2021-09-19
Nala Sinephro
Space 1.8

This is a kinda spacey kinda electronic jazz trio album that still mostly sounds like a traditional jazz trio album, which has been getting rave reviews in the last few weeks. Honestly I don't hear much remarkable from it yet; it's good, sure! But not sure what else it has to offer yet. But it has really great cover art so I'm going to stick with it for a while.

2021-09-18
Deafheaven
Infinite Granite

At first, this album bummed me out because Deafheaven no longer really sounds like Deafheaven. Shit, they sound more like Failure than Deafheaven. Which should be exciting for me, but mostly just leaves me confused.

But then after running through the album once or twice, I found myself continually coming back to it. Trying to crack its code, trying to connect the dots of how the end of almost every track kinda ruled, but it took work to get there each time.

Well the ends kinda ruled because they sound like Deafheaven. Fucking big and fucking huge and fucking metal and fucking somehow simultaneously something altogether outside metal. Like Deafheaven. It's all the stuff leading up to it which just sounds weirdly like somewhat psych-y alt rock with kinda weak vocals and way too much tinkly delay guitar that turns me off. So ultimately, I just don't think this thing is going to sit with me for the long run.

2021-09-01
Turnstile
GLOW ON

I absolutely love this album and I wish I was 22 again so I could go lose my shit at one of their shows.

2021-08-11
Typical Sisters
Love Beam

Cool, lively, Tortoise-y, post-jazz guitar jams that make for a very nice listen while doing other things, but I don't think I'm going to be telling all my friends about Typical Sisters for the rest of the year. I mean I just had to look up that they're called Typical Sisters because I've forgotten their band name a dozen times already.

2021-08-02
Laura Mvula
Pink Noise

Laura Mvula finally came back after like 6 years with a new album, and it's inexplicably an 80s-inspired, wet-drum dance party, which is better than that flippant description would lead you to imagine, but still nothing I really need in my rotation.

2021-07-22
King Crimson
Three of a Perfect Pair

Nobody ever told me that Three of a Perfect Pair rules. Like it's kinda like Discipline, and I've always liked Discipline but it's never been my favorite or anything. This one came later and I always thought it was, like, King Crimson's ReLoad. Well, Beat was ReLoad so this is more like ReReLoad.

But nope. Spanks.

2021-06-24
Japanese Breakfast
Jubilee

The first Japanese Breakfast album was real good. The next one wasn't as good. This one isn't as good, but it's sure better than the last one.

Well, no. Actually this might be better than the first one? Maybe? I just get confused because the first one has "Everybody Wants To Love You" on it, which is such a good song that it warps the gravity of all the other songs around it. So really I don't even know how good that album is. But I also know it's the best thing anyone has ever recorded.

This one only has "Be Sweet," which is only the second best song they ever recorded, even though it would maybe be another band's best song if another band had written it. But alas Japanese Breakfast is the unlucky band who wrote "Everybody Wants To Love You," and I'm sitting here trying to do the math.

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.

2021-09-19
Gelato & Co.Queens
Gelato

I had some dark cherry gelato from this extraordinarily ordinary gelato shop in Astoria, and it was real good. Like real real good. I don't think I've ever picked dark cherry as an ice cream (gelato, custard, froyo, whatever!) flavor in the past, but I think I'm fully on board. Real good.

(I followed this gelato up with some bolognese from a place across the street, which was totally fine but I think I'll skip that whole write up for now.)

2021-09-18
Moonlight GrillQueens
Lamb chops

I got these here lambchops from the Moonlight Grill—a deceptively generic looking Middle-Eastern-Mediterranean counter-service grill in the middle of the heavily Bangladeshi-Pakastani-Tibetan-Nepalese part of the neighborhood—and they were an absolute treat. And with two added bonuses:

One, the whole plate, even in a take-out tray, looked as lusciously cared-for as every photo on this place's menu. I watched the owner plate every dish behind the counter, and this was a man who cared about his craft. The cook at the grill, meanwhile, didn't seem to be afforded the same amount of patience. But grilled a damn fine lamb chop nonetheless.

And two, in a move possibly inspired by the neighborhood's heavily Latin contingent a few blocks down, or maybe because it's one of the world's great condiments, they were served with a side of chimichurri. These lambchops were just about perfect to begin with, but the combination of chimichurri and Middle Eastern seasoning is a damn revelation.

I realize most of these Queens-heavy posts are for places you (who even are you?) will probably never visit. But whatever. Moonlight Grill! Don't leave Manhattan to get it or anything, but if you live in Jackson Heights or Sunnyside, shit!

2021-09-01
Fat Cat FlatbreadQueens
Pork flatbread

A magical secret of Flushing (and other heavily Chinese neighborhoods around here) is the food courts. Like yeah, walk around outside and you'll see nothing but Chinese restaurant after Chinese restaurant, but occasionally in a mall or behind a grocery store or, in this case, a disarmingly generic looking storefront called "New York Food Court," you'll find dozens more, all of which specialize in one or two dishes, and almost all of which are as good or better than anything you'll get at a restaurant.

Anyway I've got a low key goal of trying to hit every place here at the New York Food Court. I had some fine dumplings and some good noodles, but the one I want to mention is Fat Cat Flatbread. I guess this particular type of Chinese flatbread—not to be confused with the sort of American gastro-pub nonsesnse-pizza—is a thing in some regions, but I hadn't heard of it before. Sort of like a scallion pancake I guess, but not exactly. It's basically two big ol' (but very thin) pieces of crispy fried bread which have a sort of spread of pork in between them. Maybe it's all fried together? I'm not totally sure. The interesting thing is that the pork really is almost totally in paste-form, you're not getting chunks or anything. I guess now that I typed that out it sounds gross, but I swear it's not. It's super savory and deeply pleasurable. And it comes in a little bag that's cute as shit and almost impossible not to post on Instagram.

2021-09-01
EimQueens
Hainanese chicken rice

Eim is a restaurant that serves just one thing: khao mun kai. Basically the Thai variation of Hainanese chicken. A lightly marinated chicken poached and served with rice, cucumber, and a couple hot sauces. That's it. It's the only thing on their menu, and it's delish.

2021-09-01
ProntitoQueens
Colombian hot dog

All I'm really going to do in this post is list everything that's on this hot dog: Bacon, ranchero salsa, ketchup, mustard, pink sauce, coleslaw, crushed up potato chips, and quail eggs. All of that, and I ordered it without the pineapple sauce, which 5 separate people working at this place thought I was crazy for doing.

And this isn't even particularly remarkable as far as Colombian hot dogs go! It's more or less the standard set of toppings at any given snack joint around here! But I will add that this Prontito place seems like a particularly good one; they've got good looking burgers and arepas and fries and everything else too.

But combining this monstrosity of a hot dog with the standard Colombian plato tipico, I don't understand how Colombians live past the age of 33. This cuisine runs circles around your most slovenly small town midwestern fare.

2021-08-16
Four Four South VillageQueens
Taiwanese Beef Noodles in Spicy Sauce

Taiwanese noodles are the noodles for me.

(I think I posted about a different Taiwanese noodle place earlier this year and might've typed that exact statement. I apologize for the self plagiarism, but also I guess that just means it's true.)

2021-08-15
Lety's BakeryQueens
Pistachio cheesecake

Lety's is a pretty-good-but-not-exceptional bakery down the block, whose three primary assets are: 1.) It's down the block; 2.) It's pretty good; and 3.) It's remarkably cheap. Also important I guess is 4.) It primarily features desserts, cakes, mousses, that sort of thing. I don't think I've written about it before, because, you know, not much to write about.

That was before I got the pistachio cheesecake. This stuff is something to write about. I don't even know if it's because of the quality of the cheesecake or Lety's ability to make cheesecake, but I'd just never had pistachio cheesecake before! It's such a perfectly pleasing combination! And yeah I suppose Lety's does a good job of it, it's got chunks of pistachio in there, it's clearly not some pre-made mix of fake green pistachio flavor.

Anyway, this is some damn fine cheesecake.

2021-08-11
Stand Alone CheeseQueens
Ham sandwich

There's a cheese shop on the ground floor of my building. It's real cute, it's called Stand Alone Cheese and has this little cartoon logo of a Swiss cheese with legs. I mean, really it's one of the few legitimately "gentrified" places in this neighborhood, which is probably a bad thing, but I really do mean few. There's this and a wine shop a block down, and that's about it.

Anyway I don't really care about cheese. But this place sells these ham sandwiches, that have the best fucking ham on them. I've never in my life thought about one type of deli sliced ham being better than another, ham is ham right? But this ham. I think it's French. And it costs way more than deli ham should ever cost. But they slap just a couple slices of this ham onto an exquisite baguette with some comte cheese and a swipe of butter, and it's just a fucking pleasure to eat.

2021-08-11
Papa's KitchenQueens
Chicken adobo, beef kare kare, noodles

There's this little Filipino restaurant just like two blocks from here, that I barely knew was there until earlier this summer. We finally found the opportunity to go, which was very exciting because I love Filipino food.

Turns out maybe I don't love Filipino food? I don't know. Actually the more I think about it, I've barely ever had Filipino food in my life; the only place I can think of in the Twin Cities had just opened in the year before I moved here. But the food I had there was incredible. So this is probably unfair for me to even review. But while everything at Papa's looked incredible, and was all seemingly homemade and well-reviewed and of an obviously high quality, I just didn't super enjoy eating it. The adobo was pretty good, but that's all soy sauce and sugar, so it's hard to really screw it up. The kare kare—a sort of peanut-based curry, almost like a masaman—was dishearteningly flavorless. But like, maybe that's what it's supposed to taste like? I don't know! And the fried noodles had an odd edge to them, like they were heavy with tart citrus, but not enough of anything else to tame it. I don't know!

All I do know is whatever that place was in St. Paul (which is seemingly no longer in business?), that it was astonishingly good, and Papa's, as much as I was ready for it to astonish me, left me unstonished. Bummer. Maybe I'll try it once more, try some other stuff.

Oh and the waiter was, as they say, a lot. One of those that seems cool and fun at first, but by the end of the meal you feel like you just need them to stay out of your personal space. But that's a whole story and who has the time.

2021-08-02
Pio PioQueens
Chicken, arroz chaufa

Why is Peruvian fried rice always better than Chinese fried rice? What are they putting in there? What does Peru know that the rest of us don't?

2021-08-02
The HighwaterQueens
Kalua pork plate

I'm a guy who went to Hawaii once and ate some Hawaiian food and now won't shut up about it. But not even like Hawaiian Hawaiian food. Mostly L&L plate lunches.

Problem is it's hard to find Hawaiian plate lunch here on the mainland. But happily I did find this place nearby in Astoria, which I originally thought was just some new-American gastropub thing, but is actually more like a tiki bar thing, which wouldn't you know, serves Hawaiian plates! And moco loco! They're trying to put a little gastro-ish spin on it so it doesn't entire scratch that L&L itch, but it's still a good bowl of food.

2021-07-01
Tibetan Japanese RestaurantQueens
Sizzling momo, sushi

I mostly just want to post about Tibetan Japanese Restaurant because it's called Tibetan Japanese Restaurant. It says it right there on the awning. And the web site and the menu. Not, like, Lhassa House: A Tibetan Japanese Restaurant. Not Gyatso's Tibetan Japanese Restaurant. Who has the time. Down to brass tacks.

It is worth posting about for one other thing though, which is their sizzling momo's! They're just like regular momo's (good ones even!), but they're served covered in a tomato sauce on a hot cast iron platter, creating a fajita-style ssssssssizzle. Very satisfying. And very tasty!

Their sushi wasn't bad either.

2021-06-24
Spy CQueens
Cumin lamb, pork belly

Bib Gourmand #4! And it's another Szechuan place! And it's called Spy C! Spy-C! Get it yet? Spy...C... Anyway it was pretty good but not Sweet Yummy House good.

2021-06-17
Sweet Yummy HouseQueens
Shredded dry beef, minced pork with cellophane noodle

Bib Gourmand #3! Something is weird with Michelin's Bib Gourmand voting, because there are so many Szechuan restaurants on the list. Like way too many in relation to how many Szechuan places you actually see around town. Are they just all that good? Or is there some harmony between the food always being fairly fresh and authentic while staying relatively cheap? Or does some Michelin reviewer just really, really like Szechuan?

But forget about that gripe for a moment, because Sweet Yummy House rules and probably deserves to be on the list. And I love that a Michelin restaurant list is willing to include a restaurant called "Sweet Yummy House."

Also want to mention that the noodle dish I had (spicy and tingly but perfectly balanced) was called "Minced pork with cellophane noodles" on the English menu, but when I just translated the Chinese characters online, it translated into "Ants on a tree," and I think that's perfectly cute for a place called Sweet Yummy House.

2021-06-13
Saranrom ThaiQueens
Thai stuff

Another Michelin Bib Gourmand winner right in the neighborhood! Saronrom! I knew when moving into this part of Queens that I would be surrounded by some legit good Colombian, Nepalese, Chinese, and Indian food, but I had no idea that there's a tiny-but-robust strip of absolutely killer Thai restaurants just about a half mile south of here. And honestly Saranrom might be the best of the bunch. Spicy as hell, but just about perfect top to bottom.