. Bagels. Pizza slices. Pastrami on rye. These are all still pretty apt choices, but it's also an old list. It's 2019, times change, a whole new crop of people have been living here long enough to become a part of it. There's still a clear family of foods that are not necessarily unique to this city, but are so ubiquitous here while remaining somewhat niche in other places, that they feel truly like part of the makeup of New York's ecosystem. The list as I see it:

1. Halal chicken on rice
2. Pizza slices (going nowhere)
3. Bacon egg and cheese sandwiches
4. Bagels (going nowhere)
5. Boar's Head deli meat sandwiches (Boar's Head feels like a fancy good brand at stores in Minnesota. Here it is literally everywhere. You can't not buy it. Even the shittiest scariest lamest bodegas serve Boar's Head without fail.)
6. Seltzer
7. Jamaican beef patties
8. Hot dogs (going nowhere, but seemingly overtaken by halal chicken on rice carts)
9. Pickles
10. Black and white cookies

The black and white cookie might be the least visible of the items on this list, yet it's still extremely New York. It was even part of a Seinfeld gag! I don't think I ever saw one for sale anywhere in the Twin Cities. Maybe possibly once or twice in little bakeries, but not really. Here they're almost always right there in the pastry rack, next to the chocolate chip cookies and muffins and cakes, and just as often are up on or near the front counter of random crummy delis and bodegas, pre-packaged from whatever food distributers make them. What surprised me most about the black and white cookie, though, is that's it's barely even a cookie! I bit in, expecting sort of a standard sugar cookie, or perhaps something like a snickerdoodle, but really they're practically cake! They're extremely soft, like a very thin cake; or like a very wide muffin top. The icing, as you can see, is half chocolate and half plain (or vanilla?). And that's it.

I've had 3 or 4 at this point, and while the quality of course varies on the quality of the bakery. I've had them pre-packaged from a deli, and I've had one from a artisanal bakery in Prospect Heights that was listed on one food blog as the best black and white cookie in Brooklyn. In general they're always tasty. But they're too big, the icing sometimes gets weirdly chemically and kinda gives me a headache. But they're always satisfying.

This specific cookie that's up there in the photograph (and listed as the title of this post!) is from Zabar's, a "famous" Upper West Side grocery store that is supposedly famous for the black and whites. All I can say is it was good. Maybe the best I've had? It was certainly better than the cheap deli ones, and I actually didn't like the aforementioned Prospect Heights one all that much. So I guess Zabar's is technically the best I've had. But mark my word I'm going to track down the true king of black and white cookies in this town.

(Oh, also Zabar's pastrami sandwich was incredibly mediocre. Not worth a post.)

(Oh, oh, and the new Vampire Weekend music video was filmed in Zabar's! And Jerry Seindfeld was in it! We've come full circle!)

02.12.2019 - by Steve
La Caridad 78Manhattan
Cuban pork and dumplings

To get this out of the way, let me first say that La Caridad isn't particularly great. It's totally acceptable, but disappointing for the price point. Now, the interesting part:

La Caridad 78 is the oldest of the Upper West Side's Chinese Cuban restaurants. Which is a crazy thing to parse, because that means it's not the Upper West Side's only Chinese Cuban restaurant. There are more. 3 or 4 more, in fact. What happened is, back in the 50s and 60s, when the Castro regime took over Cuba and boatloads of defectors and asylum seekers fled to America, many of the ethnic Cubans ended in and around Miami. But Cuba also held a surprisingly large Chinese population, many of which came up to New York City, home to an already substantial Chinese community. These Chinese Cubans did what so many other new American transplants did, and started restaurants. But because they had a tradition of both Chinese and Cuban cooking, they just went ahead and opened restaurants that served both. Why not, I guess?

The excitement of learning of these places is tempered somewhat, when you learn that the Chinese side and Cuban sides of their menus are more or less independent of one another. There's no fusion here. No plantain dumplings, no szechuan cuban sandwiches. The closest you can do is to order a side of yellow rice and beans with your kung pao chicken instead of plain old white rice. It seems like a huge missed opportunity, but when you consider these places have been around for 60 years, I guess you can't complain.

Anyway, as I mentioned, there's nothing spectacular about the food. It's all good, yes, and if you got this quality of Cuban food from some hole-in-the-wall joint on Flatbush for $6 in a styrofoam container, you'd be thrilled. But this is the Upper West Side we're talking about, and you're paying Upper West Side prices. So yeah, it's charming and weird and maybe worth the trip if you're in the area and open to some novelty. But otherwise, just sate yourself on the knowledge that it exists at all.

01.20.2019 - by Steve
Schnipper'sManhattan
Cheeseburger

Manhattan's got a lot of chain restaurants that aren't really chains yet, but are clearly trying to use the cachet that comes with simply being in Manhattan (usually Midtown) as a springboard to becoming a chain restaurant. The examples are so plentiful that I can barely even think of one right now. They're ubiquitous and almost entirely forgettable—forged so carefully by marketers and designers and focus groupers to create fast casual fried chicken sandwiches and vaguely ethnic salad bowls that appeal with a laser focus to newly moneyed 20 and 30 somethings, that they become invisible in their omnipresence. Hell, I posted about a fried chicken place just a month or two ago, my very first living-in-NY food post, and I don't even remember what it was called.

Anyway, Schnipper's isn't exactly that. Sorry, I don't know why I started with that whole paragraph rant. But it's at least something like it. It's a chain restaurant that exists solely within the island of Manhattan, as desperate as it seems to stretch beyond. Basically it's a fast-casual diner. We're talking classic, Mickey's-level burgers and fries and shakes, even served on those plain white diner plates. I had a cheeseburger there, and it was good. Why are there so many Schnipper's'es? I don't know. Why is it so popular? Is it?

12.31.2018 - by Steve
Malaysian JerkyManhattan
Malaysian Jerky

There's this tiny little shop in Chinatown that sells Malaysian jerky. I don't think they have a name, and they don't sell anything else. But I promise you, if you go to the Malaysian jerky shop and buy some Malaysian jerky, you will not be disappointed.

11.08.2018 - by Steve
Blue Ribbon Fried ChickenManhattan
Fried chicken sandwich

Hey! Look! Music & Food is officially 10 years old! That's fucking weird, right?

I'd recommend you don't go back into the archives and find my first official post on here. It's an embarrassing misreading of Randy Newman's "Sail Away." But more than that, it's a hopeful and optimistic misreading of the state of America in 2008. I'd been working on building this new music and food blog as an outlet to practice some nascent coding skills, and it just so happened that the site was ready to launch just a couple days after the beautiful and magic election night, when we all felt great and the future was wide open. But now, exactly 10 years later, that beauty and magic has been gutted by people who hate beauty and magic. But also there's no such thing as magic.

And also, holy shit, I live in New York now?? And this is my first official New York food post! And it's Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken, which I hit up while running an errand in the East Village (because I now run errands in the East Village). It looks delicious, and is stocked with a number of great looking hot sauces and honeys. But just like the magic of November 2008, sometimes looks can be deceiving.

Mac and cheese was good though.

08.08.2017 - by Steve
Doughnut PlantManhattan
Blueberry doughnut

I'm still not a fan of the current cool-fancy doughnut craze, and the Doughnut Plant did nothing to change my mind. Oily and heavy and too expensive. Still waiting for that magical 4 dollar doughnut that's actually worth the 4 dollars.

07.22.2017 - by Steve
Gray's PapayaManhattan
Hot dogs

Gray's Papaya is a bit of a venerable Manhattan institution, noted for their cheap hot dogs and... I guess just their cheap hot dogs. And guess what? They taste like cheap hot dogs. No I didn't try the papaya juice.

07.18.2017 - by Steve
Xi'an Famous FoodsManhattan
Hand pulled noodles

On the recommendation of a friend, I stopped in to Xi'an Famous Foods, which I'd specify was in Chinatown as an appeal to realness, but in reality it's a minor chain in Manhattan and has 4 or 5 locations. So it may as well have been the Upper West Side. Anyway, Xi'an is famous for their hand-pulled noodles, which are so fresh and meticulously crafted that the restaurant puts a pop-up warning on their website that you should absolutely not order these noodles to go. And furthermore that if you insist on getting them to go, to please at least take a bite or two out of the container before leaving the restaurant if you plan on leaving any sort of Yelp review. The warnings are infamous enough that I had 3 different people ask me "Did you see the warnings?" when I mentioned I was going to eat there.

This sounds a little crazy, but I can appreciate it. I especially appreciate it after eating them, because these noodles are fucking amazing. I should mention that the actual dish I ordered was the cumin lamb. But while the lamb itself was tasty and spicy and cuminy and everything you'd want in a szechuan style meat dish, the noodles stole the show. I've never in my life been so impressed by a simple noodle. But they were a perfect combination of chewy and tender, with some actual richness of flavor that's usually absent from this sort of noodle, adding a perfect base to the spicy lamb surrounding it. You guys. You get it. They were awesome noodles.

07.16.2017 - by Steve
Artichoke PizzaManhattan
Pepperoni pizza

I had a couple pizza slices during my trip (because of course), and the best one was probably from Artichoke Pizza in Greenwich Village. There appears to be a handful of Artichoke locations around town (including the airport, ugh), and yes, duh, they always have actual artichoke pizza on hand. My pet theory is that they started as just regular pizza place just called, like, Tony's New York Pizza 2 or something, and got a lot of press and acclaim for their artichoke pizza, and then just decided to have their cake and eat it and change the entire brand of the place. Anyhow, not much to say other than it was a very tasty slice of classic New York style pizza! Good!

10.14.2012 - by Steve
East Corner WontonManhattan
Roast duck and pork on white rice

"We should go check out Chinatown and get some lunch," said a particularly unimaginative part of my brain. And so we did. And it was quite a sight. Like, it was like China. And I'm only being half sarcastic; New York's Chinatown is quite a scene. Even more so than San Francisco's. Very few English signs. Banks I've never heard of (good luck finding an ATM). A different world, man. I'm mildly embarrassed that when I saw some people exchange money for something on a corner, I was actually surprised it was U.S. currency. Even more surprised when I caught a glimpse of myself in one of the mirrored walls at East Corner Wonton, shocked to see that, "Wow, I forgot I'm a white guy!" This was after only about 30 minutes. Anyway. We chose this place, of all the hundreds of similar Chinatown restaurants, because the Village Voice named their roast duck and pork on white rice dish to be the best dish in Chinatown, and I'm a sucker for hype. The duck was too fatty and boney for me, although the skin had a great flavor. But that roast pork was incredible! It was like what roast pork at every other shitty Chinese place is trying to do. I didn't even care that it was cold. Plus the whole plate was only $5, and the service was awful to us, and the Chinese patrons, so we didn't feel too bad about it.


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10.11.2012 - by Steve
Peel'sManhattan
Chicken sandwich

Peel's may have possibly, maybe, maybe, possibly been our favorite meal on our trip to New York. It came recommended to us as a great brunch stop, but due to some accidental subway craziness (sorry again Libby), we stopped in for some lunch instead. It's in the "Noho" neighborhood of Manhattan (even though I was told to never, ever actually refer to it as "Noho", so from here on in I won't), and its design and decor could probably be described as "cheery 1920's French industrial diner". Old timey, but not novel. Crisp, clean, bright. Totally pleasant. I don't remember what was on the menu, but I got a fried chicken sandwich with honey mustard and pickles, and Libby got a smoked turkey sandwich. Nothing flavor-wise was funky or unusual, but everything was just done right. And to go along with the decor, everything seemed very precisely composed. No grease, no mess, everything in its right place. We were both really impressed with the place, and would definitely go back if we're in NYC in the future.