2021-06-17
Black Midi
Cavalcade

Black Midi sounds like King Crimson now and I think that's a great decision on their part.

2021-05-20
Matt Sweeney & Bonnie Prince Billy
Superwolves

Every time Will Oldham releases something new, I immediately think "It's his best album in a decade!", and then immediately forget about it. But I think this one might actually be the one.

2021-05-09
Arooj Aftab
Vulture Prince

Arooj Aftab makes music that lands somewhere between Jose Gonzalez, Nick Drake, and Sade, all filtered through the melodic intuition of someone raised with a deep love and knowledge of her native Pakastani music. It's totally beautiful, and flawless from top to bottom. Even the somehow-not-regrettable reggae track.

2021-05-08
Cumbie
EP

A few years ago I fell in love with this English band called Trust Fund. They released 3 albums in fairly quick succession, and then more or less retired from music.

Cumbie sounds a weird amount like Trust Fund. Like if you told me one or two of these tracks were new (or archival) Trust Fund recordings, I wouldn't question it. But the one thing that sets Cumbie apart is that, every now and then, once or twice per song, they become metal. Like yeah the black metal logo and dark doomy cover artwork is kinda tongue-in-cheek, but also kinda not. You can tell that this band, for all their indie power pop punk jamming and twee sing-song melodicism, come from a place of long-haired, double-bass-pedal heaviness. They've got guts. So much so that those moments make me stop comparing them to Trust Fund. But then they start singing again and I can't get past it.

Cool little EP though. I think this band has the potential to do some killer stuff if they keep at it.

2021-05-08
Brother Guy
The Wavey Session 1

Here's a weird one!

Bandcamp earlier this week posted a little list of "Jam bands for people who don't like jam bands." Hey, I'm a person who doesn't like jam bands! So I scrubbed down the list, and it was mostly experimental, jazz-adjacent stuff that was interestingish, but not exactly "jammy." Then the last entry on the page, Brother Guy, appeared, with its wavy gravy cartoon bird cover art, its literal wavey title, and an actual hedging apology from the list's author. "Ok so this one actually sounds like a jam band, but hear me out!"

So I hit play on The Wavey Session 1, and yep it sounds like a jam band! But true to the spirit of the list, it felt different. A little looser, scragglier, a sense of people in a room jamming, missing notes, feeling each other out, all with something closer to an "indie" flavor rather than something more phishy. Like these guys had been playing all day, and were just a little sleepy and tired of trying to impress anybody.

It also went on for 42 minutes. One song. Like, really truly a jam, more or less on one chord progression, no vocals, one little hook of a melody that repeated throughout, and slowly changed and morphed. 42 minutes, and I enjoyed every one of them! Then the next track clocked in at 26, the next another 26, with an added sax section and a more hypnotic jazz vibe. But again, I really enjoyed all of it! I ended up listening to the entire collection later that day, and again the next day!

I don't even know what I'd point to as being remarkable with this band. They don't seem particularly talented, there's nothing going on here that's pushing any boundaries or creating any unique moments of transcendence. But they just play with such patience and ease that 40 minutes of one dang song breezes by in no time. I might even go buy part 2.

2021-05-04
WILD POWWERS
What You Wanted

I randomly stumbled on this band Wild Powwers (I will not style it as WILD POWWERS) on Bandcamp, just looking through their best sellers. Bandcamp: it's good.

Anyway not a ton to say about it, other than that it's another case of a heavy, grunge-inspired, female-fronted indie rock band that is just pitch-perfect in its presentation and construction. It's a damn pleasure to listen to. It vibes. But unlike last year's Pillow Queens, an equally pitch-perfect rock outfit, I don't really remember the songs. Unfair to compare to Pillow Queens because that album is seriously this close to being a modern classic, but WILD POWWERS (oops) just doesn't quite have the songwriting chops (or the Irish brogues) as that group.

Still! Rocks.

2021-04-29
Andy Stott
Never The Right Time

Andy Stott has appeared on my radar a couple times in the last few years, as the sort of moody, melodic, progressive electronic artist that might move the needle for me. I'm still not totally sold on his music (it's nice enough), but the album cover of Never The Right Time is so great that I just went ahead and bought it anyway.

2021-04-22
Horndal
Lake Drinker

This band sounds more like Mastodon than any band I've ever heard (other than Mastodon. And that includes Baroness, who I once claimed released that year's best Mastodon album*. This is a concept album about how a Google data center is destroying their blue collar Norwegian town and their lead singer sounds like a cartoon bear, and it all works incredibly well.

* This was a fucking harebrained and wrong statement for me to have made in the first place and I can't stop apologizing for making you read it. That was the year that Crack the Skye came out for cripes sake, which I've come to recognize is actually the best Mastodon album. I've also come to recognize that Baroness kinda stinks. Well they don't stink, but they're dull. I'm happy to let Horndal replace them in non-Mastodon years.

2021-04-22
Tedeschi Trucks Band
Revelator

"Midnight In Harlem" is still one of the most perfect things ever recorded. 10 years ago I posted about this album and was very carefully self-effacing about it, and yeah it's a corny song on a corny album from a corny band, but seriously. That song.

2021-04-17
Genghis Tron
Dream Weapon

If you don't remember Genghis Tron (and unless you're one of maybe, like, 2 people I can imagine reading this right now, you don't), I'm already too exhausted trying to explain their whole thing. Basically, like around 2004-05 or 08 or 09, this band appeared who played the most spastically, hellishly intense extreme hardcore-indebted metal, but combined it with Tron era, Kraftwerkian electro beatz. I mean, it's right there in their name, Genghis Tron. The whole thing easily could've played as a joke, but they somehow pulled it off in a way that felt legitimate. They were good. But after just one EP and two full lengths, I (and seemingly the band itself) decided I'd had enough Genghis Tron for a lifetime. Relegated to the fondly remembered but hardly revisited CD booklet of nostalgia.

15 years later, out of absolutely nowhere, they suddenly returned. And every 35+ music blogger and leftover Stereogum and Brooklyn Vegan commenter said, in unison, "Holy shit I remember Genghis Tron!" Not only have they returned, but galdarnit they've grown up! They still play hard-ass metal with retro electronic foundations, but they've somehow now molded it into something entirely devoid of novelty. They now play adult music for adults. No more screaming, very few blast beats, cheeky synths replaced with chill synths. And it's good! Very good!

This music actually scratches a rare itch that very few metal bands are able to find. It's the idea of heavy music that soothes. The guitars tear, the drums pound, but the ultimate effect is more hypnotic than aggro. It's chill. The debut from the band Astronoid a couple years ago hit this sweet spot, and Deafheaven occasionally gets there when they aim that way. But it's really rare to hear a band succeed at stiff as a board, light as a feather. Especially impressive when you think about Genghis Tron's original releases, which were entirely about knocking you senseless and spinning you dizzy.

2021-04-14
Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders & the London Symphony Orchestra
Promises

Alluring, angelic, beautiful, brilliant, colorful, dazzling, delightful, divine, elegant, exquisite, glorious, gorgeous, handsome, heavenly, impressive, lavish, lovely, luxurious, magnificent, majestic, opulent, pleasing, pulchritudinous, ravishing, resplendent, splendid, stunning, sublime, sumptuous, superb, transcendent, triumphant, wonderful, wondrous, okay hold on I have to think of something that starts with Z.

2021-04-14
serpentwithfeet
DEACON

For years I've thought that serpentwithfeet was a caustic experimental, bleeding-edge electronic producer—someone like an Arca or Oneohtrix Point Never or Forest Swords. Turns out he lands much more between an Antony and Frank Ocean and Sampha, a heart-on-sleeve, unrepentantly queer, unrepentantly black, unrepentantly musical songwriter, with a capital U and Q and B and M and S to all of that. Yeah there's an edge to a lot of it still (I guess he used to do more grim electronic stuff), but some of the songs on here come off as practically cute. "Me and my boo wear the same size shoe." Come on, that's sweet.

Great album. The kind of album that makes me think somebody should be massively popular and successful but probably won't get there until he's sanded off all the edges.

2021-04-12
Ryley Walker
Course In Fable

Ryley Walker has proven himself a master producer, performer, arranger, interpreter, creator, instrumentalist, improvisor, stylist, mind. He can do it all, and his taste is consistently impeccable. But what he isn't a master of is songwriting. Everything else is there, everything sounds amazing, layered beautifully, played with heart, everything is interesting. But the actual melodies and progressions and words seem to always hit a little flatter than you'd expect. Not that he writes in a way that's simplistic or derivative, but he just seems to be searching and circling to find the song in his work, and finding a whole lot of other cool things, but never actually landing on it.

This is all laid bare in his full album of Dave Matthews Band covers from a couple years ago. Say what you will, of course, about Dave Matthews, but they had songs. When Ryley Walker went full steam into covering and interpreting and rearranging those songs, the results were truly incredible. Better than anything DMB ever released on their own (stripping away all of that band's magniloquent regard of their own material), and easily the best thing that Walker's ever released.

This record is good. I like listening to it. It takes you on a dozen different journeys, and like everything Walker records, there are layers to dig through every time you listen. I just can't wait for the day that he cracks his own cipher and figures out how to write a song. He'll be unstoppable.

2021-04-11
Godspeed You! Black Emperor
G_d's Pee AT STATE'S END!

I won't waste your time telling you how good this new Godspeed album is. It's exactly as good as you want it to be.

But what I will tell you is I think it might be Godspeed's most rock album. Parts of this thing sound like it could be Pink Floyd. In a good way. The best way. Fuck, I just thought about what would happen if GYBE got David Gilmour to sing on an album.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor would kill me and burn my body if they found out I compared them to Pink Floyd.

2021-05-10
The JinManhattan
Korean fried chicken

It was mostly happenstance that I ended up eating at The Jin, over kinda in Hell's Kitchen. Korean fried chicken, a small bit of other Korean fare, chill place, pretty standard, nothing to see here. The chicken was pretty dang good, but again, nothing out of the ordinary as far as these places go, nothing to see here.

But the next day. I tell you, this was probably the best leftover cold chicken wing I've ever had. They just held up perfectly overnight, didn't dry out or thicken up like wings tend to do. Dang good leftover wing.

2021-04-22
Maison PickleManhattan
French dip

Best french dip I've ever eaten.

2021-04-11
Skylight DinerManhattan
Cheese omelette and sausage

It's been so long since I've sat in a diner and eaten breakfast. So long. You know this, why am I telling you? We've all gone through this shit at the same time, I don't need to sit here and tell you how much I missed eating breakfast in a diner.

This very average omelette and sausage links and home fries at the very average Skylight Diner in Chelsea on a very average Saturday morning was the absolute best kind of average. I loved it and I can't wait to do it again.

2021-04-11
Joey Bats CafeManhattan
Pastéis de nata

Just need to update you that I ate another pastéis de nata. This one at the incomprehensibly named Joey Bats Cafe in the Lower East Side. It's far hipper than the Teixeira Bakery in Newark, more expensive than the Teixeira Bakery in Newark, but not as good as the Teixeira Bakery in Newark.

Don't get me wrong, it was good. If you're in the Lower East Side and want a pastéis de nata, by all means absolutely do it. You'd be crazy not to. But if you can only eat one pastéis de nata this year (that would be a weird situation... what would lead to that?), get yourself to Newark.

2021-02-15
MincaManhattan
Ramen, gyoza

Minca is pretty old as far as American ramen shops are concerned—it was apparently one of the first to open in New York City during the initial ramen boom of the early 2000s, and it's still going strong 20 years later. Impressively strong, actually, considering it's still just a tiny little kitchen with a bar and a couple tables in the Lower East Side. Considering time and its reputation, you'd imagine someone would've convinced them to expand or otherwise upgrade over the years, yet they've seemingly decided just to keep it simple and make good ramen. Even the menus look like they were designed in Microsoft Word and printed on someone's inkjet in the basement.

As for the ramen: excellent. The pork was maybe the best pork I've ever had in a ramen bowl—it was fatty and melty like you'll often find, but it also had a perfect caramelized char on the outside, a little smokey even, which led to some perfect bites on the edges. The pork alone made the trip worth it. The rest of the ramen was delish, no complaints at all, but was outshined by the pork.

Meanwhile, the gyoza: unbelievably almost as good as the pork. And also maybe the best gyoza I've ever had. Just about perfect.

Also worth mentioning we ate in an outdoor Covid cabana on a 25 degree day, right next to a space heater. Which I think might actually be the perfect way to eat ramen.

2021-01-31
GlazeManhattan
Chicken teriyaki

Glaze serves "Seattle style" teriyaki. Which of course means "overpriced and heavily gentrified, yet so serene and tasteful that you can't help but to enjoy it." Their two locations are in Midtown and Williamsburg, their branding looks like a podcast-sponsor meal kit company, and yet it was the best teriyaki I've ever had* and I don't know whether to love Glaze, hate Glaze, or hate myself for loving Glaze.

(* Don't get too excited, I haven't had much teriyaki in my life.)

2020-12-30
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.

2020-12-30
BorrachitoManhattan
Tacos

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

2020-12-30
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.)

2020-12-09
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?

2020-12-09
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!

2020-10-16
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.

2020-10-13
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?

2020-04-28
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

2020-03-28
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.

2020-03-17
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.