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May 16, 2024

Corridor

Mimi

Here’s a cool Montreal post punk band, who’s music is pretty good, but all I can think about is that cover art.

May 16, 2024

Inter Arma

New Heaven

Everyone’s loved Inter Arma for years now, and I’ve tried, and I’ve tried, but I never really got it. But this one, this one I get. Extreme metal that’s not afraid to get weird. But not too weird. And the centerpiece is this big bass-forward instrumental that plays like almost like “Orion” or “Anesthesia (Pulling Teeth).” Why doesn’t every metal do one of those on every album?

May 7, 2024

Micky Greaney

And Now It's All This

From what I’ve been able to read (not much), Micky Greaney is a singer/songwriter from Yorkshire who recorded this album in 1996, got some sweet offers for a record deal, and turned them all down. And that was it. He appears to have some sort of local-legend (“legend”) status in Yorkshire, but his music and reputation elsewhere in the world, or even England, seems to be naught.

This happens sometimes in the internet age, where these lost records somehow find the light of day and find some bit of modern acclaim. Usually it’s some record collector, crate digger who brings them to light—or Light In The Attic. But here it seems to be Micky himself, or maybe an associate of his, trying to bring this album back to light. There’s an odd bit of desperation in the PR, but also a bit of mystery. Like, who tf is this guy? What is this about?

Whatever it’s about, whoever this guy is—wow this is a nice album! This guy had something! Pretty down-the-middle, Britpop, singer-songwriter stuff. But it was produced by the guy who produced The Bends, features the galdang Prague Symphony Orchestra. This isn’t some home-baked lo-fi outsider situation. Micky Greaney could’ve, honestly, been big.

May 1, 2024

Dew

Gospel of Mycelium

These guys kinda suck but I like that they’re called Dew.

Just kidding, they’re pretty good. I don’t know why I said that.

April 17, 2024

Oisin Leech

Cold Sea

I like Steve Gunn. He’s a good and clever guitar player with a talent for arrangements. But his actual songwriting and vocal work has never won me over.

Oisin Leech, meanwhile, I don’t know much about Oisin Leech. It seems he was in a kinda-dumb early aughts garage rock band, then was park of an alt-folk duo for a while, but beyond that your guess is as good as mine. But what I can tell you about Oisin Leech is that he has a nice voice and writes nice songs.

This album, his first solo collection, is produced by Steve Gunn and features Gunn on guitar on nearly every track.

It’s beautiful. It’s nearly perfect, really. I could listen to it all day. Patient, tempered, adult music by a bunch of total pros. Hell, M Ward is on this thing! But it’s also one of those albums that leaves almost no lasting imprint on my mind. I can’t hum any of the songs, or remember any of the lyrics. Maybe just a little too adult?

I do know that I’m going to be listening to it a lot in the foreseeable future.

 

 

March 28, 2024

Waxahatchee

Tigers Blood

Somehow not doing it for me.

March 26, 2024

Slow Mass

Drift Themes

Back when I was a younger me, and had some (fleeting, never fully serious) dreams of some day being in a band and recording music of my own, the music I imagined I’d like to make is almost exactly what Slow Mass is doing on this album. Massive, Hum-Failure-like melodic guitar swells and understated vocals, stretched out to epic, post-rock lengths with the occasional metallic heaviness, variations on a single theme, contrasted by more gentle come-downs of the same themes. No verses, no choruses, but never breaking down into your usual post-rock cliches.

They’ve done it better than I could’ve, so good on them. Weird to hear my dreams and only give it a gentleman’s 8.

March 18, 2024

Faye Webster

Underdressed at the Symphony

Time will tell if this whole album fully clicks with me, but for now, “Lego Ring” is one of the prettiest songs I’ve heard in a long time. Thanks in part to Lil Yachty?? I’ll be damned.

March 18, 2024

NAYAN

Rock N Roll Ruined My Life

A bunch of 40-somethings who grew up on quirky alt rock, ska, punk, power pop, and their dads’ prog records, making music that probably can’t be appreciated by anyone who isn’t also a 40-something who grew up on quirky alt rock, ska, punk, power pop, and their dad’s prog records. This album is deeply uncool, but also deeply composed and heartfelt and kind of a total joy.

March 11, 2024

Ben Frost

Scope Neglect

It’s so exciting to listen to a new album and be able to say, my god, I’ve never heard anything like this before.

Ben Frost, I don’t know exactly what his story is, but he’s made a whole lot of music—mostly experimental, ambient, electronic but with a lot of organic acoustic instrumental interference. He did the score to Dark? Seems like he did. I don’t know.

So imagine the music of someone who did the score to Dark and makes mostly experimental ambient electronic but with a lot of organic instrumental interference music. Now imagine that person made a death metal album.

Scope Neglect is metal. It rips through palm-muted, ravenously distorted, complex riffs with double bass drum accents. But it contains no vocals, no rhythm, no repetition, no songs, not even a snare drum. He carefully arranges these riffs in between periods of silence. Or decay. Or synthetic drone. Or animalistic EQ variation. It’s like he’s taken the raw recordings of a heavy metal album (a heavy metal album), and gutted them, crushed them into digital artifacts and flipped them upside down. Like he broke into Trent Reznor’s hard drives from The Downward Spiral era and melted the tracks on a jet engine.

The ultimate effect of this is something between paranoid chaos and pure meditation. The cuts of riffs become a mantra over the course of any given track, and you become hypnotized by it. Rather than startling you, you can’t wait for the next hit.

The idea of metal as meditative ambient music isn’t totally new, think something like Sunn O)))  or Meshuggah, or even a lot of black metal bands, where the goal isn’t piling up riffs as much as lulling you into the darkness. In fact, Meshuggah might actually be the closest comparison here, if Meshuggah simply played fewer notes. But if Meshuggah is a metal band that has indulged in ambient electronics, Scope Neglect is an  ambient electronic album that indulges in metal. And does it extremely well.

June 15, 2024

Wirtshus zum Wyberg

Zürich, Switzerland

Wild boar meatloaf

Zürich, Switzerland

Another traditional Swiss restaurant, but this one has a Michelin star!

Or at least is a Michelin bib gourmand.

Either way, it was all excellent.

June 15, 2024

Welschland

Zürich, Switzerland

Cheeses and meats

Zürich, Switzerland

The other thing people know about Switzerland: cheese.

Welschland is a particularly well-regarded meat and cheese shop in Zürich. It was only a little bit nerve-wracking to act like we knew what we were doing and weren’t just a couple dumb American tourists buying cheese, but the people there were very nice and fine. We had a little mini charcuterie picnic on a park bench down the block.

Between this trip and my trip to Italy last year, I’ve realized that Europeans take their cured meats much, much more seriously that Americans. The sheer variety of different types of salty sliced meats you can get over there is impressive. And that’s just as true in Italy and Switzerland as it was in Scandinavia.

And don’t even get me started on sausages. These people run circles around us in the sausage game.

June 15, 2024

Restaurant zum Sternen

Zurich, Switzerland

Cordon bleu

Zurich, Switzerland

Lizzie and I went to Europe. Well, Scandinavia to be precise. Except we also went to Switzerland, which isn’t in Scandinavia, but is in Europe, so maybe Europe was actually more precise after all. There’s going to be be so many of these posts.

Our first “real” meal there was at this little restaurant connected to the B&B where we stayed, in a chaaarming little farming town about 20 minutes outside of Zürich. (In hindsight, the chaaarming little farming town was actually squished between two other towns that felt more like suburbs than small towns, and even the farming area we were in seemed to all be owned by the same farming collective, and the last name of the proprietor of the B&B had the same last name as whoever ran the farming collective’s retail shop, so honestly I don’t understand what exactly was going on there. But the cows all have bells around their necks so it was extremely Swiss).

It struck me, here in Switzerland, that I wasn’t exactly sure what Swiss food is. I guess there’s fondue, and its younger cooler cousin raclette. But beyond those—which are primarily winter seasonal foods mostly saved for cabins and ski chalets— everything I read basically said “don’t get your hopes up about Swiss food.” For the most part, being club-sandwiched in between Germany and France and Italy, you best bet eating in Switzerland is to find some good French and Italian and German food.

But we’re in Rome, goddammit (so to speak), so only Swiss will do. Thankfully this very convenient Restaurant zum Sternen is a very traditionally Swiss restaurant, which I quickly learned meant: lots of meat. And spaetzle. Ok so I guess Swiss food is basically German. But there were two other things that appeared more often than your standard German menu: french fries, and cordon bleu.

So here in Switzerland, at a Swiss restaurant, I went ahead and ordered the cordon bleu and french fries.

The first thing that surprised me was that this wasn’t chicken! It was pork, I think. Might’ve been veal? Honestly not sure, but considering that I’ve only ever been aware of chicken cordon bleu, it did catch me off guard. But it was good! The cheese was nice, the flavor was bold! The fries, however, weren’t great. This was not the last time I had not great fries in Switzerland.

Meanwhile, the other thing that surprised me was just how good the salad was! We ordered a salad to start, nothing too special, but wow it was a delicious salad! Probably had something to do with being in the middle of a collectively owned farming town.

This was not the last time I had a great salad in Switzerland.

May 16, 2024

Tonchin

Manhattan

Ramen

Manhattan

Tonchin is a very, very popular ramen place that is weirdly hard to get into. Not, like, a line-around-the-corner place, but definitely a reservation-a-month-in-advance place. But we got lucky the other week and caught a stray reservation the same day, so, hey, ramen!

Funny thing is I sat down to write this lil write-up, but I suddenly don’t remember what I have to say about it. It was good! I think? Yeah, it was good! It was really good! Pretty luscious, rich, somewhat neutral but in a good way. Other than that…

What did strike me though, is how normal the place felt. It was nice and slick and everything, but you wouldn’t guess that it was one of the most popular ramen joints in the city.

But anyway there’s another location in Brooklyn that you can probably get into without trying too hard.

Oh! And the edamame was excellent.

May 9, 2024

New York Pizza Slice Roundup!

A List

I’ve been thinking of doing this for a while, and for no particular reason (maybe I’m hungry?) I just got it in me to do it right now.

So here, in no particular order*, are all the good places to get a slice (not a whole pie, that’s an entirely different and impossible list) in New York City:

  • Joe’s
    • West 4th, Manhattan
      • Their pepperoni pizza is the Good Lord’s ideal image of what pepperoni pizza should be. I don’t care that it’s been so popular for so long that it’s no longer cool enough to be popular. The constant lines of tourists (we’re all just tourists, really) just means that you’re guaranteed to get a fresh slice, no reheating necessary.
  • F&F
    • Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn
      • Their brown butter sage sausage slice is an immaculate bit of post-authentic foodie nonsense. This place is so good that I’ve been getting my haircut across the street for years just to give myself an excuse to eat there every few months.
  • New Park Pizza
    • Way out in Queens near JFK and the Rockaways
      • You’ll probably never go here, and the people who live down there don’t want you there anyway. But it’s a perfect slice of pizza.

(I lied about these being no particular order; those 3 are the best. But here’s the others.)

  • NY Pizza Suprema
    • near MSG, Manhattan
      • Looks like it’ll be shitty, is actually great.
  • Little Italy Pizza
    • all over Manhattan
      • This place is a chain, and there’s starting to be way too many of them, but it’s surprisingly good. The 34th St. location near the Empire State Building has the same popularity effect as Joe’s; there are so many people getting slices there, you have a good chance of getting something fresh.
  • Louie’s
    • Jackson Heights, Queens
      • This is kinda cheating because I’m only including this place for its grandma slice. It’s delicious. Their regular slices are whatever.
  • Freddy & Pepper’s
    • Upper West Side, Manhattan
      • Overlooked! Appears small and unspecial, but always delivers.
  • Randazzo’s
    • Kensington, Brooklyn
      • Again, their regular slices are unremarkable. But they do this chorizo, jalepeno, and onion pizza which is just about as good as any slice anywhere. I think about it all the time, but it’s in a random location that’s not really convenient for me or anybody else.
  • Pizza Wagon
    • Bay Ridge, Brooklyn
      • Good pizza, lovingly untouched interior.
  • Krispy Pizza
    • Dyker Heights, Brooklyn
      • Supposedly they have some locations in New Jersey and elsewhere, but otherwise feels like any old local spot. Totally normal pizza, but the quality is high.
  • sLICe
    • Long Island City, Queens
      • I don’t want to like a place called sLICe, but they make a good one.
  • Smith St. Pizza
    • Cobble Hill, Brooklyn
      • I can’t tell if this is a bougie place pretending to be normal, or a normal place pretending to be bougie, but either way it’s a fine slice.
  • Lucia of Avenue X
    • Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn
      • Another one that’s so far flung that you will probably never go there—and it’s shocking that something this good and new can exist in Sheepshead Bay. But as I wrote in a previous post, I imagine they’ll have a location closer to civilization soon. Ride the wave. (UPDATE: They indeed have opened a new location in Soho.) 
  • Scarr’s
    • Lower East Side, Manhattan
      • Rare magic of pure hype delivering in every respect.
  • Sauce & Soda
    • Bushwick, Brooklyn
      • Still a little mad that this place is so good.
  • Andiamo
    • Midtown, Manhattan
      • Nothing to say about this one. But every time I’ve had it out of pure convenient circumstance, I walk away surprised at how much I enjoyed it.
  • Nolita Pizza
    • Nolita
      • Go for the pizza, stay for the wildly incongruous celebrity photos on the wall.
  • Paulie Gee’s Slice Shop
    • Greenpoint, Brooklyn
      • Can’t argue with it.
  • Smiling Pizza
    • Park Slope, Brooklyn
      • This one might not actually belong on the list. But it’s snuck in on pure aesthetics.
  • Artichoke
    • whatever
      • Whatever.
  • Mama’s Too
    • Upper West Side
      • Give it a year or two for the lines to die down.
  • Upside
    • Manhattan
      • Another chain around Manhattan, started by some so-and-so who got his start at some such place. Trying too hard, but it’s legit good.
  • Rizzo’s
    • Astoria, Queens
      • Their whole thing is this extra thin crust, which is never thin on flavor!!!
  • J&V Pizzeria
    • Bensonhurst, Brooklyn
      • Trying to decide whether or not to include this place, because their owners constantly play insane right wing news channels on the store TVs. But we’re here to purely and honestly judge the pizza, and the pizza is like a solid 7.9. Oh also it’s one of the most incredible, untouched 70s era interiors you’ll see, and I just hope that the psychotic fascist owners sell it, and that the new owners don’t touch a single thing.
  • NYC Pizza Kitchen
    • Midtown
      • Absolutely hate that I’m including a place called “NYC Pizza Kitchen.”

 

* In no order, but I def thought of some before others, if you know what I mean.
* These are just slices; triangles from circles. Well, except for Louie’s grandma slice. If you want Detroit style, that’s a different list.
* Okay, that list is: Prince Street, Paulie Gee’s, and Uncle Sam’s
* No, I’ve never been to l’Industrie. Gag me. 

May 6, 2024

Lucia Pizza of Avenue X

Brooklyn

Rigatoni alla vodka

Brooklyn

I’ve written about Lucia before, so I won’t get into it here. Basically: surprisingly good pizza, surprisingly deep and hidden away in Sheepshead.

I don’t get there too often, it’s a solid half hour bike ride with almost no other destinations nearby. But I swung by the other night for a slice, and ended up instead ordering a plate of rigatoni alla vodka, which was seemingly their weekly pasta special.

The slice was good. The rigatoni was great. Just so satisfying, spicy but delicate. I’m still mad that it was twenty dollars, but then I think about wanting to eat another plate of it and forget about that part.

Anyway, Lucia Pizza of Avenue X. Be prepared to see some new location of this place pop up in, like, Dumbo before too long.