02.13.2019
The Mars Volta
Amputechture

I'm not always in the mood for the Mars Volta. But when I'm in the mood for the Mars Volta, the Mars Volta is the greatest band of all time.

02.12.2019
Jessica Pratt
Quiet Signs

I used to not like Jessica Pratt, but then she released this new album and now I do. This is some beautiful spooky stuff.

(Side note: Jessica Pratt has a notably odd voice. It's lovely and she sings well, but it sounds almost like someone else's voice sped up. At one point I got curious and wanted to hear what it might sound like slowed down, so I dragged a song into my audio editing program and shifted the pitch down about a half octave. What came out is honestly one of the most enchanting "male" voices I've ever heard—somewhere between Jose Gonzalez and Sam Beam and Joao Gilberto, but with a control and purity that none of them can match. I know this is just make believe, and a construction of digital manipulation, but damn. As much as I like Jessica Pratt's voice, I'm finding myself crestfallen that this fantasy man singer doesn't actually exist.)

01.29.2019
Walter Martin
Reminisce Bar & Grill

God I hate when this happnes one of my favorite music guys Walter Martin who had my favorite album of a couple yaera a go released a new album in Frebruary of last year and I didn't even know about it and I missed a whole year of listening to it and it probably would've been in my top 10 because guess what it's super good but I just heard about it today and why didn't anyone etell me about it befor e now????

01.24.2019
Makayla McCraven
Universal Beings

This is a very nice jazz album to listen to.

01.21.2019
Foxwarren
Foxwarren

At the beginning of 2018, I discovered this record The Party by a Canadian singer songwriter named Andy Shauff. It's a great album of great songs, and it was one of my favorite albums of the year. Except I couldn't put it on my Best of 2018 list because it came out in 2016. Oops. But then, late in December, like a traveling magi visiting my midnight stable with the region's finest frankincense, Andy Shauff's band Foxwarren releases their new album. And while it's not quite as great as The Party, it's still damn good, and more or less sounds like a Shauff album. See Best Of list below.

12.31.2018
Steve's Favorite Music of 2018
A List

Oh crap it's New Years Eve and I haven't posted my year end lists yet oh my god oh my god I better hurry up! Here's the deal for this year: I'm gonna go ahead and throw EPs and singles and compilations on the list. Because there are 4 specifically that really did it for me this year, and I'm just going to treat them all like equals. It's (almost) 2019, and it's a new landscape for media! Anything goes! Content! Here's my list:

1. Ryley Walker - The Lilywhite Sessions*
2. Hailu Mergia - Lala Belu
3. Chastity - Death Lust
4. Ought - Room Inside the World
5. Sidney Gish - No Dogs Allowed
6/7. Jeff Rosenstock - POST**
6/7. Barely March - Marely Barch**
8. Khadja Bonet - Childqueen
9. American Pleasure Club - A Whole Fucking Lifetime of This
10. Fluisteraars - De Oord
11. The Mountain Goats - Hex of Infinite Binding
12. Superchunk - What A Time To Be Alive
13. Warthog - Warthog
14. Mick Jenkins - Pieces of a Man
15. Prince - Piano and a Microphone 1983
16. Self Defense Family - Self Defense Family
17. Natalie Prass - The Future and the Past
18. Sandro Perri - In Another Life
19. Foxwarren - Foxwarren
20. The Internet - Hive Mind

*I can't fuckin believe it either
** These are tied, because they're so spiritually similar that it seems silly to separate them. Barely March basically got his break by covering a Jeff Rosenstock song for a compilation.

12.30.2018
Fluisteraars
De Oord

This is one of those beautiful rare black metal releases that makes me want to open up a window like the reformed Mr. Scrooge on Christmas Day and shout, "You there, boy, tell me, why can't all black metal be this good??". And the boy will look up and answer, "Why, because it's Danish sir!" Well, I don't know if the Danish part has anything to do with it other than making their band name nearly unpronouncable, but the point is that Fluisteraars have unlocked some sort of black metal composition holy writ, and every one of the 15 minutes of this song (yes it's just one song, but it may as well be a full album. A symphony, even) is perfect. I've dug into some older work of theirs, and while it's quite good, I feel like De Oord is where they've really figured it out. So kind of like VRTRA from a couple years ago, I'm going to be on the edge of my seat waiting for these Danes to release a new full length as soon as possible.

12.30.2018
Mitski
Be The Cowboy

Everyone's real into this Mitski album but I'm kinda not. I think it sounds like St. Vincent but not as good.

12.13.2018
Blake Mills
Look

Blake Mills released a beautifully unique alt country (?) album back in 2014 that I can no longer listen to because it's just one of those albums. Then I guess he just started producing for other artists ($), which is remarkable in 2018 because he's what you might call a guitar guy and it's 2018. But now he's finally returned! With an all-synth instrumental EP? Okay. It's very chill, which, by the way, in 2019 I'm hoping chill will no longer be an adjective. Or verb. I also hope Blake Mills puts out some more music. Because, look, Look is good and chill (shit!), but this guy has to have more up his sleeve.

12.08.2018
Ryley Walker
The Lilywhite Sessions

My relationship with Dave Matthews and his band is a complicated one which I won't get into here. Well actually, it's not that complicated and I will get into it here: I don't really like Dave Matthews Band, but sometimes they do something that I like. There. So. Ryley Walker, whom I have already written about on this blog during this calendar year, apparently grew up a huge Dave Matthews fan, and even though he's now an infamously scuzzy Chicago post-Tortoise-rock figurehead, he has not let go of his love. So after releasing one fantastic album this year (Deafman Glance, as seen on my top ten albums of the year list, I'm sure), he decided to get some of his cuzzy Chicago post-Tortoise-rock friends together and record a full album cover of a Dave Matthews Band album. And it's shockingly good. Maybe even better than Deafman Glance, which I've already pointed out as being in my top ten this year. It's a passionately earnest album; although I don't know the original DMB version of The Lilywhite Sessions, it's clear that Walker isn't trying to deconstruct or reinterpret or otherwise ironically play these songs. Yes, he's doing it in his own voice, and changing arrangements here or there, but it's fully from the heart, lovingly performed, and fully musical. Almost makes me want to dig in to the original Dave version lol jk yeah right.

11.08.2018
Warthog
Warthog

I hate when people say things "rip," but this album rips.

10.02.2018
Low
Double Negative

This new Low album is indeed the best Low album in a long time, but also isn't the paradigm shifting masterpiece that some people are making out to be. It's a real cool headfuck and a good listen while out for a walk late on a cool autumn night though.

09.16.2018
George Clanton
Slide

I got this album by this "George Clanton" kid, who does "vaporwave"—which I can hardly stand to type without using scare quotes—and it's so dreamy and odd nebulous and that I forgot that I even bought it until I just saw it in my iTunes. This has happened every other day for the last two weeks. I mean "dreamy and odd and nebulous" in the best way though. I honestly don't exactly know what "vaporwave" usually sounds like, although I sort of kind of have the general idea of it, but this isn't exactly that. This is something else, some kind of millennial fantasy of XTC with trip hop breakbeats and shoegazey drones, and a bit of modern day bedroom r&b. Actually it plays well with this year's American Music Club's A Whole Fucking Lifetime Of This, the idea of a young 20-something taking a bunch of "old" 90s touch points and throw them seemingly blindly into a home recording blender and pouring out a mix that is, my god, something interesting and listenable. Also it makes me wonder if Jack Drag is ever going to have a renaissance.

08.22.2018
Trust Fund
Bringing the backline

Apparently this is going to be Trust Fund's last album, which is a bummer because I feel like Trust Fund still has unexplored greatness in them. That's unfair actually; their Seems Unfair album is truly great. Really everything they've done is some shade of great, even if this one is a little paler than the others. But I still don't want them to stop. We'll see.

08.22.2018
The Internet
Hive Mind

I'm gonna make this statement, but I'm not gonna be too passionate about it: The Internet's "La Di Da" is my Summer Jam of 2018. Except I still can't figure out where the beat actually lands; it's as if they took the ProTools file and shifted every track over by a half beat. Still a cool song though. Steve Lacy gets it.

07.25.2018
Melody's Echo Chamber
Bon Voyage

This album is basically Dungen and Tame Impala jamming while a French girl coo's some vocals over it. Your mileage may vary. My mileage, however, will very.

07.24.2018 - by Steve
The Naughty GreekSt. Paul
Lamb

I hate that this place is called The Naughty Greek, I hate their logo, I hate the graphics on their wall, and I hate that they call it "Athenian street food." But this is honestly the best Greek food I've had in the cities. Wildly good.

07.23.2018 - by Steve
Mucci'sSt. Paul
Lasagna, donuts

A Mucci's review, in 3 parts.

Part I:
I live in St. Paul now. Maybe I've told you this. Less than a block from where I recently moved to—really more like on the back side of my block and down a few lots—is Mucci's, an Italian restaurant. Mucci's popped up a short time ago. A year? Two years? I don't know exactly, because it's St. Paul, and as I said, I didn't live in St. Paul before now. But Mucci's didn't exist before, and suddenly it exists. And it's weird. Because it should be a "good" restaurant; small corner space, no big annoying sign, quiet residential neighborhood which isn't quite to the point of being "up and coming" just yet, just trying to play it cool. But then, just as suddenly, the local grocery store chain is selling Mucci's frozen pizzas! This doesn't make sense. How can this place suddenly be selling frozen pizzas while also being a small, respectable little neighborhood Italian restaurant?

Part II:
You know that thing people say about eating at a good restaurant on a Sunday night? Where they say "You shouldn't eat at a good restaurant on a Sunday night"? I think maybe that might've been the problem. Because we first ate at Mucci's on a Sunday night, and it was rough. Undercooked garlic bread. Undercooked noodles. Lasagna that was both burnt and seemingly reheated from about 2 days previous. I think it all could've been good; not amazing, but good. But they seemingly just had the C-squad staff on for that Sunday night, and were just getting rid of Friday's lasagna. In short, it was a huge bummer.

Part III:
Did I mention I live in St. Paul now, just around the corner from Mucci's? Because another weird thing about the place that I learned from walking past the sandwich board outside is that they serve donuts on the weekends! Just like all the Italian restaurants in Italy! So even after the weird-to-bad experience on that Sunday night, they're still the closest place to get a donut on a Sunday morning. The first donut attempt was a minor letdown; much like many high-priced "good" donuts in the world, they just didn't cut it. They were weirdly wet, hard to eat, and not really worth the price. However, on the second donut attempt (really the third Mucci's attempt in general, which is incredible considering how hard they blew the first one), there was light. The parmesan cheese donut. We're talking just a regular cake donut, with a subtle glaze on it, not too sweet, and topped with sprinkling of fresh grated parmesan. I don't know if this is a thing that other donut places have tried, but something about the savory bite of the cheese on top of a just slightly sweet donut really, really worked. Really one of the best fancy donuts I've ever had. My only real gripe is that it's too big, and hard to eat much more than half of the donut, since the cheese gets rich. But dang, this donut was good enough to make me want to give Mucci's a fourth chance.

06.19.2018 - by Steve
TavialSt. Paul
Tacos al pastor

Hey, guess what?? I moved to St. Paul! Yessir, down to the Irish Catholic boonies of ol' Pig's Eye, more or less the middle of nowhere, just off West 7th. There's not a whole lot of food around here. Mostly just a shocking number of shockingly similar Irish bars—or at least bars with shamrocks in their logos. And Mucci's. But we'll get to Mucci's later. The one bright spot so far, however, is Tavial, a little taqueria located in what was probably a fast food joint of some sort. I was told that this place was good, but that recommendation left off about 4 o's, because Tavial is gooooood. Truly some of the best tacos I've had in this town, full stop. Even their rice is better than the usual spanish rice you get at these places. The al pastor was the clear winner, but I also had carnitas, which was just as crispy and flavorful as you'd hope carnitas to be. You know what? I'm going to add 4 more o's. Tavial is gooooooooood.

04.03.2018 - by Steve
Thai CafeSt. Paul
Sour pork ribs

The Thai Cafe might be the most indistinguishablest of all the indistinguishable Thai and Vietnamese places clustered on University Avenue in St. Paul. That name, Thai Cafe. I mean, it's not wrong! Or is it? It's really just a restaurant, not exactly a care. But what is a cafe? Where does that line get drawn? Anyway, it really doesn't matter that they have a boring name, because like Clark Kent spinning around in a broom closet and becoming Batman (did I do that right?), the Thai Cafe has a superpower called Sour Pork Ribs. These things, man. The City Pages Best-Of write up specifically mentioned the sour pork ribs, the Eater write up mentioned the pork ribs, and sure enough every other table in the restaurant had ordered the sour pork ribs. Garlicky, sour, pleasantly chewy, sour, spicy, sour, very red. So red. I don't want to go all the way in saying that the Thai Cafe is the best Thai Place in town; the other dishes were above average, but these dang ribs are good enough that it's automatically in the conversation.

04.03.2018 - by Steve
Halftime RecSt. Paul
Cheeseburger

On a search for some good St. Paul burger spots (aside from the obvious Nook or Blue Door), I kept seeing Halftime Rec pop up on lists. More specifically, I saw "The Paddy Shack at Halftime Rec". Whatever that means. Halftime Rec is one of those classic St. Paul bars that I've heard about a bunch, but always assumed was just a dumb sports bar. But I think I might've confused it with Gabe's In The Park, because really Halftime Rec is more of a classic corner dive. It's big, but there's really not much to it. Which is great. Why they call the food "The Paddy Shack At..." I'm still not sure, but whatever. Anyway, we got this supposedly famous burger of theirs, and it was fine but nothing special. Give it a shot anyway though, it's a decent little place.

06.13.2016 - by Steve
The French Hen CafeSt. Paul
Banh mi benedict

A banh mi benedict! It's like banh mi! But in benedict form! Are you slapping your forehead as much as I am? It's so obvious. Honestly this is one of the best breakfasts I've had in a long time—pretty much perfect. And this one meal alone (and a couple bites of their shockingly dense yet somehow still moist pancakes) has vaulted the French Hen up towards the top of the Twin Cities breakfast joint hierarchy as far as I'm concerned.

02.21.2016 - by Steve
Surly Brewing Co.St. Paul
Brisket sandwich

I don't drink beer. But I do eat brisket sandwiches. And this was a good (if slightly overpriced) brisket sandwich. And even better (but still overpriced) corn bread. Apparently people like their beer, too. But you know what people don't like? Communal seating. Nobody.


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02.11.2016 - by Steve
Red LanternSt. Paul
Sushi, Japanese sausages

Aged tuna nigiri: great. Red snapper nigiri: great. Flounder and shiso nigiri: great. Kampachi nigiri: great. Urchin nigiri: great. Scraped tuna nigiri: great. Winter roll: great. Prices: high. Waitstaff: obnoxious. Japanese sausage: tastes like lil smokies. Bartender's Asian-person impression: regretful. TV behind the bar: Pokemon. Location: the old Fuji Ya space in St. Paul. Original location: White Bear Lake (really!). Ramen: TBD. Red Lantern: sure!

01.29.2016 - by Steve
Saint DinetteSt. Paul
Bologna sandwich, latkes

The Saint Dinette, see, isn't actually a dinette. It's irony. Because it's kinda fancy, see. Right there, top of the menu, you can't even pronounce that stuff! But then a few items below those, here's one you can pronounce, despite its tricky spelling—a bologna sandwich! Well what the heck! That's not fancy! I ate those as a kid! I'll have one, please! This'll probably be the best bologna sandwich you've ever had, because it's on the menu at a place that uses "dinette" ironically. Except it's kinda salty and super greasy and desperately needs some sort of mustard.

This second paragraph is about the potato latkes, which were delicious, and don't deserve to be in that previous snark-filled diatribe, even if they were no better than the delicious latkes you'd get at Cecil's, a place which is much closer to actually being a "dinette." Really, the bologna didn't deserve it either. It was fine. The Saint Dinette is fine.

01.29.2016 - by Steve
Mama's PizzaSt. Paul
Pizza, pasta

Mama's Pizza, you St. Paul residents have had me believe, is the city's hidden gem of a neighborhood pizza place. For years I have have heard your whispers and seen your Yelp stars. I even tried going this summer and found it to be packed to the brim and lined up out the door, so respected was its reputation. Well I've now eaten at Mama's Pizza, St. Paul residents—and I am not impressed. Its pizza is Red's Savoy with a more crackery crust. Its pasta is tame and dull even by Marcello's / Donatello's / Michaelangelo's standards. Like, I mean, it's fine though. If you're in the neighborhood, it's probably great to have around. Particularly the pizza. But don't worry if you're not. You have your own place nearby, I'm sure.

12.31.2015 - by Steve
Hoa BienSt. Paul
Bánh xèo, beef noodle salad

Hey, you! There's more to Vietnamese food than banh mi and pho, okay? And it all contains rice noodles, bean sprouts, mint and fish sauce. Lots of it. And if you want some of it, you could do worse than Hoa Bien I guess. Just bring like four more people with you.

12.31.2015 - by Steve
Ha Tien MarketSt. Paul
Banh Mi

This was a good banh mi. Maybe not the best banh mi, but it was a good banh mi. This place does have a bunch of other stuff in its deli that all looks delicious though, and I want to try one of each. I just don't know what any of it is.

12.03.2015 - by Steve
The Buttered TinSt. Paul
Turkey dinner hand-pie, cinnamon roll

The Buttered Tin seems like a real nightmare for Sunday brunch—people everywhere, cramped seating, all the hallmarks—even if the food is good. Luckily they also have a decent selection of pastries if you can squeeze your way to the counter. The cinnamon roll: exactly as good as it looks. The salted caramel chocolate cookie: rich. But the hero was the 'turkey dinner hand-pie,' a seasonal (I assume) pasty-style concoction filled with turkey and gravy and cranberries and maybe some mashed potato. It was even better than my own Thanksgiving leftovers. All in all, this place seems alright—like a more modern and slightly better Turtle Bread. Hopefully I can get one more turkey hand pie before they shut them down for the season.

11.26.2015 - by Steve
Ward 6St. paul
Biscuits and Gravy

I like Ward 6 so far. Just based on their brunch, I guess, but just the mood and atmosphere and ambience of the place felt very positive to me. Friendly and unfussy. The kind of place that, despite being new and popular, is becoming an endangered species. I had the biscuits and gravy, not the absolute best I've ever had, but still better than your average diner b&g. The harissa-spiked eggs benedict was also better than average, though not paradigm shifting. The beignets... skip'em.


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11.13.2015 - by Steve
Bonnie's CafeSt. Paul
Breakfast stuff

Hey check it out, it's a breakfast review! What a treat. I ate this morning at Bonnie's Cafe in St. Paul, on University and Cretin. Or Vandalia? Whatever. This is one of those increasingly rare places that is truly a hole-in-the-wall, neighborhood mom-n-pop breakfast nook. It's the very definition of a small town greasy spoon diner, seemingly untouched—save for some occasional paint jobs—since about 1960. It's charming. It's kinda gross, but it's charming. Unfortunately, where Bonnie's can't keep up with its across-the-river contemporaries of Al's Breakfast and the Ideal Diner, is that it's just kinda not very good. It's fine, just your regular run of the mill breakfast fare, but nothing beyond what you could get anywhere else. No reason to go out of your way.