2021-12-03
The Bug Club
Pure Particles

Ignore the twee name and aughts-ass sketchpad cartoon bubble letter cover art. The Bug Club is simple and Welsh and fun as shit. Bare-bones rock-n-roll power-pop indie-boogie-woogie, blues licks and guitar solos, endless earworms and the dryest humored lead singer since Gruff Rhys. I love every one of its 20 minutes.

2021-12-03
Peter Talisman
The Lord of the Harvest

An avant-garde electronic chamber prog folk instrumental rock opera which is also the soundtrack to a video game and one of the most beautiful things I've heard all year.

2021-11-15
Courtney Barnett
Things Take Time, Take Time

This new Courtney Barnett album is kind of a bummer so far. But I'm going to give it some more time and get back you on it.

2021-11-06
Geese
Projector

Geese is supposedly New York's hottest buzz band. They're four Brooklyn high schoolers whose primary influences are Interpol and The Strokes, and I'm as shocked as you are when I say holy shit they're actually good! Like really! I was so, so ready to hate everything about this, but they kinda nail it. Yes they clearly give off some early aughts Strokesy, dance punky, post-punky vibes, but they actually seem to have fun doing it. And with swagger! Meanwhile, the singer actually sounds like he knows what he's doing, he actually goes for it. Hitting notes, singing—holy shit—melodies.

I don't know man. This isn't the instant classic that Is This It and Turn On The Bright Lights were, but it's a deeply pleasant surprise, and something tells me that Geese (ugh) maybe has a masterpiece in them once they're old enough to start drinking.

2021-11-06
Tems
If Orange Was A Place

Between this and the Obongjayar EP from earlier this year, I guess Nigerian Afrobeat is my thing now?

2021-11-04
Mastodon
Hushed and Grim

There's a new Mastodon album, and while it's not as good as their last EP (which was great, best thing they've done in 10 years), it's got a lot of cool stuff on it. Problem is there's too damn much of it.

Chalk it up to the digital music era, but I had no idea until I was done listening to it that Hushed and Grim is a double album. It's long. Too long. And it covers a lot of the same territory and there's really no reason to double it up. Not only that, but the actual sequencing of the tracks feels at times completely random, giving the thing no flow whatsoever.

So as a handy guide for my loyal readers, I've distilled this mammoth (um pun intended!) collection down into one single-disc, single hour tracklist for your iTunes playlists and CDR burns to keep in your car.

1. The Beast*
2. Pushing the Tides
3. Peace and Tranquility
4. Had It All
5. Sickle and Peace
6. Dagger**
7. Teardrinker
8. The Crux
9. Eyes of Serpents
10. Pain with an Anchor
11. Gigantium

* The Beast is far and away the best on the album, and is also not coincidentally the most interesting song on the album. Like much of that EP that I love, it's essentially a Brent Hinds country-fried solo song translated into a Mastadonian context. It's truly great and even though it's not the usual album opener, I think it would knock people's socks off to lead with it. I just wish there were one or two more similar tracks on this album.

** Dagger is nearly as odd and interesting as The Beast, just not quite as good. But it has this part in the middle where the guitars essentially hold one chord, and it turns into a hypnotic, Middle-Eastern flavored percussion drone. That's the kind of thing that usually makes me roll my eyes, the whole Middle Eastern motif gets easily overused with some metal bands, but in this particular song Mastodon nails it. I have an alternate dream version of this album where they get to this part and then just keep repeating it, ad nauseam, for 10 minutes or something. Close the album with it. It would be incredible.

2021-11-02
Valley Queen
Supergiant

Pillow Queens is the best new band I've heard in a while. They're from Dublin and play passionate, literate, grungy shoegazey alt rock, and their lead singer Sarah Corcoran sings with this barmbrack-thick Irish broogue that makes her one of the most distinctive lead singers you'll hear.

When I first listened to Valley Queen, I was perplexed. The band played a little looser, a little lighter, and something closer to Laurel Canyon classic rock rather than amp-blistering alt rock—but if you told me I was listening to an earlier Pillow Queens album, I would've believed you. The singer emotes with the same exact cadence, similar melodic tendencies, and that same distinctive Dublin accent. Uncanny.

Well obviously they must also be from Ireland, and simply share that same natural manner of singing? No! Valley Queen is from Los Angeles! Their singer was born and bred there! She went to college at Loyola Marymount! Why the fuck is she singing like her parents spent their youth on the run from the IRA?? What is going on??

I have no answers. I've looked into it, and the only thing that I can say is that she's cited The Cranberries as an influence, and I imagine both she and the members of Pillow Queens have done well to ingest some of Dolores O'Riordan's stylings into their arsenal. But when you sit and listen to the Cranberries, you hear a lot of different colorings from Dolores that never made their way to Pillow Queens or valley Queen, it's mostly just the accent. But still, that's all I've got. And I have to admit it's pretty fucking annoying to think about someone from LA singing with such an intensely put-on affectation. I'd say it makes me like the band less, but honestly I still think they're pretty good and the album is pretty enjoyable.

Furthermore: Pillow Queens! Valley Queen! Pillow Queens! Valley Queen! Do you see it? Do you see it?

Anyway. This particular Valley Queens record is from like 2016, and I've listened to a couple of their newer songs, and it sounds like they've toned down the fake Irish thing. If anything, she's singing with an equally put-on indie girl quirk, which is maybe even more annoying.

2021-11-01
Cerce
Cowboy Music

I usually hate this kinda shit, but something about these motherfuckers is working for me. File under: sassy hardcore.

2021-11-01
NOLTEM
Illusions in the Wake

I'm creating a new tier of metal bands in my mind palace. (NOTE: This portion of my mind palace is designed like a two-page spread in Kerrang! magazine). This tier includes bands like Necrot, SUMAC, Mare Cognitum, and can basically be summed up with "extreme metal bands who don't really engage me intellectually or otherwise leave much of an impression, but whose music is spiritually gratifying upon listening and goes down smooth as pudding."

Obviously the point here is that NOLTEM is one of these bands. I can tell you that they kinda sound like some combination of early-Opeth and Agalloch—and Mare Cognitum and Necrot—but otherwise I couldn't hum a single melody or lap-drum a single riff from this album. I don't currently remember any of it. But I've listened to it about a dozen times.

2021-11-01
Deerhoof
Actually You Can

Deerhoof is still doing it.

2021-10-20
Sufjan Stevens
A Beginner's Mind

Sufjan Stevens has been in the mix for so long now. Michigan was like, what, 20 years ago? So long! And what's interesting is that, this whole time (so long), every Sufjan release has felt like some sort of event. They've been grand experiments, comforting returns to form, stylistic left turns, theatrical projects, deeply personal confessions. Whether or not they've all been successful (though he does have a better 20-year batting average than most), they've all felt like something happening. A Sufjan release makes you notice.

A Beginner's Mind is the first new Sufjan album that I can really remember that just kinda came out and that's that. I think there's a bit of a theme to it: it's technically an album co-attributed to Angelo De Augustine, written and recorded by the two of them during the pandemic, locked up in a cabin somewhere, seemingly writing songs about the movies they were watching and books they were reading. Or something like that? The point is that isn't really important in this case. It's not a grand testament about life and the cosmos. It's not a confessional ode to his parents. It's just a nice collection of songs, maybe his best in a handful of years. A comforting return to form.

2021-10-17
Low
HEY WHAT

I had a borderline religious experience listening to this album last week and extraordinarily high volume while walking around the city late at night. I'm certain it's the best Low album and I'm not sure when I'll ever listen to it again.

2021-10-17
Shannon Lay
Geist

This is a mostly straightforward folkie Americana singer-songwriter album, but it's an awfully good one.

2021-10-17
Sweeping Promises
Hunger For a Way Out

The first couple tracks on this album got me real excited to hear a new post punk band that eschews post punk monotony and revels in melody. Then the rest of the tracks just kinda do post punk stuff.

2021-09-28
Fluisteraars
Gegrepen Door de Geest der Zielsontluiking

Fluisteraars has done this to me twice now. They got on my radar a couple years ago by releasing one of the most interesting black metal tracks I've ever heard—interesting in that it didn't seem to have much interest in black metal orthodoxy, occasionally throwing in some alt rock power chords and some actual humane vocals. Then they put their first full-length out, and seemed mostly to fall back into your standard black metal. I was bummed.

But then I kept listening to it. Something kept pulling and pulling me back, and I started to hear that humanity inside of it, even without any of the alt-rock tricks. It ended up being one of my faves of that year, and I listened to it a ton.

The same thing seems to be happening with this new one. The band recorded it almost on a whim, with the intention of creating something lo-fi and honest, the sound of a band in a room. And just like last time, my immediate reaction was disappointment. Because, well, it sounded lo-fi and like a few guys screaming in a room. But also like last time, I keep coming back to it, and man I think I like it.

If you sat me down and asked me to describe to you what makes Fluisteraars good, I couldn't do it. I don't know. I don't know what they're doing that other black metal bands aren't, I just feel it when I hear it. There's just more passion, more desperation, more soul in the sounds that they make. The screaming feels more human, the drums are hit with a little more catharsis, the guitars feel like they're in a room instead of plugged into a 4-track. And I guess also that they actually play melodies. Simple ones, but melodies nonetheless, which turn into earworms. There's a few other odd bits on this album that make for something—extended drum breakdowns, some trancy shit—but mostly it's Fluisteraars doing their Fluisteraars thing. And at this point I'm fully on board wherever they want to take me.

2021-12-03
Two Wheels Manhattan
Pho, chicken wings

Totally decent pho. Some of the best wings I've had in New York.

2021-11-15
Joe JuniorManhattan
Cheeseburger

Joe Junior, aside from having one of the charmingest signs in all of Manhattan, is a constant presence on "Best burger in New York" lists. The place itself is very much just a diner—a somewhat charming one yes, but not quite up to that sign outside. And on my visit, it was swarming with unmasked NYU students out for brunch who were annoyed at not getting served quickly enough. I know that's not the restaurant's fault, but yikes. Although Joe Junior's, shall we say, hands off approach to service definitely didn't help the situation. These guys have clearly been living the diner life for way too long and were did not g a f about it keeping the customer happy. I dunno, good for them really.

The burger: good! Not amazing, certainly not the best in New York. But it was very edible. Which I mean as a compliment. It reminded me of the Jackson Hole Diner burger (another VIP on your average Best Burger list), where it was almost meatloaf in its consistency—soft and even light in a way, almost like it was baked rather than grilled. I'd actually put Joe Junior's ahead of Jackson Hole's, simply because it was a much more reasonable size to actually eat, compared to Jackson's basketball-sized offering.

The other odd thing: Never before has iceberg lettuce worked so perfectly on a burger. Usually the lettuce gets immediately sloppy and wilted, and doesn't make a bit of difference to any burger. But the big ol pile of iceberg on this thing actually kinda bumped it from "good" to "pretty darn good". With that extra fragile texture to the burger, having a nice crunchy cool counterpart on top made the whole thing work.

2021-10-20
Spaghetti TavernManhattan
Spaghetti in a bag

This music and food blog exists to dive deep, to examine how we nourish ourselves—spiritually and gastronomically—the choices we make in our navigation and consumption of art and culture, and to challenge the means by which we reach for our individualistic carnal edification.

The Spaghetti Tavern is an Old West themed bar that serves spaghetti in a bag. It comes with either garlic bread or crinkle cut french fries and they give you a ceramic crock of parmesan cheese so you can spoon on as much as you'd like. There's a moose head on the wall.

2021-08-16
EstelaManhattan
Duck breast, Scallops with squash blossoms, Arroz negro with squid and romesco, vinegar panna cotta

Estela is the kind of restaurant that you or I might go to once a year for a birthday or something, but sophisticated, go-getting Soho types probably pop into for a drink whenever they've got nothing to do on a Thursday night.

It might have a Michelin star? I'm not sure.

Anyway you can take a look at the list of food up in the title of this post. I missed a couple items too. Ultimately the only thing that really mattered was the duck, which was served with pickled scallions and béarnaise, and was truly excellent. Everything else I guess was pretty good, but it's been like 3 weeks and I've forgotten enough about it all that I don't even know what to type about it.

Oh and the panna cotta was also top notch.

2021-07-21
Thai DinerManhattan
Crab fried rice, curry poutine, stuffed cabbage

This is the rare case where a new place opens, gets reviewed marvelously in every single publication, and not only did we get the nerve to actually go, but we got more or less right in, no hassle no wrassle no fuss no muss! I'd say it's also the rare case that this sort of place actually lives up to the hype, but I'm a little mixed on that one.

So the point of this place, as you could maybe tell by the name, is that it's a Thai diner. Take your classic American diner, and Thai it. So you've got a bar with stools, you've got booths on the side, you've got burgers and fries and French toast and eggs and, uh, cabbage rolls. But then you've got bamboo and teakwood engravings and Thepphanom statues and brass elephants, and khao soi and laab and pad see ew. It's a Thai diner!

But with all the hubub around the diner-y fusion of the place, there's only one dish that really stuck with me: the crab fried rice. Yes, the simplest and most purely and simply Thai thing on the menu, and one that I learned was actually the famously beloved dish of the owner's previous (and now defunct) restaurant Uncle Boon's. Like really just an ideal dish of fried rice. Simple but explosively flavorful, and the crab itself was downright luscious. I could've just opened my mouth on a hinge and shoveled that whole plate of rice in there. That fried rice alone is worth the trip to Nolita (or is it the Bowery? Or Chinatown? Kind of on the border of all of it.)

The poutine, meanwhile, very good but I could live without it. The stuffed cabbage, very good but I could live without it. Their famous cake with a googley eye face on it? Decent.

Absolutely need to get there for breakfast though and try their Thai tea battered French toast. Watch this space.

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!