04.18.2019
Brutus
Nest

Brutus is a metal (post hardcore?) band from Belgium, with a rare triple threat drummer-slash-frontwoman, who sounds exactly like Bjork destroying her vocal chords to At The Drive In. The first two songs they released convinced me this would be the album of the year, and the album art was even engaging enough that I hauled myself all the way to Williamsburg to buy a physical copy of it on its release day. Two weeks later, I'm already kinda bored with it. After the initial excitement of hearing Bjork howl her guts out to some steely, reverby heaviness, you get a little sick of hearing Bjork howl her guts out to steely reverby heaviness. And also it's not actually Bjork.

04.09.2019
Wyes Blood
Andromeda

This is a very lovely album of graceful Laurel Canyon-inspired writer-pop, lush pristine and precise, and that's all I really have to say about it at the moment. I just wanted to post this right away because the album cover is so nice that I want it up at the top of this blog for a while.

04.06.2019
These New Puritans
Inside The Rose

This new These New Puritans album isn't as good as that old These New Puritans album. But it's still real good, in a way that music in 2019 rarely is. Slow, thoughtful, intense. I'm not going to sit and write a big obituary for Talk Talk's Mark Hollis (which is a huge bummer, and he's every bit the genius all the other obituaries have made him out to be), but These New Puritans really do feel to me like a 21st century continuity of Hollis's late Talk Talk and solo work. Not at all in a soundalike way, but in the way that they seem spiritually in touch with each deliberate sound they make. I have issues with some of their choices that I don't with Hollis (such as, why are so many of their instruments electronically programmed instead of recorded in studio?), but the effect in the end is nearly always beautiful.

(Side note: The CD version of Inside The Rose has fantastically designed packaging. Clear sleeves, overlapping printing, a unique booklet. I know nobody really buys CDs anymore [of course not "nobody," but that's the standard line], but it's worth checking out if you're in to this kind of thing.)

04.06.2019
Moon Tooth
Crux

When Moon Tooth's Chromaparagon came out a couple years ago, I liked the shit out of it. It was easily in my top 2 or 3 or 5 albums of that year, and I actually listened to it. A ton. It took a while to fully embrace it, because at first blush their music leans pretty heavily into the lamest of muses. Incubus, for one. Alien Ant Farm (even though, look, I kinda like Alient Ant Farm). Tool (sigh, same). And especially Dillinger Escape Plan, who isn't necessarily lame, but they're not really at the cutting edge of metal in the 20-teens. If you weren't really paying attention, Moon Tooth could strike you as a marginally progressive nu metal or post hardcore band, and then you'd never think about them again. This is what I nearly did at first, but some of their music was just too interesting to ignore. The more I listened, the more even the initially eye-rolling parts started to reveal themselves as subtly brilliant. Drum patterns played with rhythm while guitar lines went to surprising places; riffs would morph into new forms instead of repeating ad nauseam, and actually revealed an unpredictable, Mastodon influence that wasn't initially apparent; the singer didn't just sounds like The Guy From Incubus, but he actually found surprising and soulful melodies within the band's chaotic churn. And perhaps most amazingly, given the state of metal over the last, oh, 25 years, their music is fun. It's energetic, affirming, and downright joyful.I swear I listened to this fucker once a week the entire year of 2016.

Then a month ago, as I hoped might happen (they're from Long Island, and I'm now here in New York), I caught them live at a heavy metal bar in Greenpoint. The bar was over half empty, which is maybe to be expected because it was a weekday night and they hadn't yet released their new record (that this review is ostensibly about), but most simply because Moon Tooth is not a popular band. Did you read the first couple sentences of this post? They're not cool, their music is not en-vogue, and they are basically ignored by the metal cook kids table. Still, it was a bummer to see how few people actually came out to see this band, because shit: they put on a show. They play with energy and feeling like you barely see these days, the singer constantly jumping into the crowd, running back and forth (even running back to the bar to sing directly to seated drinkers, who may or may not have even been there for the show), guitar player fucking feeling it. But they weren't just a bunch of douchebags hamming it up on stage. They were total pros. They played flawlessly, tight as hell, and exploding with energy. Honestly one of the best performances I've seen a band give in a long, long time. I was double sold.

And now their sophomore album Crux is out. Honestly there's nothing terribly surprising on it, no major stylistic shifts, no huge surprises, except maybe for the proggy-ass double-time King Crimson saxophone breakdown at the end of the opening track, or the Van Halen influence that shows up for brief moments on two different songs. But it's fucking great, from front to back, in a way that confirms everything I'd thought about these guys in the last couple years. And more; I'm honestly at the point right now that I feel comfortable calling Moon Tooth one of the best metal bands working today. Full stop. I don't think many other people will jump on that train, but whatever. Maybe they speak to me in a way they don't speak to other people. Maybe they need to get some high profile gigs to convince the tastemakers of their value. Maybe their bass player needs to stop wearing a backwards baseball hat.

Crux rules. Moon Tooth rules. I promise my next post won't be as long.

03.23.2019
La Dispute
Panorama

La Dispute sounds like if Sparta took a few years off after their first album and got really into poetry and Slint.

03.23.2019
Oozing Wound
High Anxiety

Holy hell this album is good. These guys come from the Chicago DIY/noise/punk scene (in fact Erin, who used to be extremely cool and lived in a warehouse in the middle of that scene, kinda knew these guys), and they've been described by music outlets in those noise-adjacent terms. And I guess they're pretty lo-fi, they eschew nimble guitar solos for squalls of noise, and they have songs titles like "Tween Shitbag," but to my ears this is metal through-and-through. But this is beyond just 'a few Chicago noise dudes getting together and trying to be a metal band,' this is legit quality trash metal. Even while the intensity is through the roof on every single track, the riffing and chord construction is downright sophisticated. Minors turn to majors, shit gets augmented, bridges take surprise turns, dissonant assaults get thrown in when necessary, no decision is ever the wrong one. Their aesthetic promises a snotty joke, but their output is exceptional. If I have any qualms, it's in the vocals, which maybe do lean more towards a noise punk thing, but whatever. They're intense and real, rather than a guy trying to be a metal guy. Shit, did I mention I like this album?

03.19.2019
Panda Bear
Buoys

It's been a long time since I've really had faith or excitement in anything Animal Collective related. In my own estimation, it's been diminishing returns since Feels, which was a long time ago now. Actually I don't want to think about how long. Same goes for Panda Bear himself, whose Person Pitch album was pretty great, but has generally ridden the same slow slide in the last decade as his band. No shame, it happens to everyone. So it feels like a breath of fresh air listening to Buoys, which, sure, feels a little 'minor' compared to some of his more epic work, but is otherwise a incredibly pleasant return to some of the more wide-open melodicism and DIY construct of the Collective's earlier work. You know, the Good Shit. Really Buoys is probably the closest to Sung Tongs as anything anyone from the group has done in the last decade. But lighter, more 'mature,' and comfortably less showy. Which is maybe what he's needed to do all along.

03.19.2019
Bob Mould
Sunshine Rock

This new Bob Mould album rips hard bro. But that cover. That cover. My god.

03.11.2019
Will Oldham
Joya

I did that thing with Will Oldham / slash / Bonnie Prince Billy where I jumped into his career kind of in the middle, and then mostly just went forward from there, assuming (erroneously) that the body of work before that entry point would be lesser than from that point forward. This is a dumb thing to do and I shouldn't do it. Because, as I've recently learned, in Will Oldham's particular case, his early stuff apparently rules. Joya is a joy. No shit.

02.28.2019
Windhand
Eternal Return

Doom metal is so fucking boring. But Windhand is so fucking good. What am I supposed to do? Well what I'm going to is sit here and type about how frustrating it is to listen to this band, because they're so, so, so close to really breaking through and making something transcendent, but are hamstrung by the conventions is the dumb genre they've tied themselves to. These guys/girl have a real sense of how to spin a melody and construct a riff that's way beyond what most metal bands are able to do. This shit actually gets stuck in my head! Like, legitimate hooks! Plus they sing! I mean, kind of in a Jerry Cantrell sorta 90s melodic grunge kind of way, but dammit they sing! They harmonize! They go for those high notes! But it's all in service of this by-the-numbers, detuned syncopated distorted blues riffage that defines the entire world of "doom" metal. The guitar and bass barely depart from one another, just mirroring each other until maybe it's time for a solo. These so much opportunity in these songs, so much space for melodic counterpoints and chord construction, but instead they just play real slow Sabbath shit. Look, they do it better than most other bands playing slow Sabbath shit these days (and did I mention they sing??). But there's so much potential in this band that I get a little frustrated listening to them—and I'm going to now listen for the 12th time this week because they rule.

02.28.2019
Sunny Day Real Estate
LP2

I don't think I ever sat and listened to this Sunny Day Real Estate album front to back before, but something about it this morning just felt right, so I put it on. And it's doing its job admirably. Plus it's pink which is nice.

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????

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.