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February 16, 2024

World Party

Goodbye Jumbo

Sometimes I’ll post about an old band on here, in the context of “Oh I’ve been hearing about this band my whole life, but why didn’t anybody tell me they were this or that or they were so good or whatever!” or whatever. This is barely even that.

World Party. Who’s ever really heard of World Party? Unless you’re currently 50 years old and you were in the prime of your music-listening life in 1990, I’d bet this group hasn’t left much of an impression at all on you. To me, the name is just the faintest whisp of a recollection; like, maybe I read it on a list once. Maybe they got referenced on one movie one time. I have no idea. I also know that I’ve heard their big hit single “Way Down Now” before. You might’ve too. You don’t remember it though, except maybe for the part in the chorus where they go “Way down, now! Way down, now!”

But the fact is that I’m posting about this album, so there must be something to it.

Yeah! There is! It’s great! Where did this come from? It’s just great, great alternative pop rock, with a solid auteurist singer-songwriter bent to it, extremely early 90s in its sound, but also harkening back (in an extremely early 90s way) to 60s and 70s rock, and just a little bit of Prince worship, and a little bit of Stones worship (but like Beggars Banquet Stones). It has a very refreshing clarity to it, not trying hard at all to be cool, or to deconstruct the form, or to comment on anything, musically. It’s just a tight-as-heck pop rock album. Absolutely nothing wrong with that.

If you need to be sold any further on World Party: this album also sounds like a direct forebearer to The New Radicals “Get What You Give.” Like, that New Radicals guy definitely knew who World Party was.

February 13, 2024

Liquid Mike

Paul Bunyan's Slingshot

This album has a song entirely devoted to Uncle Bill from American Movie. It’s beautiful and I’ve listened to it about 15 times already.

February 13, 2024

Willi Carlisle

Critterland

I just wrote about Willi Carlisle’s previous album a few posts down, so go read that one for the background. The long and short of it is: he’s an incredible writer and performer and that album is a damn-near perfect piece of alternative Americana.

It’s weird to discover an artist right before they release a new album. I should’ve had a year or two with that last one before getting to experience the new one! But here we are, just a few weeks later.

Critterland, I’m sorry (not sorry) to say, isn’t as good as Peculiar, Missouri. Why not? I don’t know. Hard to put my finger on it. Maybe not enough variance in style song-to-song, maybe it lacks a couple of the more memorable hooks of that one. Maybe it’s just too much of a bummer?

That might be it. This album is sort of a bummer. As in: these songs are fucking sad. He’s writing sad songs about dark topics and broken people. And a two headed lamb. That one, oof, man. So when I say “bummer,” I really just mean topically. The writing is still top-shelf, just sharp as hell and clever and powerful. Just, tonally, it doesn’t have the same vibrance as that last one. And honestly it’s just hard to listen too. Just too much sadness. But, in its defense, that last one is already an all-timer fave for me. After one month of hearing it.

(Also, he ends the album with this incredible spoken-word piece called “The Money Grows on Trees,” a short story about an Appalachian marijuana-growing outlaw who dies after an uncomfortable partnership with a crooked local sheriff. It’s like nothing you’ve heard on a modern alt-country album. Sort of a conceptual sequel to Peculiar Missouri’s spoken word title-track about having a nervous breakdown in a Wal Mart. Anyway, my score for this album would go up a solid point if he’d just added one more song after “The Money Grows On Trees,” some sort of quick closing number. Something up-beat. Would’ve changed the whole thing for the better.)

February 13, 2024

Katy Kirby

Blue Raspberry

The last Katy Kirby album was phenomenal. The next one might be even better. But this one, this one isn’t working. It’s got “follow-up to a phenomenal album and precursor to an even better album” energy.

February 6, 2024

Future Islands

People Who Aren't There Anymore

There is a new Future Islands album and this is it.

February 2, 2024

The Cardigans

Life

I just learned today that the version of Life that The Cardigans released in Europe has 5 different songs and a completely different tracklisting than the US version, and my head is still spinning.

February 2, 2024

The Smiths

The Queen is Dead

I just learned today that “Cemetery Gates” is actually spelled “Cemetry Gates”, and my head is still spinning.

January 24, 2024

Junior Kimbrough

First Recordings

I don’t like the blues. Never really have. But I like this Junior Kimbrough.

He takes your standard 12-bar, 3-chord blues, gets rid of 2 of those chords, stretches the 12 bars into something more like “whenever I’m good and ready,” and turns it into something more like blues-drone-mantra.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t experimental blues deconstruction; this guy is very much a Mississippi blues man. But he just has a way of playing and singing that has no need for the standard blues construction. Very melodic, finding all the notes around whatever root they’re jamming on. I like it.

I still don’t like the blues.

January 22, 2024

Bruiser Wolf

My $tory Got $tories

The first Bruiser Wolf album was a weird surprising delight. A Detroit rapper who’s part of the “Bruiser Brigade”, the guy raps like—like—I don’t even know how to describe it. Like a Looney Tunes version of a 1930s street pimp, or like a TV preacher  performing scenes from The Music Man. But he took his absolutely bananas delivery, and rapped about dope and his mother and selling dope and Detroit and dope. It was extremely engaging for a song or two and then—still extremely engaging. I don’t know how he did it, but that album was a pleasure from top to bottom. Never got sick of him through 13 tracks.

This new album, meanwhile, is a slog. Surprisingly, it’s still not his voice that’s the problem. But the production on this thing is flat and the mixing is very strange; every song sounds like a the little under-produced intro that leads into the real song. But the real song never comes. And then the lyrical content this time around, while occasionally still funny, is way more cynical and doesn’t have the same life and personality as last time. It just never gets off the ground.

There is one funny part where he just snips in a minute of Stephen A. Smith yelling about Detroit. I chuckled at that.

January 19, 2024

Bruce Springsteen

Tunnel of Love

Hey. Hey. Have you ever listened to Bruce Springsteen’s Tunnel of Love? You’ve probably seen it in a used record store more than a few times, but have you ever actually listened to it?

Go listen to it. Right now, I can wait.

Right? I know, right?

 

 

February 6, 2024

Russ & Daughters

Manhattan

Bagel and lox

Manhattan

I finally fucking went to Russ & Daughters.

I’ve been living here for a long time now. It’s been on my list since day 1. But I just very rarely find myself in Manhattan around bagel time, and even then I don’t find myself in the vicinity of Russ & Daughters at bagel time, and even then, I dunno, I don’t always feel like smoked fish.

But I did it for once. And, well, yeah, I liked it. Was it worth the hype? That might be a question for someone else. Like I said, smoked fish isn’t always my thing, and it’s very much Russ & Daughters thing. But I can say that, very often when I’ve had lox, it comes out too salty, too smoky. But this one was nice. Just some nice mellow savory salmon on a not-too-amazing bagel.

So, yeah, Russ & Daughters. I did it. It was good. I suppose I will again in about 5 years.

February 6, 2024

Al Bawadi

Brooklyn

Ouzi beef

Brooklyn

This was an excellent dish and I want to eat it again very soon. But it might’ve given me some real intense stomach problems, so I guess we have to call it even steven.

February 6, 2024

Ella Crown Bakehouse

Brooklyn

Chocolate chip cookie

Brooklyn

Sorry that picture looks so bad. I put a lot of Photoshop work into trying to make it look presentable, but it just looks blech.

Oh, no, I wasn’t apologizing to you. I was apologizing to the cookie. In the bakery, it looked like maybe the most perfect chocolate chip cookie I’ve ever seen. My lighting and staging work on that shot does an awful disservice to the cookie. It was a nearly perfect cookie and it deserves better from me.

Nearly perfect! I get mixed results from these super-thick-big cookies from specialty cookie places sometimes. They can just be too much, too sweet, too rich, just barely cooked in the center. But this one, from this place Ella Crown Bakehouse on Atlantic in Brooklyn Heights, which I had never even heard of before, was the real deal. Just about everything you’d want out of a cookie. Somehow not overly sweet, I didn’t feel like dying after eating it. Crispy chewy outside, soft gooey inside. I don’t know, why am I describing a chocolate chip cookie to you?

It was maybe like an 1/8th inch too thick. Otherwise, great cookie.

January 24, 2024

Karazishi Botan

Brooklyn

Ramen, meatballs

Brooklyn

You know what doesn’t happen often enough? I’m excited about this restaurant.

It’s one thing to go to a place and have a good meal. Which yes, happened here at Karazishi Botan. But it’s something else to be so enthralled and excited by the possibilities of a place, by seeing everything on the menu that you couldn’t order this time, and feel like you just want to come back the next day. Not to mention the atmosphere and hospitality of a place (the vibes) being so positive that you don’t see why you shouldn’t just eat there all week.

What’s where Karazishi Botan has me right now. I had a horseradish pork ramen, which came with a yuzu shot to add halfway through the bowl for an extra bit of zing, and we shared some meatballs and waffle as an appetizer. They were like my barbecue lil smokie meatballs, if I was an accomplished Japanese chef and not a guy who throws chili sauce and grape jelly in a crock pot. And waffles. If that sounds novel and silly and quirky, I can only promise you it wasn’t. It just seemed like, that’s a combination the guy who runs this place likes, so that’s what they serve.

I’m not going to go down their whole menu, but just trust me that there was plenty more they had to offer, and I want to try every bit of it.

January 24, 2024

Saverese Pastry Shop

Brooklyn

Cannoli

Brooklyn

I just very randomly got a cannoli from a very random deep Brooklyn bakery, and it was a nearly perfect cannoli. Nearly.

Just not enough chocolate chips.

 

January 19, 2024

Phobar

Brooklyn

Pork chop bánh mì

Brooklyn

Good bánh mì.

January 22, 2024

Milu

Manhattan

Yunnan beef

Manhattan

To write this post about Milu, I naturally wanted to use the word “gourmet.” But, ick, I dunno, is there a different word for “gourmet” these days? It seems completely out of style, like even using the word immediately makes something sound phony and, like, suburban. But I don’t think we’ve created a substantial replacement word for it. Gastronomical? Epicurean? Foodie? I feel as bad saying those as I do saying, like, “artful” or “filmic.” It should be simple, just a single word that means “somebody made this food to be good, instead of for other purposes, and made it in a way that might have sacrificed speed and economy for flavor and quality.” That’s gourmet, right? Can’t we just keep saying gourmet?

Anyhow with all that aside, all I was going to was this:

I’m not sure if Milu is a gourmet Chinese restaurant masquerading as fast-casual, or a fast-casual restaurant masquerading as gourmet.

January 19, 2024

Creamline

Manhattan

Cheeseburger

Manhattan

I’ve tried over the last few years to keep this site generally positive. Nobody needs to hear me talk about how bad some restaurant is, and I don’t need to be wasting that energy. Trust me that I’ve had plenty of mediocre-to-bad meals all this time. I just don’t bother posting about them. But this one just bummed me out so much I had to share.

This new place Creamline has been on the verge of opening for a couple months near my office in Midtown. It’s in a big glassy corner space on Park Avenue, underneath some fancy hotel, and seemingly used to be a somewhat nice modern restaurant. But back in October or November some signs appeared announcing Creamline, a burger and shake joint with a slick-enough Shake Shacky logo, featuring all the local farms and dairies that they’ll be sourcing their amazing organic burgers and shakes from. Great! Like, nothing too exciting, but there’s actually not that many interesting burger joints around this part of the neighborhood, happy to have some new option for lunch!

Edit: Bah, I was writing the whole story of my visit to Creamline, and it’s just exhausting. It doesn’t matter. The service was weird and the burger was barely better than Sonics and the Sysco frozen waffle fries were $7.50 and they give you plastic utensils for some reason. I hated every minute of being there. 

 

January 22, 2024

Spanish Diner

Manhattan

Pollo guisado

Manhattan

I thought the Spanish Diner was real good. Lizzie fucking hated it.

January 18, 2024

A.L.C. Italian Grocery

Brooklyn

Porchetta panini

Brooklyn

There’s this Italian deli on the other side of my neighborhood, that I’ve long had my eye on, but it’s never quite struck me to try it. Of all the beautiful, historic,  deep-Brooklyn Italian delis and pork stores, this one doesn’t seem to fit in. First of all, “A.L.C”? What does that even mean? Is it someone’s intials? I guess? Second, it’s not actually historic. As far as I can tell it opened in 2012. And it looks a little spare inside, more of a cute lil boutique rather than your regular aggressively-stocked pork store.

But circumstance finally put me in a position to go into this place and get a dang sandwich. And holy moly! So good! Just great! Some of the best (maybe the best?) porchetta I’ve had in New York, which is funny because they don’t even advertise it as “porchetta,” just as “pork belly.” But it’s porchetta.

But they pair the porchetta with one other cut of pork (I don’t remember, sorry), and some calabrian chili aioli, some cheese, melt it all up in the panini press, and that’s it.

TBH, I had already eaten lunch when I got this sandwich, and my plan was to just save it for later. But I took one bite, and ended up eating the whole thing on the walk home. Worth it.