07.16.2018
Gang Gang Dance
Kazuashita

Gang Gang Dance is the type of group that I always feel has the potential to do something truly transcendent. Despite not really being "my kind of thing," their last album Eye Contact really blew me away, and had a few moments on it where I just wanted to stand up and find anyone around me to yell "are you hearing this‽" at. Other moments of it, meanwhile, were just kinda good. So then here, after like 5 years, we have Kazuashita, which is better than just kinda good, but at the same time doesn't seem to have any of the "are you hearing this‽" moments in it that I wish it had. It's just mostly very chill, and borderline new-age. So yes, it's a very pleasant listen all the way through, with one almost transcendent moment, although it's a bit of a cheat because it comes from a spoken word vocal sample layed over the music rather than the music itself ("buffalo".) But hey. It's a nice listen and I like it.

07.11.2018
Self Defense Family
Have You Considered Punk Music

So this is a band called Self Defense Family, and the album is called Have You Considered Punk Music, and it's one the most earnest collections of musical recordings I've ever heard. It's good and you should listen to it.

07.09.2018
Kamasi Washington
Heaven and Earth

I'll be honest—I haven't actually listened to Heaven and Earth in full yet. I'm not even sure how that's supposed to be done; every song on it is the biggest, fullest, most epic jazz odyssey ever recorded, and there's two discs worth of it! It's like watching 2001 front to back and then turning on Andrei Rublev without even getting up from the couch.

That's a terrible comparison and I'm going to edit it out later. But I'm just trying to get this music blog done so I can go to bed, so let's keep moving, yes? So: everything that Kamasi Washington has recorded so far is astounding, and Heaven and Earth is too. Just the most correct shit, over and over again, one track after another. Choirs, strings, dueling drum sets, vintage synthesizers, noise prog guitar solos, spoken poetry, wah pedals, talk boxes. Everything is on this album. You're probably on this album. Bet you didn't know it. The craziest thing about all of it is that it all makes sense.

07.09.2018
Natalie Prass
The Future and the Past

I didn't like the first Natalie Prass album all that much at first. But then I liked it a little more. And then I liked it a lot more. And now it's one of my favorites of the last few years.

I don't like this new Natalie Prass album all that much.

06.19.2018
Father John Misty
God's Favorite Customer

It's interesting how little I have to say about this album, in relation to how much I like it. I mean, not that interesting. But like, know what I mean? It's a completely solid album from front to back, and Father John Misty is a songwriter par excellence, truly and not even ironically the Randy Newman of our generation; which isn't to say that he sounds like Randy Newman or that you'd ever confuse the work of the two, but he's a too smart for his own good asshole, who treats the art of songwriting itself like a test that he has to ace, blindfolded and with his left hand, a tight rope slung in between towers with no net that he's going to walk across even though nobody asked him to. But the motherfucker nails it, is the thing, every time, even if tight rope walking isn't that big with the kids these days.

06.19.2018
Ryley Walker
Deafman's Glance

I liked this Ryley Walker album a lot, but then it struck me just how much it sounds like Jim O'Rourke. Now I still like it a lot.

05.26.2018
Courtney Barnett
Tell Me How You Really Feel

I've been as much of a Courtney Barnett advocate as anybody in the last few years, proclaiming to anyone who will listen how she is One Of The Great Music Authors of our generation, a rare Genuine Voice in a world full of poseurs and trend hoppers. What I'm saying is that's she's the fuckin best. Listen to "Avant Gardener"! Listen to it! Do you hear it??

So anyway, she just released her third album, which very learned people will tell you is um actually he second album, since her first album is just a collection of 3 EPs, even though that's nonsense and this is her third album whether you like it or not. It's a bit of a departure, in that it's all a bit darker, slower, seemingly basking in ennui rather than writing circles around it. It's good, I like it. It just seems like she's going through some stuff, man, you know? Except there's this one part on "Need A Little Time," in the chorus, where she switches from "Me...eeee...eeee.eeee" to "You...ooooo...ooo," and the chord changes and the guitars crunch a little more, and it's glorious. Listen to it! Do you hear it??

05.24.2018
Eleanor Friedberger
Rebound

Good tunes.

05.22.2018
Beach House
7

This new Beach House album has really great cover art. It's printed on a shiny, metallic, somewhat opalescent paper that cuts through the black and white pop art, and is very psychedelic and cool and was probably very expensive for Sub Pop to manufacture. This is also the review of the Beach House album. 7/10.

05.02.2018
Yazan
Hahaha

Weirdo psych blues rock that sounds kinda like Retribution Gospel Choir is Retribution Gospel Choir was a lot funner and a little goofy. To be honest I bought this on a whim, and I keep forgetting about it.

04.16.2018
R.E.M.
Monster

I've been listening to "What's The Frequency Kenneth" endlessly in the last few days. It's a strange choice, I know, but the song has completely hooked itself into me. The proximate blame goes to Scott Aukerman and Adam Scott's new podcast "R U Talking R.E.M. Re: Me?", where they talk about R.E.M. for an hour every week, even though they haven't even gotten to Monster yet, and really I don't find their analysis and discussion of the band all that interesting. It's just a fun goofy listen. But what it has done is made me revisit their records with fresher ears, and ultimately that's what's making me think I've grossly underestimated these guys my whole life. They're really fascinating once you lay it all out, almost by being so un fascinating. There are no major peaks and valleys to their career; there's no drama, no grand failed experiments, no major lineup changes. And yet since 1983, these dudes have released so many undeniable hit songs, entirely in their own voice, making (practically) no concessions to fashion or popularity. Every single album (at least until the 21st century, where you can forgive them for being 20 years into their career) has at least one song on it, usually 2 or 3 and sometimes 4, which would be any other band's creative pinnacle, most of which have since entered whatever we can describe as the modern rock/pop canon. It's remarkable.

Even Monster, which at the time perhaps got some criticism for selling out to some grungy, alt-rock zeitgeist, has mostly aged beautifully, and contains at least 2 all time greats. One of which, to take us back to the lede, is "What's The Frequency Kenneth", which, again, was kinda made fun of at the time for being alt rock nonsense. But listen to it! It's great! It's an undeniable jam. And even though they might've distorted the guitar a little more than previous albums, it is anything but a grunge cash in. It's pure and beautiful and perfect. And lucky for all of us, you can find dozens of copies Monster for $2 or less at every used record store and thrift shop in the country.

04.15.2018
Hop Along
Bark Your Head Off

I wish this rocked more.

04.04.2018
Daphne & Celeste
Daphne & Celeste Save The World

Okay, the title up there says "Daphne & Celeste Save The World," which is technically true, albeit probably meaningless to anyone reading this right now. But in reality, this is really a Max Tundra album, his first in a decade. Whu-whu-whaaat? Let me explain, because it's bizarre!

Backstory #1 is that Daphne & Celeste were a thoroughly disposable teen pop duo in England back in 2000, who had one or two earworm bubblegum pop hits that apparently had no traction in the US, but drove the Brits completely crazy. Like "Barbie Girl" and "Crazy Frog" levels of crazy. There's a famous story about them playing at some festival and basically having shit thrown at them from the crowd to get off the stage. Backstory #2, is that Max Tundra is this insane genius electronic experimentalist with a knack for undeniable pop melodicism and a cheeky sense of humor, who spends years and years completely out of the public eye, seemingly too clever for his own well being, crafting his music like one of those guys who carves photorealistic landscapes on thousands of grains of rice. It's been 10 years since the last Max Tundra album, Parallax Error Beheads You, and I basically assumed he was dead.

But what happened is he was actually writing and recording his new album. Except instead of a Max Tundra album, it's a Daphne & Celeste album??? Listening to this record, there is no confusion about who's music this is. This is Max Tundra through and through, from the batshit cut up production, to the melodic signatures, to the fact that there is at least one love song to a synthesizer. No, not recorded with a synthesizer, but about a synthesizer. Did I mention Max Tundra is the best? Anyway, while his own voice is nowhere to be heard, Daphne & Celeste do just fine taking his place, and give the whole album a surreal feel of a bubblegum pop album completely out of time, frankensteined together almost as a joke, but way too comprehensive and smart to actually be a joke. I don't know how this project came together, how Tundra convinced Daphne & Celeste to jump off a cliff with him, but holy hell is it weird and fascinating and a complete joy.

04.03.2018
Mount Eerie
Now Only

The last Mount Eerie album was a towering masterpiece of grief and honesty and poetry, born out real life death and mourning, completely uncritiqueable and undeniably perfect. Now Only feels like a lesser, lighter follow up to that one, even though it is also all of those things. But it couldn't really be anything else, and that's okay. RIYL: crying.

04.02.2018
4th Curtis
I Won the Pageant

Holy cow, it's a local band that's actually good and actually excites me! 4th Curtis—not to be confused with Cowboy Curtis—plays totally solid 90's alt-rock-inspired indie pop on Girlpool-Trust Fund-Frankie Cosmos spectrum. I saw them performing randomly at halftime of a roller derby event, expected absolutely nothing of them, and after just a couple songs was totally sold. They're good! Good songs! Good music! Cool!

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.


(1)
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.

10.02.2012 - by Steve
Petite AbeilleManhattan
Chicken stew, waffle

I was going to wait until we were home from New York to post anything about it, but I figure I better do this now before I forget about this place completely (zing!). It's called Petite Abeille. It's an adorable little Belgian cafe in adorable little West Village (or maybe Greenwich Village?) with an adorable little logo and an adorable little chalkboard menu. Its menu was on par with Barbette, and the quality was as well—so it was slightly less good than you'd think it would be (zing!). Granted, Libby said her mussels were delicious, and my fries (sorry, "frittes") were Barbette quality as well, but my chicken stew was about as good as homemade chicken stew your grandma would make. So, good, but maybe not for the price and for a single trip to an adorable little cafe in the West Village. Not to mention the fact that I actually ordered the beef stew. My biggest takeaway: I should've gone with the burger.


(1)
08.28.2009 - by Steve
Katz's DeliManhattan
A pile of money on rye

Katz's is supposedly one of the last original non-chain Jewish delis in New York, so of course we had to go give it a shot on my last day in the city (since I wasn't going to have time to fulfill my dream of throwing a trash can through the window of a racist Brooklyn pizza joint). It was delicious. There is no doubt about that. And the restaurant, while very large, certainly had a legitimate charm and history to it. But holy cannoli, look at those prices! Given the swarms of people that must eat there every day, it's probably completely reasonable for them to charge $15 for a single sandwich with no sides, or $4.50 for a side of cole slaw. They do brine their own corned beef and pastrami so it's incredibly fresh, and I assume they make their own cole slaw and potato salad as well. But if I lived nearby, I can't imagine wanting to go there too often. It was probably better than Cecil's (very different, at least), and at least as good as Mort's (and now that I think about it, Mort's certainly isn't for penny-pinchers), but I'd bet if you're living in Manhattan, you probably have a handful of places that you can get a comparable meal for half the price. Although I doubt you'll find better potato salad.

08.28.2009 - by Steve
Random gyro cartManhattan
Chicken gyro

Having been in New York for two and a half days now, I have already noticed a major and disappointing fact about the city's famous street food vendors. See, for years, I've been under the impression that the sidewalks of Manhattan are rife with roving street carts selling any and every kind of food--from hot dogs to burgers to tacos and maybe some barbeque ribs and duck confit or something. But in truth, it seems that there are only about four options. We have gyro and kabob carts, hot dog carts, ice cream carts, and hot dog and ice cream carts. And they all seemed to be operated by the same 2 or 3 companies. If you're in Central Park near the Upper West Side, you're stuck with the same exact gyro and ice cream sandwich as down south in Battery Park. I was hoping for some surprises, the occasional fancy/good/cool cart selling, I don't know, elk sausages or tikka masala or something. But all day, up and down Manhattan, are the same carts, the same signs, same prices, and the same processed meats.

(Speaking of processed meats, Ben and Justin mentioned on my first night how it's practically impossible to find bratwurst in New York. While that seemed unbelievable at the time, I really haven't seen it anywhere all weekend, counting all the concession stands at the Mets game. I mean, I'm sure you could find it at a good grocery store or meat market or something, but as far as casual sausage consumption goes, Italian Sausage is really the cased meat of choice in this part of the country).