Room Inside The World

Ought has never fully won me over on a single album. I'm fully in love with 3-4 of their songs, but a lot of their other ones are just a little too Wire/Fall/post-punky for my baby ears. But when they're on, they're on. Italicized. This new one, then, is a bit surprising; it doesn't have that 1 killer single, but at the same time, the whole record comes together better for me than their others. Mostly that's because they've clearly shifted their sound into a more "melodic" direction. Scare quotes mandatory, since their singer has a, um, unique (italicized) way of delivering words into a microphone. Speaking of unique vocalizing, do you like Future Islands?

Andy Shauf
The Party

Here's one I seriously missed from 2016. In fact I think most people missed it. Most people except for Cornelius and Jeff Tweedy, both of which are on record in interviews mentioning Andy Shauf as one of their favorite new artists. And if Jeff Tweedy and Cornelius recommend somebody, I am absolutely on board, and it took me less than 30 seconds of listening to one track on this album to be totally sold. This is some Jim O'Rourke-level guitar pop arrangement, with melodies that are immediately impactful (and winding and dreamy and all those other good words), sung by a guy who almost sounds like the singer from Clinic. Just weird enough. And I guess this record is a concept album about a party. Anyway, had I known about this in 2016, it certainly would've made my Best Of The Year list. Maybe not #1, but damn high anyway.


I'm a little bummed that this new Rhye album isn't better than it is.

Jeff Rosenstock

This dude Jeff Rosenstock is a famous and respected figurehead of the 21st century punk-ska scene. I'll pause until you stop laughing. Anyway he's actually a legit good dude, and writes songs that far exceed what you'd expect from such a dude; his solo stuff, like this new POST record is really more power pop than pop punk. But it's a little of that, too. Anyway, POST is really frikkin good, and he yells "FUCK NO!" in one song and it gives me shivers, man.

Oh, and a couple songs sound like Aqueduct, which is weird.

Steve's Favorite Music of 2017
A List

1. Girlpool - Powerplant
2. Cornelius - Mellow Waves
3. Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau - Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau
4. Ryan Adams - Prisoner
5. One And Future Band - Once and Future Band
6. Sampha - Process
7. Mastodon - Cold Dark Place EP
8. Kendrick Lamar - Damn
9. Mount Eerie - A Crow Looked At Me
10. Father John Misty - Pure Comedy

Bell Witch
Mirror Reaper


St. Vincent

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?

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.

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.

Kamasi Washington
Harmony Of Difference

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

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.

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.

Kendrick Lamar

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?

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.

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.

The Cure

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.

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.

11.26.2016 - by Steve
Lu's SandwichesNortheast Minneapolis
Pork banh mi

Sometimes this music and food blog is about food. But often (lately) it's about me complaining about the state of food in this city, and really about the state of this city in general, which seems to be steamrolling forward towards... something... without trying to figure out what that thing might be, instead just handing the keys over to a small handful of developers who in turn hand retail space leases over to a small handful of restaurant food and liquor retail entrepreneurs who then maybe make good food, but mostly pay restaurant interior design companies and design and marketing companies a ton of money to make their spaces look good—but more importantly, brand-expandable—in the hopes that they can have a successful year or two and then open a second and third and fourth location, and maybe god willing become the next Chipotle.

Focusing my attention on Northeast this time around, specifically the 'downtown' Northeast area, anchored by Surdyk's and Kramarczuk's and, well, formerly Nye's [this space reserved for future angry essay about the motherfuckers who destroyed Nye's, and pretty much sealed the deal on proving nothing in this town is sacred and that we'll all just be a condo eventually]. Here's a quick tour of those couple blocks:

• Rachel's - dying
• Chipotle - chain
• Noodles - chain
• Ginger Hop - lame
• Kramarczuk's - god help us the day they close
• Pizza Nea - fine
• Punch Pizza - chain trying to shut down Nea
• Jimmy Johns - chain
• Keegan's - fine
• JL Beers - local chain from Mankato
• Rachel's - dying
• Butcher Block - fine
• Masu - locations in MOA and Apple Valley
• New Bohemia - locations in Golden Valley and Roseville
• The Bulldog- locations downtown and Uptown
• Whitey's - second location in Stillwater
• Ray J's - chain
• Conga - fine
• Brasa - at least one other location
• Rusty Taco - chain
• Spitz - probably a chain, or will be soon. Either way, who on earth wants to eat at a place called Spitz??
• Savoy Inn - chain. Used to be a beloved mom n pop joint.

Which brings us to:
• Lu's Sandwiches - second location on Nicollet

I liked Lu's pork banh mi a lot. With the standard banh mi caveats applied (that french bread is always too crusty!), it was a pretty flawless and authentic sandwich. Awesome, great, good. But to bring us back around to my central issue here: This isn't just a quality Vietnamese sandwich place. It's the second, new-construction condo based, location of what maybe once was just a quality Vietnamese sandwich place, but is now clearly gunning to become the next Chipotle. Funky fresh clean interiors. Funky fresh clean graphic design. A big logo on their bright green wall. A menu and build-it-in-front-of-you service taken straight from the Chipotle playbook. And of course a price tag for a sandwich that was a solid couple bucks pricier than what you'd pay at a "real" Vietnamese sandwich place. Because the interior design firm doesn't work for fish sauce and shaved carrots.

What am I complaining about? I enjoyed my sandwich. Can I really fault somebody for trying to make a buck? Maybe this is the only way you can run a restaurant these days. Franchise or die? I guess? But this doesn't seem to be the norm in places like New York and Chicago and other "food cities." Or is it? I don't know. I just know that I just moved to Northeast, and was excited to see what that area has been up to lately. And when 75% of the options around are places that I could have anywhere else in the city, what's the point? At which point does living in the city become no better or different than living in the suburbs? I can get Masu there too. And now Nye's is gone and there will be a new glass box there, probably with a new Hola Arepa location, or maybe a Sonora Grill, or really just probably a Potbelly, because what's the difference anymore.