10.31.2017
Bell Witch
Mirror Reaper

Slow.

10.17.2017
St. Vincent
Masseduction

I had prepared myself to spew my righteous rockist anger at this, St. Vincent's ironic-but-not-ironic-but-maybe-ironic pop cash grab. Produced by that guy who produces everything. Beats by cool beatmakers. A self consciously sexy and colorful marketing push. Pre-release singles that were about Weezer-level dumb things like Los Angeles phonies and, like, pills. Holy shit was I going to tear this album a new one. Or maybe I'd say "Um actually it's a work of genius!". One of those two.

But really, all I have to say is that it's just good. That's it. It's really not much different stylistically than her last album and a half. The pop thing isn't really a thing, and there's just as much guitar wizardry as I'd hope. But still, "Pills"? Really?

10.17.2017
Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile
Lotta Sea Lice

I'm really, really hoping to be wrong about this, and I very well might be, but I think this Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile duet album is a bummer. Why is it a bummer? I don't know. I like both of them (although I like Courtney a whole lot more), and I generally like the idea of what they're doing. But it just doesn't work. Their voices don't sound good together, their songwriting styles don't mesh, it just feels wrong. But I dunno. Hopefully I can delete this post a month from now and write about how much of a dummy I was for writing those last 6 sentences.

10.17.2017
Robert Plant
Carry Fire

I know better than to underestimate any Robert Plant solo album, even now in 2017. Somehow he's retained a Dylan-like baseline of "at least listenable" for everything he records, even now into his 70s, and his record with Alison Krauss earlier in the decade is somehow a transcendent modern classic, despite its kinda-dull-NPRness. So yeah, I'm not surprised that Carry Fire is good. But I am startled by how good it is.

10.17.2017
Kamasi Washington
Harmony Of Difference

"Truth" might be the most beautiful thing Kamasi Washington has recorded. Which is a very high bar.

09.28.2017
Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Luciferian Towers

The first two tracks here are a little bit boring, but the last two really scratch that Godspeed itch.

09.28.2017
Ted Leo
The Hanged Man

So here's this new Ted Leo album, which is pretty exciting, since he's Ted Leo. And even more exciting than usual, because of his recent forays into a gentler, more melodic side of his music with Aimee Mann. Word also got around that he recorded it all himself, in his new home studio, and it was shaping up to be a sort of personal symphony-to-god type record; keyboards and horn sections and choirs and the whole bit. Sounds great. Except for that it doesn't sound great. In the literal auditory sense. It's cool that he put together a home studio and recorded this thing, but just sounds rough. Like a demo for a much better later recording. The drums are dull and soft, the bass is fat and flat, the guitar is okay, but doesn't have nearly the razor edge that his old recordings often had. It's a bummer, because some of the songs are pretty good, but they just fall flat. It's not even a 'recorded so poorly that it becomes even better' lo-fi kind of situation. Real weird album. I'll keep listening to it though. It feels like a grower.

09.19.2017
Kendrick Lamar
Damn

I was wrong about Damn. I heard the singles and wrote it off. "It sounds like he's given up and reaching for radio hits," I grumbled. "It doesn't hold a candle to has last two unimpeachable classics" I groused. "It's everything wrong with the current state of popular music," I whinged. Oh but then I listened to the damn thing. I already said I was wrong, what more do you want from me?


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09.19.2017
Milo
Who Told You To Think??!!?!?!?!

I miss early millennium indie rap. I didn't even like most of it at the time. But compared to the autotuned trap garbage getting thrown around all day every day in 2017, hearing a guy from Maine rap about poetry over electric pianos and jazz samples and breakbeats goes down real smooth. Don't know if I'll ever listen to this album in 2018, but I like having it around for now.

09.11.2017
Iron and Wine
Beast Epic

It seems most of the world has moved on from Iron and Wine after his last couple jazz-inflected Astral Weeks-lite experiments, which I actually liked, but I get it. Everybody is wearing black silk onesies and playing MIDI keyboards and appearing on Beyonce albums now. It makes sense that nobody has much room in their hearts for the beardy sad guy with a guitar. But Sam Beam doesn't care. He's not trying his hand at synthpop or Mumford arena folk. Hell no. In fact he's gone back to his original band and studio and recorded an OG-AF Iron and Wine album. And it's so nice.

09.11.2017
The Cure
Disintegration

I've long held a controversial opinion that Wild Mood Swings is the best Cure album. Look. It's not a hill I'm willing to die on. But I will say that "Plainsong" is untouchable.

08.08.2017
Mary Halvorson Octet
Away With You

I'd heard of Mary Halvorson before in recent years, but I mostly randomly happened upon this new Away With You album. It's a fascinating listen. Halvorson is a jazz/improvisational guitarist, and the octet is made up mostly of what you'd imagine a traditional jazz octet to contain. But the music feels like something truly its own. It's jazz in that it contains improvisation, is mostly instrumental, and moves itself along themes and modal movements, but save for its occasional forays into noisey free-jazz nonsense, the goup plays more like an experimental post-rock band attempting to translate marches and waltzes through the freewheeling horns of a New Orleans parade band. Except I just read that sentence and it's not like that at all. I don't even know. The high points on here are near miraculous; everything comes together behind some beautiful descending chord progression and weirdo guitar melody, and it feels completely fresh and new. And fun! But then all too often, the tracks fall apart into noodly free-jazz bullshit and aimless drum solos. It's not going to find a place in my life the way that more melodically-composed recent albums by Mammal Hands or Courageous Endeavors, but still, this is something worth hearing, refreshingly outside any sort of modern jazz orthodoxy.

07.28.2017
Cornelius
Mellow Waves

The first half of Mellow Waves is Album Of The Year good. It takes everything you loved about Cornelius and melts it down into perfectly composed prog-pop that could only have been created by this one guy. It's a dang joy. The second half, as you probably guessed, sort of comes down from that high. It's not bad at all, but you want it to kick into some newer crazier gear, but instead it just chills out and slowly fades off. Which is fine. But I just feel like this could have been an all time great album. Instead it's merely very, mind-blowingly, frustratingly amazing.

07.22.2017
Sly and the Family Stone
There's a Riot Goin On

Holy shit this is a good record. I'm a little mad that I've never bothered with it before. It's basically the fundamental blueprint of all the best neo-soul and Dilla/Shadow/Kanye hip hop beats that came a couple decades later. It should be played at all parties. Mandatory.

07.17.2017
MIKE
May God Bless Your Hustle

MIKE is a teenager from Queens who I assume is named Mike, and he raps. I can't really pinpoint anything particular about his voice style, he doesn't have any particularly memorable lines to quote back to you, and nothing about his beats or hooks are hummable. But from the standpoint of artistry and honesty, May God Bless Your Hustle feels great. The beats, produced apparently mostly by MIKE and some character named Sixpress, land somewhere in the Madlib/Shadow sphere of rough, analog, introspective hip hop, without worrying too much about old school boom bap or modern day trap bullshit. The whole album just flows, with MIKE's vocals often pushed so high in the mix that his verses sound like late night audio confessionals rather than attempts at stardom. And even if his style isn't exactly flashy or unique, it works through pure honesty and thoughtfulness. Basically, this is a dude I want to root for over the next few years, hoping that he doesn't get caught up in the seemingly bottomless hip hop hype machine that turns every young Bandcamp and SoundCloud rapper into an overexposed sellout.

07.16.2017
Girlpool
Powerplant

Girlpool's first album was a surprise favorite of mine in 2105. It had this rough, tossed off vibe, sounding like two girls who decided to record an album together at the same time that they're just learning to play guitar, yet totally unafraid to just go for it, arranging their perfectly written songs to fit within the constraints of their limited chops, belting every melody in catchy 2-part harmonies, and not giving a damn that they don't know any drummers.

This new one, then, disappointed me at first. It sounds like a band. A band that knows what they're doing. With a quality set of distortion pedals and a drummer who probably teaches lessons on weekends. "And this is a bad thing?" Well, considering the charm of the first Girlpool album, yeah. The rough edges are generally gone, and their vocals have gone from joyous bellows to more generic breathy indie whispers. And yet. And yet it grew on me very quick. The songs and melodies are still fantastic, and their trademark 2-part harmonies are still everywhere. And the drummer kicks ass and it basically rocks. It was a quick turnaround from "Ugh, Girlpool just ruined their sound" to "Top ten of the year" in my book.


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10.17.2017 - by Steve
Isles BunUptown Minneapolis
Cinnamon bun

It's very easy to forget that Isles Bun exists. And that's actually not that bad, because you really don't need to eat these things any more than once or twice a year. But just remember, when you really need that cinnamon roll, feeling some deep longing for the decadence of a Cinnabon without the requisite shame that accompanies it, swallow your pride and go to Uptown and slather your feelings in frosting from their little tub.

09.28.2017 - by Steve
MilkjamUptown Minneapolis
Black chocolate and Turkish coffee ice cream

Milkjam is always busy. Annoyingly busy. Like lined up out the door, every time I go by it, no matter the time of day or season of the year. Also annoying is the fact that it's called "Milkjam", and sells expensive ice cream out of a new construction condo on Lyndale. Most annoying of all: shit, it's really good.

09.11.2017 - by Steve
Nico'sUptown Minneapolis
Tacos

Nico's is the current 'other' house-based restaurant on Hennepin, right next to (the tasty-but-I-can't-believe-they're-still-in-business) Namaste Cafe. It's basically a Mexican place with decent tacos and a nice porch. You could do worse.

08.17.2016 - by Steve
World Street KitchenUptown Minneapolis
Beef shawarma tacos

I'd been to World Street Kitchen a number of times before, and always liked it, but beyond the awesome aloo tikki chaat side dish (which is no longer on their menu, whaaa), I was never floored. Until these beef shawarma tacos came along. And now consider me floored.

08.17.2016 - by Steve
Giordano's Uptown Minneapolis
Chicago style deep dish pizza

Best thing about Giordano's pizza is how there's so fucking much of it.

02.04.2016 - by Steve
Lowry Hill MeatsUptown Minneapolis
Roast beef sandwich, salami sandwich

Lowry Hill Meats wants you to know it is a premium meat purveyor for those with a sophisticated modern urban meat purveying sensibility, and will sophisticatedly purvey said meats for anyone willing to pay a premium for the purveying of sophisticated meats. They will even put those meats into a sandwich for you, in between two pieces of locally baked european bread. You will like the sandwich, because what's not to like? But will you love the sandwich? Can anyone truly love a sandwich?

(Yes. The answer is yes. Just go to Clancey's and get a roast beef sandwich. You will love it. Lowry Hill Meats, meanwhile, you will like just fine. But that's all.)

12.10.2015 - by Steve
Rainbow ChineseUptown Minneapolis
Basil cashew chicken, Singapore mei fun

It's been years and years since I last went to Rainbow, but it seems like not much has changed. It's still good. It's still better enough than your neighborhood China Dragon Wok Star Garden to earn its slightly higher price tag. It's still dark and lonely and secluded on the tail end of Nicollet Avenue. And I'm still glad it exists, because beyond a handful of Szechuan style joints, there are actually shockingly few quality Chinese restaurants to be found in the Cities. Sad to say, but after, say, Mandarin Kitchen and Evergreen and whatsitcalled over off 394, a place like Big Bowl is actually Rainbow's closest competitor. So they'll probably be around for quite a while longer.


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07.24.2015 - by Steve
Prairie DogsUptown Minneapolis
Duck fat and foie gras dog, chili dog

I'll get this out of the way first. Prairie Dogs should be a counter-service eatery. Period. For what they serve (all sorts of fancy hot dogs and sausages), they don't need to be full service. Drives me crazy. This city needs more counter service places. Oh, and also their interior decoration is completely wrong. It's the generic hipster/Pinterest/reclaimed-barn-wood/architectural-antique-lighting-fixture-chic that every fucking restaurant does these days. I'm tired of it. They need to be more like Chicago's (now sadly but maybe mercifully defunct) Hot Doug's. Just make a fun, easy, un-fussy little counter-service joint, and blow people's minds with your crazy hot dog inventions. And about those hot dog inventions... they seem to be on the right track with what I had, even if I didn't exactly love it. The chili dog was fine, though it had a cheddar sauce which was a bit overpowering. Good cheddar, at least, not just crappy Velveeta. A little too rich. The other dog though, seemingly the crown-jewel of their menu, was a dog fried in duck fat (psst, Hot Doug's!), and topped with a currant-and-apple relish, and some foie gras-based concoction. I have to say, the relish was great, but there was some flavor I was catching between the foie gras and the duck fat that I actually found really gross. Like, almost gag-reflex gross. This is probably my fault. I'm not blaming Prairie Dogs. It was a flavor I've experienced before, and didn't like it then, and don't like it now. Yuck. But anyway, the owner was working the bar, and seemed really decent and nice, and patient with his 20-year-old hipster employees, and we had a pleasant conversation about Robin Trower. And they had the Twins game on the TV. So I'll be back. Just, like, counter service. Please.

07.24.2015 - by Steve
PeninsulaUptown Minneapolis
Roti canai

So now that we have it on record that I don't like Nepalese food (see below), I'd like to add this note: I really like Malaysian food. Peninsula seems to make okay Malaysian food, but my heart is with the more local spot Singapore (though the ownership and customer service situation there is comically charming at best, and aggressively incompetent at worst), and a single curry dish that Sea Salt serves and is maybe one of my favorite dishes in the whole city. But no matter how dull some of their entrees might get, Peninsula offers a roti canai, basically a nice chewy sheet of roti bread, and a little cup of chicken and potato curry dipping broth, which is a damn-near perfect plate of food. Even though it's just meant as an appetizer or side for sharing, I feel like I could eat it and nothing else and be totally happy. And at $4.50, I have to think that it's perhaps the best sub-$5 plate of food you can find in this town.


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07.24.2015 - by Steve
Eat Street SocialUptown Minneapolis
Smoked pork chop

My brother's wedding was held this weekend, and for the big fancy rehearsal dinner, we (perhaps on my nudge-nudge recommendation) brought a big group into a private room at Eat Street Social. It obviously wasn't a standard dining experience, with a crew of 20+ and a small prix fixe menu for such an event, so I won't get too much into detail. But here's the gist of it—Mixed greens: dull. Curry pumpkin soup: interesting, but too rich and strong to have an entire bowl of. Fried calamari: as goodas it's supposed to be. Cranberry thyme sausage: Really, really good. Smoked pork chops with white bean carbonara and ratatouille: Really, really, really good. One of the best entrees I've eaten all year. And the portions were surprisingly big. After the desert of pretzel bread pudding, me and everyone else were about ready keel over. Overall, I think I really like this place. I should go back again under less unique circumstances.

11.16.2014 - by Steve
Lake & IrvingUptown Minneapolis
Pulled pork sandwich

Lake & Irving is somewhat invisible, hidden away from the Uptown suck-hole, down Lake street (and Irving, clearly), across the street from Barbette. But it's the best kind of invisible. It's not huge. It's not loud. It's not full of Uptown party girls. It has no "theme." It doesn't have a quirky old woodcut image painted huge on its wall. It doesn't have a bar made from reclaimed fishing boats. It doesn't have a tasteful shelf of mounted rodent skulls in bell jars. It doesn't have a wall of TVs or posters advertising Summit 2-for-1s. It's "just" a restaurant. But my food was delicious, the service was super pleasant, the prices were reasonable, and it was lit well enough to be able to read my book at the bar. This is all that I want! I'm actually kind of astounded that this place is allowed to exist within the boundaries of Uptown. And I hope it sticks around for a while, but I worry its potential audience (reasonable people with taste) have been scared off from that neighborhood permanently.


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11.16.2014 - by Steve
BoneyardUptown Minneapolis
Fried chicken

We all know how I feel about the current state of Uptown, and of the new Minneapolis restaurant scene in general, so I won't depress you here by rehashing my thoughts on that. But this evening I was in a position where I decided to swallow my pride and take off my angry-hat and grab a bite to eat at one of the handful of new Uptown restaurants (or "suburban white person traps," as I like to think of them). Libertine (sigh...) was too busy, so I ended up at Boneyard, which serves "southern style" food in the old Old Chicago space by the bus station. It's big, spacious, expensively designed, and, on a Friday night, half empty. Yikes. Bad sign for Boneyard. Good sign for me, since I could sit at the bar and be left alone to watch the ballgame on TV and eat some fried chicken. And to be completely fair and hopefully positive: it was very good fried chicken! A bit on the crispy side, and drier than I'd like, but very flavorful, and it came with some ghost pepper hot sauce, and some sriracha maple syrup, as well as some hush puppies, cole slaw and a biscuit. Really, it was all very good. But it was also nearly $20 before tip. And there, in a nutshell, is my problem with everything. Do we really need this? Do we need another huge restaurant (owned by the owners of Crave, *eye roll tongue-out emoji*) designed solely to look good in photos and impress out of towners and give some real estate investors a line item for their portfolio? Nobody is going to make this place a regular haunt. It's big and vacuous and unwelcoming and expensive. But it's great fried chicken! Why can't someone just open up a little space, 15-20 tables, and cook up some fried chicken and hush puppies, and not worry about the other 30 menu items, the happy hour specials, the 20 tap beers, the $60k interior design contract, and the fucking scene?

02.15.2014 - by Steve
NightengaleUptown Minneapolis
Spare ribs

My first reaction after eating at Nightengale for the first time was, "What was the point of that?" It was good, I guess. But I didn't (and don't) know what exactly they were trying to do. What is the food saying? What is its mission? If the food were a tree, what kind of tree would it be? The interior was, pub...like? With some slick modern lighting fixtures. And a collection of vintage magnum wine bottles. Who is this for? Why is it here? But you know what? Screw that. A restaurant doesn't need to say anything. It doesn't need a theme. That's how you start getting stuck with the Uptown Cafeterias and the Smack Shacks of the world. Whatever. Nightengale was a nice dark cozy place in which to spend an evening, and they have tasty brussels sprouts and good fries. The ribs were a bit fatty. And everything was a little, like, vinegary. But who cares. It was good. And it's at the very least one small roadblock in the Uptown Theme Park venturing too far down Lyndale.


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02.15.2014 - by Steve
Lyndale Tap HouseUptown Minneapolis
Pit beef sandwich

Now that the Lyndale Tap House isn't as new or cool or popular as it might have been for its first couple years (they have a second location in Apple Valley for cripes sake, how cool could it possibly be?), my third attempt to eat there was finally met with success. They claim their specialty is "pit beef", which is some sort of slow cooked, smoked beef roast situation, sliced and rubbed with some seasoning, plopped on a bun with some horseradish and onion. This is what I ordered. It was exactly what they said it was. I was happy with it. Tender, flavorful. No complaints. I still find there's something a little 'wrong' with the Tap House in general, though; there's a vagueness to it, a certain un-specificity about its presence, trying to be something to everyone, based on the simple facts that the terms "tap house" and "pit beef" will automatically bring in some sort of crowd, which it does. The same unspecific crowd of vagues that now fill up Uptown in general, taking up space at the bar and making sure that I had to wait until late 2013 to find an empty seat.

11.16.2013 - by Steve
EvergreenUptown Minneapolis
Three Cup Chicken

Three cup chicken. The first cup is filled with slow cooked chicken legs, full garlic cloves, full ginger slices, red peppers, basil, and a sesame soy and vinegar sauce. The second cup, I assume, is there for you to spit out all the little chicken bones that you couldn't manage to eat around. The third cup, most important of all, is there to collect all the tears you've shed having just eaten a beautiful plate of honest-to-god quality Chinese food. Evergreen, friends. Put it on the short list.


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