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.

2021-05-09
Blue CornPhiladelphia
Brisket tostadas

Philadelphia, a city known for its cheesesteaks and roast porks and pretzels and hoagies, is a heavily Irish and German town. But down in South Philly is dense, historic, and very active Italian neighborhood, surrounding one strip of compact storefronts and awnings covering the entire sidewalk, brimming with classic Italian trattorias and pork stores and ravioli shops. Within this Italian strip, you'll find Blue Corn, one of the best Mexican restaurants I've had in a while.

Wheels within wheels. Layers upon layers. Philadelphia is here to surprise you.

2018-07-09
Jezabel'sPhiladelphia
Empanadas

Here's a fun and random one! Just a couple blocks from where we were staying in Philadelphia was a tiny little Argentinian cafe called Jezabel's. "Fun?", you ask? I guess a small Argentinian cafe in a historic residential Philadelphia neighborhood could be fun on its own, but in this case, we happened to hit up Jezabel's right while Argentina was playing France in the World Cup! We were just stopping in quick to get some small bites before leaving for the bus station, but found this tiny little place crowded with people in blue and white Argentina jerseys watching the game on a huge flatscreen TV just sitting up on the bar. This place is really like the size of a small coffee shop, so even a dozen revelers made it feel super packed. And fun. So we stayed a bit and ate some empanadas. Which, for real, were some of the best empanadas I've ever eaten! I had two kinds: beef, and ham & cheese. The beef was fairly standard, but wonderfully flavorful, and the dough was flaky and tender and perfect, not stale or greasy like you could find at some other shops. Meanwhile, the ham and cheese—for which I kept my expectations low—was even better. I don't know why I thought it was just going to be cruddy cheddar cheese and off-the-shelf ham, but this thing had layers of flavor! I couldn't tell you what kind of cheese, or what else might've been in it, but damn, it was good. And I don't think I can get anything like it in this town.

Then Argentina gave up a couple goals and everyone was bummed.

2018-07-09
Paesano's Philadelphia
Roast pork sandwich

Regular readers of this site (lol) might remember last year's trip to Philadelphia, where of course I had to get a cheesesteak from Pat's, or Geno's, or wherever else who cares it was very mediocre. Meanwhile, True Food Knowers will tell you that the Real Philadelphia Foodstuff is actually the roast pork sandwich. Which is: roast pork (either sliced, pulled, or chopped), sharp provolone cheese, and Italian marinated broccoli rabe, on a hoagie bun. That broccoli rabe is key, sort of like the pickle on a Chicago dog, or giardiniera on an Italian beef. I've never seen that on any sandwich in the midwest, or anywhere else, really. (Although, spoiler alert, I think you can find it in some of the more legit Italian delis in New York too).

So on my latest trip to the east coast, my first stop in Philly was at Paesano's, one of the higher-recommended joints for a roast pork. It seems that Paesano's used to be a bit of a hole-in-the-wall freestanding mom-n-pop shop, but it's now sadly and sterilely seated on the first floor of a new-construction apartment development. Lame, but forgivable. But it's still a small little shop, with just a grill behind the counter, a chalkboard menu up top, and one guy with an incredible Philly accent running the place. I'd never actually heard one in person before. It was eye opening.

I'll say this: every sandwich on their menu looked amazing. I wanted all of them. They even had porchetta! But I had to go with the standard roast pork, since, you know, that's what I was there for. I ordered it, was told to pay when I was finished, grabbed a can of Coke from the fridge, sat down at a table, waited for the sandwich, received the sandwich, took a bite of the sandwich, and died from happiness.

Fuck the cheesesteak. The roast pork is the righteous truth.

2017-07-19
Pat's King of SteaksPhiladelphia
Cheesesteak

Yes. Yes, yes, of course. Yes, I got a fucking cheesesteak in Philadelphia. And yes, yes, it was at Pat's. Did you think I wouldn't? Did you think I might actually have some amount of self respect and taste? That maybe I'd try to find the "real" best cheesesteak in Philadelphia, or maybe find some scrapple, rather than be a sucker tourist who just goes and finds that corner that's been featured on every single food TV show ever produced, with Pat's on one side and Geno's on the other, hollering at their customers and putting cheese whiz on their sandwiches? Did you really think I might be better than that?

Look. I thought I was too. I did some research. I found a couple places that supposedly have the best cheesesteaks in town. But I only had a short amount of time to spend in Philly, and those other places were nowhere near any train stops. Plus, double look, I've never been to Philadelphia. I'm sorry, but I have to do this. If I didn't eat at Pat's or Geno's, I'd think about it my whole life. It's just one of those things. Every city has their local favorites, their perennial beloved food haunts that help define them. But I think Pat's and Geno's are more inextricably tied to Philadelphia than any other restaurants are to their respective cities. So to hop off the Septa and walk 10 minutes to Pat's (which I only picked because it was about 100 feet closer) is to truly see Philadelphia. I saw Independence Hall, I saw the Liberty Bell (through a window), and I ate a fucking Pat's cheesesteak.

I've had better.


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2017-07-18
WawaPhiladelphia
Hoagie

Here's a random dumb funny one! As a listener of Tom Scharpling's The Best Show on WFMU, I have been hearing for years about this mystical east coast convenience store chain called Wawa. Not simply a convenience store and occasionally a gas station, Wawa is well known for its hoagies, which are made fresh to order in store. It's like if every Super America had a full Jersey Mike's in the back. But beyond the minor novelty of it, these hoagies are by many accounts perhaps the best hoagies in the region. Which is crazy, because this is hoagie country!

So the Saturday of my trip left me with an entirely empty day, and I decided to hop a train to Philadelphia. And this meant one thing:I'm entering Wawa country. My day in Jersey was too far northeast for Wawas, apparently, so this was really my best chance. Luckily, there was one location in downtown Philadelphia within walking distance from Independence Hall (where I was hiding under trees to stay out of the rain). To my surprise, the ordering system was fully digital; you plugged your order into a touch screen, while someone behind the counter made the sandwiches in back. The process was painless enough, although I wish they offered more pre-curated sandwiches rather than make you pick each individual ingredient. Anyhow. I got basically an Italian, albeit with spinach and no pepperoni. It came out fairly quick, looked good enough. And it tasted... good. It was good. Not the best sandwich in the world, but certainly better than Subway. Maybe better than Jimmy Johns. Close to (my recent favorite) Jersey Mikes. Considering it was from the back of a convenience store, yeah, it was great! Was it worth the trip to Philadelphia? Hmm.