09.03.2020
Boris
NO

I've never really enjoyed Boris before. More than that, I've never even really understood Boris. Who are they? What are they doing? Is it drone? Is it noise? Is it metal? Is it electronic? Is it a band? Or a person? Do they only collaborate with other artists? What's the deal with Boris?

But then they put out this new album NO, and answer all my questions with very little room for confusion. This is a metal album by a metal band, hard stop. Okay well maybe not total trad metal, it has bits of hardcore and maybe some noise and punk in there, but not unlike the Oozing Wound album from last year (which I loved), this is just straight up nasty riffage. Crushingly intense. Not terribly intricate, but limber enough to make me wonder why they'd just been doing drone shit all those years. Or maybe they didn't? Did they? What were they doing that whole time?

08.29.2020
Hum
Inlet

20 years ago, Hum broke up and I accepted it and moved on. 10 years ago, they got together for some reunion shows, and I caught them in Chicago and it was pretty sweet, but once again I moved on. I haven't really spent any emotional energy for the last two decades worrying or wondering about if Hum would ever get back together or release new music or anything like that. In fact, as years went on, and as whispers and hints of a new album started percolating, I never once thought "wow I can't wait to hear it." Reunion albums can be major bummers, and I didn't necessarily trust a bunch of 40-50 year old guys who have long since moved on to have the same obsessive attention to detail that could match their work from the 90s.

But then they surprise dropped Inlet about a month and a half ago, and it's the only thing I've listened to since and it fucking rules.

06.14.2020
Neil Young
Zuma

I've been very dumb for ignoring Zuma my whole life. Well not totally ignoring it, because I've listened to "Cortez the Killer" a thousand times, but somehow I missed the fact that this is the album it was from. I blame the cover art. Anyway Zuma rules. L8r.

06.13.2020
Shamir
Cataclysm

This album sounds like if that one fateful night Prince would've met Hüsker Dü instead of Jimmy Jam.

More impressive than this album though, is a single Shamir just released called "On My Own," which I've listened to like 20 times in the last few days. To offer another overly sweaty metaphor, it sounds like Natalie Imbruglia's "Torn" reborn as a 21st century post-genre lo-fi genderqueer global pandemic dance anthem. I'm totally fine with it being my official Song Of The Summer. Haven't had one of those in a while.

06.13.2020
Blake Mills
Mutable Set

This is excellent music. But it's extremely excellent walking around at night music. Try it.

06.12.2020
Armand Hammer
Shrines

About this time last year I was writing a glowing review of Billy Woods' Hiding Places. I was new to Woods, a Brooklyn rapper who's been quietly and anonymously (he doesn't share publicity photos, and he generally covers his face in videos) putting out a string of records and collaborations over the last decade, but after hearing just one song, I was sold. He's not the most exciting performer in the world, but he writes lyrics that will knock you flat. We're talking like Faulkner and McCarthy level wordsmithery, minimal and vital, all atop beats that hum with paranoid psychedelica. He's barely even a rapper; he's a poet with great taste in producers.

Armand Hammer is one of Woods' small handful of projects, along with another Brooklyn rapper Elucid. Remember all that probably overhyped praise I just wrote about Billy Woods? Well Elucid can keep up, verse for verse. The two share a profound outlook on the world, and the ability to find the words. Really all I want to do to review this stuff is to copy and paste line after line, but that seems kinda cheap. And maybe unlawful?

Anyway Shrines plays more or less like Hiding Places did, although with the addition of Elucid on every track, and a whole lot more guests, who all seem down with what Armand Hammer is doing. The music itself is a little more abstract, as are the lyrics, but it's just as gripping of a listen, from start to finish.

Plus the cover is a fucking crazy photo of a tiger in a Harlem apartment. They rap about it. They'll make you want to be that tiger.

06.12.2020
Run the Jewels
RTJ4

Let's do this shit.

06.08.2020
Oranssi Pazuzu
Mestarin Kynsi

It's frustratingly difficult to find metal that sounds truly new. (Not "nu"). So much of the genre seems to be built on lateral movement rather than forward movement, x-meets-y, dialing this aspect up and this aspect down, mixing this sub genre with this sub genre, referencing the guitar style of this old band with the vocals of that old band. This certainly works every now and then—nothing Blood Incantation did on their last album was particularly new, yet it's already a modern classic—but for the most part it makes sifting through new metal releases a joyless chore. But then once every few years you find Oranssi Pazuzu.

I guess there are references here—Can? Nine Inch Nails? Pink Floyd? Ministry? Soft Machine? Kraftwerk? Black Sabbath? Slint? Depeche Mode?—but they forge it into something. It's dark, it's sinister, it moves forward with a ceaseless pulse, even in its quiet moments. It's just barely metal. In just the first minute, you've already been transported and hypnotized, elated that your joyless digging has finally paid off.

And then the vocals come in, and it's like fucking Skeletor is choking on a hot dog. It's infuriating. Here is a band that's doing something, making new music within the world of metal. But these vocals are absolute C-grade black metal nonsense. Fully tuneless, usually out of sync with the music, adding absolutely nothing—and worst of all, not breaking any rules of the genre. It's a guy doing a silly voice.

This album is still a fulfilling listen, because everything surrounding those vocals is rich, enveloping, and beautiful. And I'd love to see Oranssi Pazuzu live to see how they unfold this stuff. But shit, for a metal band who has finally stopped caring about being a metal band, it's depressing that they couldn't take that final step.

06.07.2020
Jeff Rosenstock
NO DREAM

No matter what medium it is, it's always invigorating to see the work of somebody who's mastered their art. Jeff Rosenstock's art is pop punk, but goddamn he's figured it out. Total mastery.

05.14.2020
Little Wings
Zephyr

It's been over 10 years since I was last compelled to listen to a new Little Wings album. This is partly because in the mid aughts he released a few odder, less interesting albums in a row that I couldn't engage with, a sort of diminishing results of weirdness when all I really wanted was more of his perfectly constructed diy ditties. But it's also partly because he straight up stopped releasing stuff for a while. But then suddenly in April, whether because of the lockdown or Bandcamp's occasional artist-friendly sales, or just because he got bored, he opened up the floodgates. He's released (or re-released) 4 or 5 full albums in the last month or two, and one of them is Zephyr, which according to the description is an official release and reworking of an Australia-tour-only cassette from a few years ago, that he had been meaning to flesh out into a full studio album. I'm glad he didn't, though, because this is a fantastic little collection as-is. It's mostly (or all?) Kyle Field and one guitar, no slapped-together backing band, no extraneous experiments or improvised goofiness, no waste, no nonsense. The songwriting on every track is focused and thoughtful, almost every track showing a more mature side of Little Wings, versus the K-Records teenage-symphonies-to-god fantasias that he often works in. But if that sounds a little too dad rock for you, don't worry, he also released a full band improvised garage recording of his make believe surf rock bar band The Be Gulls if that also interests you. I mean to be honest it interests me, too.

05.09.2020
Pure X
Pure X

The first 5 seconds of this album is the album of the year. The dirtiest, grimiest, distortiest guitar you've ever heard, but it's actually playing rich chords, deep grooves. I think the rest of the album is pretty good too, but all that really matters is that one track, "Middle America," and all that really matters about that one track is that damn guitar. (Also, not actually album of the year, that's just a little hyperbole to make for a fun blog. But shit.)

04.28.2020
Gaytheist
How Long Have I Been On Fire

This band is called Gaytheist and they started as a novelty gay-themed metal band in Portland. And they're way better than those two statements would have you imagine.

04.28.2020
Nicolas Jaar
Cenizas

Cenizas is one of the most perfect walking-around-late-at-night-with-headphones albums I've heard in a long, long time. Probably since the last Nicolas Jaar album.

04.28.2020
Fiona Apple
Fetch the Bolt Cutters

If you're reading this in the future (and of course you are, because that's how this whole reading and writing thing works), more specifically, years or perhaps even a decade or two into the future, I wonder what you think of Fetch the Bolt Cutters. Do you think anything of it? Do you think it's a laughable mess and wonder how on earth it got rave reviews upon its release? Or has it grown into an all time classic, an era-defining work of art? What's Fiona up to these days? What did she do after this? And like, did we ever make it out of this mess?

Those are things I wonder. But there are a couple things I need you to know about this album at this time. Foremost is that, for a brief moment, one late Thursday night through the weekend, it was Special. Truly, genuinely, heart-achingly special. This is a shitty time we're living in—not just the pandemic, but everything surrounding, leading up to, and being borne out of it. The bad guys just keep winning, and everything is hopeless. Shit sucks. And not to go too philosophical, shit has sucked for a lot longer than this difficult time. It's sucked specifically women for a whole lot longer than that. And then, just a couple Thursday nights ago, Fiona Apple (already beloved amongst the more in-touch populations of music nerd-dom, and perhaps even beloved-er over the last year after her classic song "Criminal" appeared in a memorable scene in the pretty-good movie Hustlers), decided she was going to release her new album early, and it was exactly what we all needed.

For a couple days, none of the other shit mattered. Fiona was saying everything we've wanted to hear, spewing fire, line after line, song after song, truths we've all been thinking for years now. This world is bullshit. It immediately got rave reviews from outlet after outlet. It famously, in a matter of just a couple hours, got a 10 on Pitchfork, and you'd have a hard time finding anybody who didn't think it deserved every decimal of it. People on Twitter were losing their shit, changing their screen names to bolt-cutter-related puns, changing their avatars to Fiona. Something about the music on this album—the primitive percussive pounding, the gut wrenching vocal missives, the hot knife sharp lyrical veracity—got into not just the zeitgeist, but deep into people's psyches, like no other music release I've experienced in my lifetime. More than Kid A, more than any Kanye release, more than Lemonade or 1984. Which is especially impressive considering this album is nuts. And beautiful. It brought me to the point of tears 4 different times on my first listen. Which I don't mention because I think bringing someone to tears is a reliable sign of a good piece of art, or that I'm trying to cash in some woke points for being a sensitive male or some bullshit—simply that Fetch the Bolt Cutters contains a power that transcends music.

You're in the future, and I have no idea how that statement will land with you. Maybe we're all suffering mass psychosis. Maybe it's just a noisy, fussy follow-up to her actual masterpiece The Idler Wheel. Maybe everyone makes jokes about that "10" that's still sitting on its Pitchfork review. To be honest, after that first weekend finished and Monday rolled around again, and the bullshit of this world kept on piling up and the people in charge kept on shoveling onto it, we all moved on. But for about 3 days, we felt like we might actually win, and Fiona was leading the fucking charge.

You're in the future, and I hope the bolt cutters have been fetched.

08.29.2020 - by Steve
Caleta 111Queens
Ceviche, chaufa, tamale

Caleta 111 is a little sliver of a Peruvian ceviche place in a little nothing Queens neighborhood underneath the elevated J tracks, and I had one of the best damn meals in a long time there.

I don't know anything about ceviche, and I honestly was a little tepid about going there to begin with. But it had been on our radar for a long time, and we happened to be close to this weird corner of Queens for the first time in a long time, so what the heck. But yeah. It was incredible, top to bottom. The ceviche, the chaufa (that Peruvian/Chinese fried rice, kinda like Chimborazo's, but sorry Chimborazo, this place has you beat), and even the pork tamale was better than most pork tamales I've ever had. Honestly the liquid that the ceviche sits in was so good I had to pick up the bowl and slurp up the last of it like I was a kid who just finished my Lucky Charms.

I'd say it's in the top 5 meals I've eaten here. Maybe top 3. Top 2? (Sorry, can't get it up to 1... those Olmsted scallops aren't likely to step aside for anybody.)

05.09.2020 - by Steve
Tarim Uyghur CuisineQueens
Lamb kabob, noodles

Queens is the kind of place where you can get Uyghur food in a mall food court and that's just totally normal. And that Uyghur food involves a lamb kabob served to you on a sword.

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.