12.30.2020
Steve's Favorite Music of 2020
A List

Boy what a year, huh? Okay, let's get on with it.

Favorite Albums
1. Hum - Inlet
2. Fiona Apple - Fetch the Bolt Cutters
3. Kahil El’Zabar - America the Beautiful
4. Snarls - Burst
5. Little Wings - Zephyr
6. The Mountain Goats - Songs for Pierre Chuvin
7. Fluisteraars - Bloem
8. Deerhoof - Love Lore
9. Katatonia - City Burials
10. Adrianne Lenker - Songs and Instrumentals
11. Laura Marling - Song For Our Daughter
12. Jeff Rosenstock - No Dream
13. Keiyaa - Forever, Ya Girl
14. Kaatayra - Toda Historia pela Frenta
15. Wye Oak - EP
16. Blake Mills - Mutable Set
17. Future Islands - As Long As You Are
18. Jusell, Prymek, Sage, Shiroishi - Fuubutsushi
19. Necrot - Mortal
20. Nicolas Jaar - Cenizas
21. Quelle Chris & Chris Keys - Innocent Country 2
22. Oranssi Pazuzu - Mestarin kynsi
23. Johanna Warren - Chaotic Good
24. Gaytheist - How Long Have I Been on Fire?
25. Emma Ruth Rundle & Thou - May Our Chambers Be Full


The Annual Short List Of Albums That Are Unquestionably Excellent, But Are Too Intense, Long, Difficult, or Otherwise Exhausting To Listen To On A Level Which Would Lead Them To Become My "Favorite"
1. Fiona Apple - Fetch The Boltcutters*
2. The Microphones - Microphones in 2020
3. Armand Hammer - Shrines
4. Ka - Descendants of Cain

* Yes, I know that I also put Boltcutters on the regular list—all the way at #2 nonetheless! I know! But somehow that album belongs on both lists. It's unequivocally a masterpiece of an album, and I enjoyed the hell out of it when I listened to it over the first few days of its existence. It blew up in the culture at a time when we needed it, and it was a profound cultural experience. And it slaps. And yet, in the months since, with everything that's gone on in the world, I just feel like I can't go back to it. It already carries such a deep, weird, intense significance, that I don't know when or how anyone can go back to it and just give it a casual listen, singing along. It's weird man!


Favorite Songs:

1. Shamir - “On My Own”
2. Snarls - “Walk in the Woods”
3. Pure X - “Middle America"
4. Kahil El’Zabar - “America The Beautiful (Instrumental)” + “America The Beautiful”
5. Jeff Rosenstock - “Monday at the Beach”
6. Jeff Rosenstock - “Ohio Tpke”
7. Johanna Warren - “Rose Potion”
8. Little Wings - “It’s Only”
9. Destroyer - “Crimson Tide”
10. Katatonia - “Heart Set to Divide”
11. This Is the Kit - “Coming To Get You Nowhere”
12. Hum - “Shapeshifter”
13. The Beths - “I’m Not Getting Excited”
14. Moses Sumney - “Cut Me”
15. Wye Oak - “Walk Soft”
16. Fiona Apple - “Fetch the Boltcutters”
17. Adrianne Lenker - “Anything”
18. Jessy Lanza - “Anyone Around”
19. This Is The Kit - “This Is What You Did”
20. Run The Jewels - “Ooh LA LA”


Best Guitar Chord

1. Pure X - "Middle America"
If the first 10 seconds of this song was the entire album, it would probably be my album of the year. Just play it on repeat for a while, it's all I need.

12.30.2020
Loma
Dont Shy Away

I'm gonna post my Favorite Albums of the Year list tomorrow or the next day. Loma probably won't be on it. Sorry, Loma. But if you come back to me in, say, 4 months, I'd bet this would squeeze its way on, maybe somewhere near top half even. What I mean is it hasn't fully connected with me yet, but I can feel that something's there. It's just buried a bit and needs some time. Especially over another shitty few months of the shitty world and the cold air and hopefully some snow. Yeah, some snow would move this thing up to at least #7.

12.30.2020
Kaatayra
Toda História pela Frente

Lo-fi bedroom Brazilian rainforest black metal melted and deconstructed past the point of psychedelic and damn near back to where it started. If that sounds good to you, welcome.

12.30.2020
Keiyaa
Forever, Ya Girl

Lo-fi bedroom Erykah-Badu-ian neo soul melted and deconstructed past the point of psychedelic and damn near back to where it started. If that sounds good to you, welcome.

12.30.2020
Ambrose Akinmusire
on the tender spot of every calloused moment

Y'know, I don't usually like trumpet jazz. They're just so shrill. Except for Miles Davis, but that's fucking obvious.

Anyway Ambrose Akinmusire is trumpet jazz, but I actually like it. He kinda plays like Miles though.

12.30.2020
The Mountain Goats
Getting Into Knives

With the (glaring) exception of Songs for Pierre Chuvin, the Mountain Goats first full length album of the pandemic and a glorious return to the lo-fi tape deck recording of his early days, I could use the same boilerplate format to review this second album of the pandemic as I could with every Mountain Goats full length of the last, oh, 10 years. In short: {Album title} isn't bad by any means, but it lacks the energy of Darnielle's best work. Still, I think it might at least be a little better than {previous album}, but I'll have to sit with it for a while before I have any stronger feelings. {Steve then sits a little longer but ends up with no stronger feelings and never really returns to the album once the next one is released.}

Songs for Pierre Chuvin though. Fuckin rules.

12.30.2020
Adrianne Lenker
Songs and Instrumentals

Big Thief is on an untouchable run in the last couple years, and apparently this includes their lead singer's solo albums. I listened to this album (well, the songs album at least) once, and by the second listen I knew every song. I don't know how she does it.

12.15.2020
Jusell, Prymek, Sage, Shiroishi
Fuubutsushi (風物詩)

This isn't the best jazz album of all time. Or the best jazz album of the year. I don't think it will make my top 10 albums of the year, maybe not even the top 20? There's nothing particularly profound about it, no boundaries being broken, no new musical voice that demands to be heard. I can't hum any of its melodies, I can't remember which track does what, or which is my favorite, and as of this moment I don't even remember the name of the ensemble that composed and performed it.

Still, Fuubutsushi is one of the most genuinely calming collections of music I've ever listened to. Just absolute laser-focused tranquility, every beat of every track. Start with some ECM jazz, a little Eno-level ambient chording, balance it out with some light chamber string work, sprinkle on some ethereal field recordings, and the occasional jingle of hand chime percussion. It's almost too much, leaning dangerously into farmers market yoga meditation CDs, or the in-store music at MUJI.

But fuck that, I love MUJI.

12.09.2020
This is the Kit
Off Off On

French post-indie-prog-jazz-folk. Saxophones and banjos and French accents. And jams.

11.13.2020
Kahil El'Zabar
Kahil El'Zabar's America the Beautiful

There's still hope for this country, and this album is proof.

11.02.2020
Future Islands
As Long as You Are

There's absolutely nothing about this new Future Islands album that makes it any different than their last two or three. When I heard the advance singles, I could only shake my head and sigh and admit that, after the bummer that was The Far Field maybe I was done with Future Islands.

And then it comes out and I listen to it in full, and it might actually be their 2nd or 3rd best album! I can't account for it, I can't point out what makes it stand out. It just works. The songs are "better," the vocals are "feeling it". Whatever any of that means. I've already listened to it more than I ever listened to Far Field, maybe more than Singles and On the Water. Sometimes it just works I guess.

10.22.2020
Necrot
Mortal

Guess what kind of music these guys play?

10.21.2020
Deerhoof
Love-Lore

Deerhoof released a new album in which they cover and melodize songs (and poems and drones and excerpts and process experiments) by Ornette Coleman, J.D. Robb, Voivod, Earl Kim, Knight Rider, Raymond Scott, Mauricio Kagel, Eddie Grant, Gary Numan, Stockhausen, The Beach Boys, Gerald Fried, Pauline Oliveros, Kermit the Frog, James Tenney, Silver Apples, The Police, Kraftwerk, John Williams, Morton Feldman, Sun Ra, Parliament, Asha Puthli, Ennio Morricone, Milton Babbitt, The B52s, Sofia Gubaidulina, Vinicius De Moraes & Baden Powell, Dionne Warwick, David Graeber, Derek Bailey, William Hanna & Hoyt Curtin, Anthony Braxton, Gyorgy Kurtag, Eric Siday, Igor Stravinsky, Caetano Veloso, Luigi Nono, Krzysztof Penderecki, John Cage, George Brecht, The Velvet Underground, and Laurie Anderson, and it shockingly—although not really shockingly because this is Deerhoof we're talking about—works. Honestly I'd already put it in the top 5 of their catalog.

10.17.2020
The Microphones
The Microphones in 2020

The Microphones in 2020 is a beautiful personal essay in the form of a beautiful personal 40 minute song in the form of a beautiful personal 1 track album. Like much of Phil Elverum's recent beautiful personal output, it deserves an award and I'll never listen to it a second time.

09.03.2020
Boris
NO

I've never really enjoyed Boris before. More than that, I've never even really understood Boris. Who are they? What are they doing? Is it drone? Is it noise? Is it metal? Is it electronic? Is it a band? Or a person? Do they only collaborate with other artists? What's the deal with Boris?

But then they put out this new album NO, and answer all my questions with very little room for confusion. This is a metal album by a metal band, hard stop. Okay well maybe not total trad metal, it has bits of hardcore and maybe some noise and punk in there, but not unlike the Oozing Wound album from last year (which I loved), this is just straight up nasty riffage. Crushingly intense. Not terribly intricate, but limber enough to make me wonder why they'd just been doing drone shit all those years. Or maybe they didn't? Did they? What were they doing that whole time?

12.30.2020 - by Steve
Regina's GroceryManhattan
Meatball parm

Regina's is a new-fake-old Italian deli in a real-old space in the old-fake-new Lower East Side. The guy who runs it was rude as hell and I waited a half hour for my order, but I wasn't even mad because this was the best meatball sandwich I've had in this town.

12.30.2020 - by Steve
BorrachitoManhattan
Tacos

Okay tacos. Don't know why I'm posting about them. Moving on.

12.30.2020 - by Steve
Maison PickleManhattan
24 layer chocolate cake

I didn't mention in the post below that we went to Emily for my birthday, which was already almost 4 weeks ago because I'm terrible at updating this blog. While we were in Manhattan for such a special day (my birthday), we decided to go all out and take a bus (you're not a real New Yorker until you realize that sometimes the bus is better than the subway) to the Upper West Side to get a slice of 24-layer chocolate cake from Maison Pickle. This place seems to want to be famous for its french dip sandwich, but has seemingly become more famous for its 24-layer cakes. Thus, us on a bus.

(I was going to add more here, but I just wrote that sentence and now I cannot continue. This review has peaked. The cake was good but not hype-worthy.)

12.09.2020 - by Steve
EmilyManhattan
Burger

Some people say the Emily burger is the best burger in the city. I'm not going to go as far as to say that it is; when I ate it, it was delicious, but I felt that I was more impressed by the burger at Mu (a precisely constructed work of burger art), and more spiritually satisfied by the burger at Andrew's Luncheonette (like a good no bullshit midwest bar burger).

However. If you were to come up to me right now, with a tray containing a Mu burger, an Andrew's burger, and an Emily burger... I think I would choose to eat the Emily burger.

What does that mean?

12.09.2020 - by Steve
Bubby'sManhattan
Thanksgiving dinner

You don't need me to tell you that Thanksgiving was weird this year. Erin and I (and you, hopefully) decided to stay home and get a pre-made dinner with all the trimmins from Bubby's, a down-home comfort food diner in Tribeca. Bubby's, coincidentally, started in 2000 as a pop-up pie shop on Thanksgiving day! They weirdly didn't seem to mention the fact that it was literally their 20th anniversary, but it's a nice piece of trivia, no?

Anyway I will now rank the items we received as part of Bubby's Thanksgiving dinner:

  1. Stuffing
  2. Biscuit and jam
  3. Potatoes and gravy
  4. Sweet potatoes
  5. Ham
  6. Green bean casserole
  7. Deviled eggs
  8. Cranberry sauce
  9. Pickled veggies
  10. Ambrosia salad
  11. Pumpkin pie
  12. Salad
  13. Turkey dark meat
  14. Roasted vegetables
  15. Apple pie
  16. Turkey white meat
  17. Pecan pie

The pecan pie had orange zest in it. Or something. It was a real mess. And that turkey, yikes. Still! I'd call it a success! Thanks Bubby!

10.16.2020 - by Steve
Pastrami QueenManhattan
Pastrami sandwich

Holy shit I forgot to write about Pastrami Queen! Yikes. This goes all the way back to the "early days" of the pandemic—which simultaneously feels like years ago and just weeks ago—back when everything sucked but was still somewhat novel rather than being the full-on idiotopia that we currently find ourselves in.

Everyone knows Katz's, and I know I've raved and wept about Katz's on this site, or maybe to your face. And Katz's is indeed beautiful. I've also maybe typed one or two posts about other pastrami-heavy Jewish delis around town, how they've been disappearing for a couple decades, how there are still a handful still hanging around, blah blah blah. Well the one that seems to get the most attention outside of that (beautiful) place is Pastrami Queen.

Compared to its big competition downtown, Pastrami Queen is practically invisible from the street. It looks like it could be just about any other random shitty deli—cheap sign that was seemingly just put up a few years ago, bad logo that was probably designed by someone in Power Point two decades ago, and the space itself isn't much more impressive. It has a bit of an old school feel, but it's mostly just a quick take-out counter and fridge full of drinks. It's not nearly the spectacle that Katz's is.

But that's not really the point. The point is that their pastrami sandwich is damn near as good! And almost as expensive! I finally had an opportunity to stop in sometime back in May or June, when I finally decided to brave the pandemic and bike up through Manhattan. That's a whole other blog post—the whole island was such a weird unsettling ghost town for a couple months there. But anyway I got my sandwich, sat outside and ate it on a construction barrier, and enjoyed the hell out of it.

10.13.2020 - by Steve
Scarr's PizzaManhattan
Pepperoni pizza

I'm so far behind on food updates that I'm just gonna leave this one here and hopefully get back to it later. Things have been crazy, ok?

04.28.2020 - by Steve
New York Times CookingManhattan
Coq au vin

This isn't a recipe blog, but these are difficult times. So here, go make this recipe and prepare yourself to thank me, because it will be the best damn meal you'll make yourself all year.

https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1018529-coq-au-vin

03.28.2020 - by Steve
Katz's DeliManhattan
Pastrami on rye

Way, way, way back in the early days of this music and food blog, I posted about Katz's. I recommend that you don't go back and read it, but the gist was: Katz's is pretty good, but wowie is it expensive, and I bet you can do better!

Well now I'm older (much), wiser (a little), and richer (just barely), plus I actually live in this goddamn city, so I feel much more comfortable saying this: 10 years ago Steve was wrong as shit. Katz's is everything that is right and good in this world, and I don't give a damn that their sandwiches cost $20. Because guess what, there are other Jewish delis around town, and they're all just as expensive, and not nearly as good. Plus it's open all night!

Come to New York. Eat at Katz's. Get the pastrami. Skip the corned beef. Probably wait until like 10pm so you can actually get a table. Hopefully they make it through this junk.

03.17.2020 - by Steve
Los Tacos No. 1Manhattan
Tacos

I'm drastically behind on food posts. Sorry everybody. But what better time than a devastating worldwide pandemic (is that redundant?) to sit inside and tell you about tacos?

This is Los Tacos No. 1, and I had a whole other specific introduction I wanted to give here, but a national law just passed that every sentence we speak and write must contain one reference to viruses, social distancing, quarantines, or at least use the phrase, "Crazy, huh?". But the short take on Los Tacos is that it started as a kiosk in Chelsea Market, became massively popular, then opened new locations in some of the shittiest spots in Manhattan. There's one in Times Square, one in the Financial District, and a new one opening (if humanity survives long enough) at Grand Central Station. Even just reading that list is annoying to me, and makes me want nothing to do with Los Tacos No. 1.

Except honestly these are some of the best tacos in the city. Like, practically perfect tacos. And even though the taco "authenticity" debate mostly makes me want to crawl in a hole (or lick a subway pole), these little guys at least seem as authentic as you could ask for. The place even has a fun (if contrived) throwback quality to it—minimalist hand-painted signage, a bare bones menu, employees wearing little short order chef hats and white aprons—it's all set up to feel like you're in an urban Mexico City taqueria that hasn't been updated since the 60s. It's a little corny, but it actually works. But more importantly, the tortillas are fresh, the fillings are outstanding, the service is extremely efficient, and you could find a much worse place to be quarantined inside of.

02.16.2020 - by Steve
Great NY NoodletownManhattan
Roast duck on noodles

It's roast duck on noodles. Look at it up there. Don't you want to eat it? Isn't it calling your name?

02.12.2020 - by Steve
PongalManhattan
Paneer rava

I think the food at this Curry Hill dosa place was real good. I think. And I also think we had a good time enjoying an evening with friends and sharing some delicious fried appetizers. Pretty sure we did. But it is all just a blur to me, because the waitstaff was so intent on getting us out of there so they could close, I'm not exactly sure what happened between sitting down and paying the bill. This isn't a snotty Yelp review or anything, I'm not really complaining, since it was partially our fault for getting a table 20 minutes before their closing time (although on the internet it said they closed an hour later, so...). And they were at least nice about it, constantly saying it wasn't a big deal and that we should enjoy our meal. But holy cow, the speed at which they moved, and the daggers with which they watched the state of our plates as we were finishing.

Delicious though. Can't complain about that.

12.13.2019 - by Steve
Prince Street PizzaManhattan
Detroit style pizza

I biked through SoHo on a Saturday afternoon a few weeks ago, which wasn't a great idea because SoHo on a Saturday afternoon is a shitshow of tourists who think they're too good to be part of the Times Square shitshow of tourists. Plus those brick paved streets. Yikes.

Anyway while I was weaving through the mobs, I noticed two establishments which had roped off lines of people down the sidewalk waiting to get in; one was Moncler, maker of extremely expensive extremely French goose down jackets, and the other was Prince Street Pizza. Maker of pizza.

I don't think I'm super plugged in to the pizza trends in this town, and I thought maybe I'd heard of Prince Street Pizza before, but I was surprised to see the sheer number of people lined up for a slice—not to mention the preparedness of the place to deal with such a line. Clearly they get this every weekend. But I had no idea why.

So a week or two later, I was in the area on a random weeknight and thought I'd go see what the big deal was. Best case, I figured, was I'd get a decent fresh slice comparable to John's—pretty fine New York pizza that becomes so inexplicably popular that its fresh pizza turnover rate allows quality becomes self reflexive—and at worst I'd still get an okay slice of pizza. But Prince Street threw me a curveball: Detroit style!

You know about Detroit style, right? Well I'm not gonna get into it here. Go ahead and google it. But I assume that Prince Street just recently made a switch to Detroit style (or opened anew), and probably got some press somewhere or another, and now they've got lines around the block. Thing about Detroit style pizza is, it's legit. I don't think it's a fad, I don't think it's a marketing ploy, it's not some make believe bullshit like, ugh, Sota-style (thanks Red's Savoy). It's real and it's beautiful and it's almost always delicious. And Prince Street's was more delicious. Seriously fantastic. Maybe the best slice I've had in the city so far? I think it might be.

12.13.2019 - by Steve
Shanghai 21Manhattan
Soup dumplings, spare ribs

There's a whole lot of Chinese restaurants in Chinatown, and I'm not about to try to tell you which are the good ones and bad ones. Big Wong's does a totally decent roast duck and rice for cheap, North Dumpling does totally decent dumplings for shockingly cheap, the Malaysian jerky shop is always a fun stop to make, and now I can confidently tell you that Shanghai 21 does very good soup dumplings and even better spare ribs. Not necessarily cheap cheap, but that's not really the selling point here.

10.29.2019 - by Steve
TaïmManhattan
Falafel

Good falafel, good toppings, a good pita, multiple locations. This is a short food post.