11.25.2019
Blood Incantation
Hidden History of the Human Race

Metal. Death. Chaos. The cosmos. Annihilation. Infinity. Horror. Aliens. Nothingness. Ferocity. Psychosis. Incantation. Mesmerization. Reverb. Galaxies. Supernovae. Explosions. Megacosms. Microcosms. Vociferation. Blast beats. Pinch harmonics. So many pinch harmonics.

11.13.2019
FKA Twigs
Magdaline

This is the best Kate Bush album of the century.

11.13.2019
Brad Mehldau
Finding Gabriel

When I heard a few weeks ago that Brad Mehldau released a new album of original choral/synth/piano material earlier this year, I was pissed that I missed it. Then I heard it and I'm no longer pissed.

10.29.2019
Big Thief
Two Hands

Big Thief took over the world this year, and I'm totally fine with that. There's probably a good chance someone has tried to sell them on you, or that you're already fully sold (more likely), so instead of going down the bullet points of why Big Thief rules, just do this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UIcVwH47uxQ

10.29.2019
Young Guv
Guv II

Surprise, it's a new Young Guv album! Guv I came out of nowhere onto my radar, and I love it, dreamy jangly power pop at its finest, "There She Goes"-as-genre. Top 5 of the year for sure. So now Guv II comes out of nowhere, and it's also good but not as good but still good but not gonna be Top 5.

10.11.2019
Wilco
Ode to Joy

If Wilco The Album and The Whole Love and Star Wars and Schmilco never happened, and Ode to Joy was the follow up to Sky Blue Sky, I'd probably be confused and disappointed by it. But it would at least make sense. But those other albums did of course happen, and they've all left me in varying states of frustration and ambivalence, be it from Album and Love's lack of new ideas and general dispassion, or Star Wars and Schmilco's stubborn dryness. But Ode to Joy finally feels right. None of its individual songs—"Love Is Everywhere (Beware)" perhaps excluded—are nearly to the level of their catalog leading up to this 'frustration and ambivalence' era, but the album as a whole is refreshingly engaging. It contains little mysteries which I don't even know are there until they've hooked me, and it keeps inviting me back, and I'm happy to oblige. But most refreshing of all is that like every great Wilco album (which, again, is basically all of them up until those other ones), this feels like its own world. It has its own palette and speaks its own language. Yeah it kinda borrows some sounds from Star Wars and Schmilco, but it actually does something with them. Even the album cover works.

10.10.2019
Opeth
In Cauda Venunum

Jag vet inte vad "In cauda venenum" betyder på svenska, men jag antar att det är något som "minskar avkastningen."

10.05.2019
Sandro Perri
Soft Landing

Sandro Perri plays 20 minute soft rock mantras which land somewhere between Brian Eno and Pat Metheny, and I promise that's a good thing.

09.23.2019
Jay Som
Anak Ko

A cool and welcome trend in young new indie rock bands in the last year or two is the noticeable influence of dreamy early-mid 90s groups like the Sundays, the La's, the Cocteau Twins, and the Cranberries. The new Young Guv album, just a few posts down from here, is one of my favorite albums of the year, and it's basically an example of "There She Goes" as genre.

The influence is welcome, because while those bands certainly traded in a mood (serene) and a style (jangly), they were also resolutely melodic. They've got songs.

Jay Som has one song. On this album at least. "Superbike" rules. Depending on what angle your head is tilted, it could be a Sundays song, or a Cranberries song, or a La's song. Serene, check, jangly, check, resolutely melodic, double check. Nothing else here really stacks up, and on about half he tracks they seem to be aiming for something else entirely, which, fine, but we all know what's up. It's right there. How do you record "Superbike" and not say "Oh shit, this is it"? Then again, the La's recorded "There She Goes" and then disappeared entirely.

09.10.2019
Tool
Fear Inoculum

The thought of sitting at my keyboard and typing out my thoughts about this album is fucking exhausting.

08.22.2019
Young Guv
Guv I

The original selling point with me and Young Guv was that it's the side project of Ben Cook, the main guitarist from Fucked Up. One of the main selling points of Fucked Up, of course, is that underneath the throat-destroying hardcore vocals is a bunch of super layered, pan-genre, too-pretty-for-hardcore guitar work. So the idea of hearing what Cook has up his sleeve for his own non-hardcore project, even one with as dumb of a name as Young Guv, is enticing.

So Fucked Up got me into the door, but what happened next is that I can't stop listening to this dang thing. I've already thrown away any association I have with that other band, and am enjoying this record on repeat (seriously, I listened to it about 6 times in the first couple days) solely as one of the best power pop albums I've heard in a long time. I'm sure every review of it out there has used the word "jangly," but that's only because thing thing is jangly as fuck! So yeah, Cook knows how to layer a guitar or two, but he can also write a hell of a melody. and I cannot get enough of it. Kind of like Nude Beach a few years ago, it's just an album that hooks into you, feeling like you've been hearing these songs for years, even though you don't remember where they came from.

Fucked Up? More like Thumbs Up!

08.09.2019
Elder
The Gold & Silver Sessions

Elder rules and this is a quick one-off instrumental EP they did where they just kinda jam for a while and Elder rules.

08.05.2019
Miracle Legion
Surprise Surprise Surprise

You probably remember—fondly, I assume—The Adventures of Pete and Pete. You probably fondly remember the theme song of The Adventures of Pete and Pete. You might not necessarily remember that the theme song of The Adventures of Pete and Pete was called "Hey Sandy," and was by a band called Polaris. (Side note: If you were me, you probably spent almost 20 years thinking that Polaris was a local Minneapolis band, because you confused them with an actual Minneapolis band called Polera. But you aren't me). You might, after fondly remembering all of these things, go and look into Polaris's other music, but you'll find very little. But the one important thing you will find is Miracle Legion.

Polaris wasn't really a band; it was a one-off side project made up of a couple members of Miracle Legion, a New Haven based indie rock band which had released a couple college rock radio hits in the mid and late 80s and gathered a respectable regional following, as well as more than a few comparisons to their mid-late-80s indie rock peers R.E.M. In the mid 90s, when the makers of Pete and Pete—two of those devoted regional fans—wanted to get Miracle Legion to write and perform the theme song to the show, they discovered that they were just a bit too late; the band was basically on the verge of breaking up. Instead, Mark Mulcahy and the one or two other members that didn't currently hate each other got together under the name Polaris to record for the show.

The rest is history I guess. Except that Polaris never gained a following or recorded any other albums, and hordes of Nickelodeon fans didn't exactly flood record stores to pick up any Miracle Legion albums. But I did. 20 years later at least. And I'm absolutely delighted. Miracle Legion's discography is a secret cache of beautifully sentimental indie pop, sitting there unspoiled waiting for us. I'm probably more primed for this type of music than I might've been in previous years thanks to my recentish deep dive into R.E.M., because, yes, the old complaint is that they do sort of sound like R.E.M. But also not; Mulcahy's voice and vocalizations and lyricism immediately stands apart (not saying it's better, just apart) from Stipe's, even if some of the jangly, arpeggiating, clean electric guitar sounds and slightly wet straightforward drumming might, sure, come off a little Athens. But I've already wasted too much text talking about the comparison.

I've liked what I've heard from their few other albums, but I absolutely love Surprise Surprise Surprise. It's not the catchiest thing you've ever heard—I couldn't even hum you any of its melodies right now if I tried—but the mood and depth and sheer competency of the whole thing is a breath of fresh air. It's adult music. Maybe that speaks to how they never 'made it,' because there's no easy takeaways here for teenagers of the time to latch on to (as they did with that other band that keeps coming up), no obvious hit singles, nothing really in particular that would make them stand out. But hearing it now, at this age, it's clearly a special record, an honest record, and one that is giving me a singular sensation of feeling like it's been missing from my life until now. I mean, that sounds pretty dramatic I guess, but it's true.

I have a whole other paragraph to write about the serendipity of finding Surprise Surprise Surprise on vinyl at Academy Records the other week, but this post is so dang long already I'll not bore you with that. Just, hey, Miracle Temple is a miracle. That's not a pun.

07.29.2019
Joanna Sternberg
Then I Try Some More

Then I Try Some More initially excited me. It's a folk album that actually sounds like folk, not just some quiet singing over some guitary strums. It has real melodies, sing songy in the way that Woody Guthry and Burl Ives were, these trusty prehistoric song structures that have been sitting around waiting to get used again. Sure, she sings a shit lot like the other Joanna, and occasionally even maybe borrows a melodic line now and then, but that's okay because the other Joanna was just borrowing it from Joni Mitchell anyway, kind of a white elephant thing.

The problem is that these songs are bummers. There's a dark pessimism, bordering on depression, in just about every song here—but not the tortured-poet Elliott Smith kind of pessimism that makes you dream about being in a punk in LA or something. This is more of a "I'm young and the world sucks and nobody around me understands the real pain I'm in" kind. Just look at that album title. I'm not complaining that it's some phony, put-on pain to write songs, you can feel the real tendrils of sadness here. It's all too real. Even her singing voice sounds like a scared person holding back tears. And my 2nd or 3rd time through the album, I just hit the wall. I can't do it anymore. Joanna Sternberg is going to break through whatever darkness helped create this album, and I'll be there to listen to it. But for now I'm going to put it on the shelf with A Crow Looked At Me and feel okay with not basking in someone else's pain.

11.13.2019 - by Steve
MuQueens
Burger

There are whispers that Mu has the best ramen in the city. One friend of ours, a major ramen aficionado herself, claims it's the best ramen she's ever had anywhere.

The burger is even better.

Honestly this is the best burger I've had in New York*. I don't know what kind of magic was used in its creation, but really was a perfect specimen. In that uniquely precise Japanese way—a perfectly round burger fit plumb inside a perfectly round bun topped with a perfectly round pile of condiments. What were the condiments? I don't remember. Caramelized onions, some kind of homemade miso ketchup maybe. And exactly three perfectly fried potato wedges. But this thing melted and effloresced in my mouth on every bite, and it really was magic.

And also the ramen was fantastic and their pastrami fried rice was delicious. But this burger.

* Bougie burger edition. As far as lower class, bar style burgers, Andrew's Luncheonette is still on top.

09.21.2019 - by Steve
Beefrria-LandiaQueens
Birria mulita taco

OMG I had a long, detailed and riotously entertaining post written here that you would've loved, but I accidentally lost it. So here's the short version:

For the last year I've been seeing these amazing tacos on Instagram. They're stuffed with shredded beef and cheese and grilled like a quesadilla, but then folded like a taco and totally doused with a spicy looking liquidy red pepper sauce. The final product is—forgive me for sounding like a hack copyrighter here—mouth watering. Every time I see one on Instagram, I want to eat one immediately. The problem is, without exception, every single one I've seen posted is from somewhere in Los Angeles.

A little research confirmed this. What we're dealing with is a birria mulita, and while they've existed in a few small areas of Mexico for a while, they've just recently taken the Los Angeles truck and taqueria scene by storm. But I'm in New York the Greatest City In The World!, I shouted to God, surely we must have these too!. So after a year of not being in LA to eat one of these motherfuckers, I google "birria mulita taco New York," and was greeted with a minor miracle. Just a few days earlier, the city's very first birria truck opened in Jackson Heights, Queens.

Just a week later, we found ourselves conveniently (and accidentally, I swear) in Jackson Heights. It was 4:55, and the truck opened at 5:00. We saw it pull in to its spot. We walked around the block to give them time to set up. We returned to find a line of 10 people ahead of us. My god, I'm clearly not the only one who was desperate for these things.

In a rare surprise, it was everything I'd hoped for. Rich, spicy, luscious, profound. Easily the best Mexican food I've had in this city so far.

Sometimes things are good.

01.21.2019 - by Steve
JojuQueens
Banh mi

The difference between NYC and Minneapolis (well, St. Paul) Vietnamese places is pretty noticeable. The Twin Cities are known as a pretty good area for Vietnamese food, and that's true, but that seems to come mostly in the form of mom-n-pop, hole in the wall joints. The exceptions are few—Ngon Bistro is maybe the only fine-dining Vietnamese spot, and only in the last couple years are places like Lu's trying fast-casual-ify the pho space. (I can't believe I just typed that). But all in all, Twin Cities Vietnamese feels very much like an immigrant group simply wanting to feed themselves and have a taste of home, and if curious Minnesotans want to get some lemongrass chicken, great.

In New York, meanwhile, Vietnamese feels much more like a trend. The restaurants are younger, cooler, expensiver. I've seen very few 'hole in the wall' banh mi joints, relative to NY's uber density of course, compared to MSP. And the cheaper, counter service ones are often more like the subject of this food post, Joju. Located in a very heavily Asian neighborhood in Queens (and I mean "Asian" non-accidentally; we're talking Korean restaurants next to Thai grocery stores next to specifically Taiwanese restaurants. American melting pot, etc. etc.), Joju is what one might call "cool". But not in a Williamsburg pink neon sense, more in an "anime sandwich mascots and K-pop record cover" sense. It also, like many of these places, touts itself almost as much as a bubble tea shop than it does a restaurant. Joju doesn't even have Coke!

But what they do have is delicious banh mi. We ordered two kinds, caramel pork and beef bulgogi. Oh, that's another thing—there seems to be some very blurred lines at NY banh mi shops in terms of which nation's cuisine is represented on this ostensibly Vietnamese sandwich. You're just as likely to see Korean bulgogi or Thai basil pork on the menu as the standard Vietnamese chicken or pork with pate. Which is fine by me. Anyway, the sandwiches were delicious. Maybe a little heavy on carrot, and the actual construction of the veggies and meat made for a slightly awkward eating experience, but they tasted great. They also represented one more difference that seems to separate NY banh mi from MSP banh mi: the bun was refreshingly soft. So many hole in the wall banh mi I'm used to seem to lean towards using chewy, crispy baguettes. But these NY versions are soft, and much easier to bite into. A much more satisfying experience in my opinion, and one that comes in to play with a lot of New York dough-based food, from pizza dough to bagels, simply to bread you're served at restaurants or find at bakeries. Whether it's the water or the high turnover or simply the quality of local bakeries, bread truly is better here than in the rest of the country. Crazy as it sounds.

So anyway, Joju. It's good. It's pretty deep into parts of Queens you might never go to, so maybe don't worry too much about it. There's probably others like it.

07.19.2018 - by Steve
Sorriso'sQueens
Meatball sandwich, sopressata sandwich

This is the most New York place in New York. I actually heard the guy behind the counter say "gabagool." And they make some damn fine sandwiches.

07.19.2018 - by Steve
JollibeeQueens
Fried chicken, spaghetti, cheeseburger

New York City! Perhaps the greatest culinary destination in the world! It's got everything! Pizza pie! A spicy a meat a ballsa! Bagels! Enough Michelin stars to light up the night sky! Invitation-only chef dinners, $500 a plate steakhouses, experimental ice cream speakeasies, authentic Puerto Rican food served by grandmas with Weber grills on the sidewalk. You can't throw a stick in New York without it hitting the best restaurant you've ever eaten at. Or it'll hit Jollibee.

I've been fascinated by Jollibee for nearly 10 years now. I have a gross fascination in general with regional chains; whenever I go on a road trip, I generally try to find some sort of fast food restaurant that is native to the place I'm in. Jollibee is sort of an extreme version of that. There are hundreds of Jollibee locations in the Philippines and south Asia, sort of a Filipino McDonalds. But when I heard that there was one single location in New York, right in the heart of Queens, it's been near the top of my list of NYC restaurant destinations. Near the top. So, yeah, it's taken me a while to get there. Until now!

And as is often the case with international interpretations of American cuisine, it's just a little off. The main draw here is fried chicken. Or as they call it, "Chickenjoy." Fine. And actually kinda spicy and decent. But the next big item is spaghetti. Yes, spaghetti. Although this is a bit of a regional take on the dish, with a sweeter and more bell-pepper-infused sauce than our traditional marinara. It almost tastes like ketchup with some spices. I know. Lastly, of course, are burgers. Their cheeseburger is actually nearly hidden on the menu, so it must not be a best seller. But interestingly, it was the best thing I had! It obviously wasn't a great burger, but it was very enjoyable! I'd honestly take it over a standard McDonalds burger if you were to make me choose. Oddly, it reminded me of when I was a kid and refused to eat Chinese food, and my parents would order me a cheeseburger at the Chinese restaurant. I don't know if it's the type of oil or what, but there's a very particular flavor to the char on the burger that I can't quite describe.

Anyway, Jollibee is weird. Real weird. I can't say you should go there, but if you are in New York for the 5th or 6th time and feel like treating yourself to something that's maybe the most New York of all.

08.08.2017 - by Steve
Yankee Clipper DeliQueens
Italian sandwich, rigatoni

This is the last in the surprisingly long collection of entries about my recent trip to New York! Because of the way I built this site and arranged these posts (and admittedly my own laziness, because I could easily swap them around), you need to scroll all the way down (keep scrolling!) to the first NYC entry about 15 posts down if you care to read them in order. Which you shouldn't.

Here's a weird one! So finally, after a day of flight delays and a cancellation, I'm about to go home. When my ride drops me off at La Guardia's Terminal 1, I'm immediately confused about where I am. See, Terminal 1 is apparently one of the oldest airport terminals still functioning in this country. It's basically one relatively small building, a beautifully designed and restored art-deco era hub, filled with marble floors and original 1930s aviation-inspired murals on the walls. But it still feels odd. Airports aren't like this anymore. It was quiet. And empty. And tiny. And there was only 1 place to eat, the depressingly-generic-looking Yankee Clipper Deli.

I had no idea this is what I was getting into, or else I would've grabbed lunch before leaving. But I had no choice. And then something funny happened: I actually walked in to the Yankee Clipper and looked at their food selection. It was legit! I mean, not like it was some amazing chef-focused restaurant or something, but this place was like a real NY neighborhood deli. They had Boars Head meats, a full made-to-order grill, and trays of shockingly-homemade-looking roasted chicken, rigatoni, roast veggies, and other Italian-American fare. I went with an Italian hoagie and a side of rigatoni. They made it fresh right there, quality meat, fresh-sliced, good produce, good roasted peppers, gave me a can of coke, and I checked out without having to wait in any line. And you know what? It was a damn good sandwich! And damn good rigatoni! And as I sat eating, the place filled up with more and more airport employees, who clearly knew about this place as some sort of La Guardia secret.

In the end, it was actually one of the most satisfying meals I had in NYC. Not the best, not by a long shot. But it was so nice and refreshing and easy, especially for an airport terminal, and especially since my expectations were so low. Then I bussed my tray, walked about 50 feet to the security line, which was nonexistent since there are only a small handful of flights that fly out of this weird little terminal, grabbed my flight and went home.

And now, back to your regular Minneapolis food nitpicking!

07.22.2017 - by Steve
BonchonQueens
Fried chicken

One of the only real food goals I had going into NYC was maybe a weird one. Thing is, you can get "good" food anywhere now. Minneapolis is just as much of a "food town" as anywhere else. Maybe there's not as many restaurants as New York or Chicago or San Francisco or whatever, but there's always places that are (more or less) as good as those places. But what we don't have are places like Bonchon—weird international (usually Asian) chain restaurants that have hundreds or thousands of locations in their native regions, but maybe just have one or two in the US, usually in New York or LA. My original goal was to go to Jollibee, a mega-popular fast food chain that started in the Philippines, to get some fried chicken and a burger and spaghetti. You know, just like in the Philippines. But I changed my mind when I noticed this place Bonchon, which is a Korean fried chicken chain. Because I've long had a yearning for this mysterious Korean spicy fried chicken, which I've read about and heard about as being amazing, but there's nowhere to get it here in the Twin Cities.

So I journey to Jackson Heights, Queens, which incidentally, is supposedly the most ethnically diverse neighborhood in the world, and also incidentally, is where Jolibee is also located. When I found Bonchon, it surprised me, because it didn't look like a chain. It looked like a bar. My guess is that it used to be just some bar, but Bonchon bought the place and didn't really do anything other than slap their sign on it and maybe put up a random chicken-related picture on a wall here or there. The other thing that surprised me? I didn't really like it! The chicken was very crispy, which is maybe the point of Korean fried chicken, and the appeal of Bonchon in general? But to me it was way too crispy. And even then, the supposedly spicy chicken barely had any spice to it. There was hardly any flavor at all. Just mega crunchy, kinda bland, kinda dry chicken. I don't know. Very disappointing. Still probably than Jollibee would've been though.