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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.

March 11, 2024

Screaming Females

Clover EP

This is, sadly, regrettably, lamentably, the final collection new music from Screaming Females. I can’t blame them, they’ve been a band for a long fucking time, nearly twice as long as I’ve been a fan, and that’s been nearly a decade. They made it as far as they were going to make it; an absolute killer band with a supernova of a frontwoman, that should’ve been playing arenas and headlining festivals if the world was fair. But alas they came up in an era where galactic shithouse guitar trios don’t play arenas and headline festivals.

The incredible thing (but not surprising thing) is that this EP is as good as anything else they’ve done. All these songs sound like Screaming Females classics. Maybe not better than the best of what they’ve done, but it’s proof that they’ve gone out on top. They do what they do, they did what they did, and I’m happy to have been here for it.

Cannot wait for the reunion.

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.)

April 17, 2024

Rolo's

Queens

Green lasagna

Queens

Here’s another giant single sheet of lasagna. But this one’s green!

Rolo’s. I don’t have a lot to say about Rolo’s, except for that it’s a great restaurant. It’s doing everything right. It’s also wildly popular at the moment, but what can ya do?

Big green lasagna was great. Salad was great. Chicken was great. And somehow the polenta bread (topped with something like a spicy za’atar seasoning) was the best of all.

Too bad it’s in, woof, Ridgewood.

March 26, 2024

Cafe Fiorello

Manhattan

Lasagna

Manhattan

This is one of the damndest dishes I’ve ever seen. What if Lasagna, but there’s only one of em. And it’s the size of a hula hoop. 

Fiorello in general is an interesting case. It’s completely uncool, comfortably outdated (but not outdated enough to be cool again), unwieldily enormous and packed-full of both tourists and octogenarian Lincoln Center opera attendees. And yet I have to recommend it whole-heartedly. The food was flawless, the prices were acceptable, and the service was impeccable.

Your parents will love it, and you will too if you’d just get over yourself and enjoy something for once in your life, sheesh.

March 18, 2024

Bar Tabac

Brooklyn

Hangar steak

Brooklyn

Lizzie and I went to se the movie The Taste of Things, a beautiful French movie which is basically 2 hours of Juliette Binoche and other French actors working in a French kitchen of a French country estate making the most incredible looking French food you’ve ever seen. It was a lovely movie, I enjoyed it, but for after the first half hour, I could barely focus on it because all I could think about is how badly I wanted to eat some French food after the movie. I’ve never had a movie do that to me before, pure food porn, just absolutely delectable images on that screen.

Luckily, we were watching the movie in Cobble Hill, which is the closest thing New York has to a legitimate French neighborhood. Petit Paris! Okay they don’t actually call it that.

But we ended up at Bar Tabac, which had been good in the past, and is a really nice cozy spot in general, open refreshingly late. All I wanted in the world after that movie was a rich, buttery plate of French food; the length I went to hype myself up for it made the danger of disappointment tremendous. This was an extremely high risk-reward meal. But there in the back room of Bar Tabac, I had one of the most purely satisfying meals I’ve ever eaten. Yes ever. 

A hangar steak, pink as hell but tender as the love between Juliette Binoche and Benoît Magimel, covered in a rich red wine reduction. I could’ve wept. The mushroom risotto on the side was just a bonus, but the lentil and bacon hors d’oeuvre was a star in its own right. And Lizzie’s chicken was also good enough that it would’ve made my night. But that steak, I haven’t stopped thinking about it.

Go see The Taste of Things. Then find the nearest french restaurant you can and get one of everything. Good luck.

March 18, 2024

Lloyd's Carrot Cake

Manhatten

Carrot cake

Manhatten

This place in East Harlem is famous for selling carrot cake, and nothing much else.

Heh.

It’s good carrot cake. But it’s got me thinking about what’s the best carrot cake I’ve ever eaten? I don’t know, but now I feel like I want to start eating as much carrot cake as I can to figure it out. Not sure it will be Lloyd’s, but that’s not to say it’s not worth your time. Especially if you’re in East Harlem and in the mood for carrot cake.

March 18, 2024

Keen's Chophouse

Manhattan

Mutton chops, prime rib

Manhattan

Peter Luger’s steak and sides are as good as advertised, almost good enough to make you not be mad about how much you paid for it. But the atmosphere of the place—while historic, yes—doesn’t feel like you actually want it to. A little too rough around the edges—feeling its age rather than luxuriating in it.

Gage & Tollner is very pretty, but somehow seemed even more expensive that Luger’s. And while the food was more modern and chefy than the others, none of it felt 100% successful. Delicately prepared fermented scapes and mustard seed garnishing an overcooked brick of pork chop.

St. Anselm delivers an excellent product in a casual atmosphere, but it’s almost too casual. You could be in any post-millennium restaurant in Brooklyn.

Keen’s, alas, is “just right.” The coziest, most comfortable old restaurant you’ll ever visit, all the food delivers, and it somehow feels cheaper than the other grandaddy steakhouses.

It’s a gem.

 

 

March 12, 2024

Brine

Manhattan

Chicken sandwich

Manhattan

This sandwich was too big.

March 11, 2024

Lucali

Brooklyn

Pizza

Brooklyn

Here’s the kind of restaurant Lucali is: The first time we tried to go there, we were told it would be a 3 hour wait, but they closed in 2 hours. The second time we tried to go there, they were mysteriously doing takeout only, and were closing at 7pm. Which we only learned the next day was because Taylor Swift and her friends would be eating there that night. It’s a pizza place that only offers 4 items—pizza, calzones, a salad, and a nightly pasta special—6 ingredient options, no reservations. Its  original location is on a quiet neighborhoody Brooklyn corner, but it has second locations in Las Vegas and Miami Beach. It appears not just on Best Pizza in New York lists, but on Best Pizza in America lists and Best Pizza in the World lists. It’s annoying.

Here’s also what kind of restaurant Lucali is: the pizza was flawless and the calzone was even better.

I hate it when people are right about things.

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.