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November 27, 2022

Blinker the Star

Love Oblast

Blinker the Star somehow keeps putting out pretty respectable albums in their advanced years, and it’s one of the nicer surprises to come from any 90s era band that I had a fondness for. They’re not great albums, but they’re good! They’re real good!

November 27, 2022

Dream Unending

Song of Salvation

Everyone’s been flipping over this Dream Unending album. It’s a side project of the death metal band Tomb Mold, and is being pitched as this groundbreaking dream-pop/doom-metal uber rhapsody, a transcendent trip through the psyche of heaven and hell. Or something.

It’s kinda that. But also it kinda just sounds like a doomy metal album. It’s pretty good. But not really much of anything else. This actually bums me out, because I would love to hear a dream-pop/doom-metal uber rhapsodic trip through the psyche of heaven and hell.

November 25, 2022

Elder

Innate Passage

The last Elder album was a dull bummer disappointment. This new Elder album the the exact opposite. It rips so hard. I was hollering out loud to nobody last night when I gave it my first listen. It might already be the best Elder album? We’ll see.

November 23, 2022

Weyes Blood

And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow

This Weyes Blood album is the most beautiful thing you’ll ever hear, and yet it’s somehow not as beautiful as her last one.

November 14, 2022

Low

Songs for a Dead Pilot

Mimi Parker died last week and it’s deeply sad. Sometimes an artist dies and of course it’s unfortunate, but I don’t otherwise internalize it or think too much about it; I don’t know them, they don’t know me, I appreciate their work and I’m comfortable leaving the mourning to those who truly knew and loved the person. This one though, this one really got to me. It shouldn’t be that different, I don’t know and have never met Mimi Parker. But maybe it’s because they’re from Minnesota, maybe because it’s a husband-wife duo, it’s so tied up in a singular family unit, their music is so personal and so dependent on both Mimi and Alan, a 50/50 partnership. So many bands can go on when they lose a member, Low is only truly Low if both of them are behind a microphone.

Anyway this isn’t a silver lining by any means, but I did use this moment to jump into to some of their earlier work, which I’d never really explored before. I remember seeing Songs For A Dead Pilot on the “local” wall of just about every Cheapo location for ages, back in the late 90s and early 00s, and always though it looked so fucking cool, that anatomical head floating above a bleak winterscape. Well I finally gave it a real spin (I might’ve listened to bits of it at a Cheapo back then, but didn’t really have the patience for what they were doing), and I have to say this is one of their best albums. It’s probably the purest distillation of what they did. It’s a mission statement. And it’s absolutely beautiful.

November 10, 2022

Franklin Gothic

Into the Light

Do you remember Incredible Moses Leroy? You don’t.

Well this guy kind of sounds like Incredible Moses Leroy. But if Incredible Moses Leroy played late-aughts post-punk indie rock. Is that a good thing? A bad thing? I don’t know. I was going to say that this album left no impression on me, but now that I’m siting through it, I’m actually finding that a lot of the songs have already wormed their way into my head, so he must be doing something right.

November 6, 2022

Dazy

OUTOFBODY

Every indie rock band in the last couple years is digging deep into 90s alt rock. Which is fine by me. But Dazy is one of the first that really seems to get it. 

November 6, 2022

Augie March

Bloodsport & Porn

I should probably leave a post here about the “new” (it came out last year but I never heard about it until like a month ago) Augie March album. Just because I have a long, long history with Augie March at this point, and honestly they’ve probably been more consistent than just about any other artist in my life since 2004. As such: this album is good. There’s really not much else to say about any once-every-three-years Augie March release at this point. It’s good. The band is good. They write good music. I like listening to it. Now I hope this post doesn’t alert anyone’s content filter and make them get a visit from HR.

November 5, 2022

they are gutting a body of water

s

I got this album last week and I still barely understand what it is. It’s ostensibly shoegaze, but filtered through some post-post-post-ironic-Soundcloud-chillwave-shitpost-Gen-Z anything-goes-itude, but maybe it’s something else that I don’t understand yet. Either way, they named their album s and it looks awful on my blog.

November 4, 2022

The Mountain Goats

Dark In Here

The Mountain Goats released two albums last year, Getting Into Knives and Dark In Here. The first one kinda disappointed me in that way that new Mountain Goats albums tend to disappoint me. Then they announced the second one, which came as a sort of surprise “drop” situation, and I was mostly feeling exhausted by new Mountain Goats albums, so I ignored it.

Except oops, this was the good one. It’s really good. And they recorded it with a handful of Mussel Shoals studio vets, so there’s some real slick playing on it that adds some new dimension to the same old latter-day-Mountain-Goats thing.

November 3, 2022

Worm

Bluenothing

Worm released an album a year or two called Foreverglade, which landed in this odd place for me, where I didn’t like it enough to actually buy it or spend much time with it, yet I streamed it on their Bandcamp page enough that the site popped a notification up telling me I should probably pay for it since I’d listened to it so much. Their music is brutal and enveloping, grabbing bits and pieces from all the brand-name extreme metal genres, a little doom here, a little melodic death there, a sprinkling of black on top, but despite engaging me in some ways, Foreverglade just never quite won me over.

But then Worm got a new guitar player.

This usually wouldn’t be a big deal to me, as most metal bands today don’t really register to me in terms of who is in the band, especially the way that extreme metal works. But Worm brought on this new guy by the name of Phillipe Tougas—oh I’m sorry, Wroth Septentrion—who is a straight up virtuoso. Being a metal guitar virtuoso these days is usually borderline embarrassing, playing weird lame faux-prog hair metal shit, usually instrumental, just playing a bunch of notes really fast for the effect of not very much. But when you bring someone into a band like Worm, the effect is mind-melting. You aren’t used to hearing this grimy, deathly, brute-force extreme metal being paired with such masterful lead guitar work. Usually the people playing this kind of shit are honestly not that great of musicians, but kinda like punk rock, they make up for it in mood and flavor. But when this guy starts wailing away and arpeggiating and pinch-harmonicing and bending notes all over this stuff, holy cow the result is explosive. It works so well. It’s like Worm just unlocked a cheat code and is about to run amuck on us all.

December 2, 2022

Jean Danet Pastry Shop

Brooklyn

Pumpkin pie

Brooklyn

It’s not worth getting in depth about my Thanksgiving dinner this year (I got take out from a diner, but I promise it was nicer than that sounds), but I do need to talk about this pie.

There’s a little bakery a few blocks from here called Jean Danet, which isn’t really notable in any way; it’s sort of an Italian bakery but not really, actually has some Midwestern grandma vibes, it seems well-liked but not exactly some local institution or anything. It’s just a perfectly nice little bakery. Well I stopped into Jean Danet a day or two before Thanksgiving, in hopes that they’d have some pie, but assuming I would’ve had to order one in advance. Luckily they had plenty available, and there were a decent number of people coming in to grab one as well.

And wowzers am I glad I did, because my friends, this was a nearly perfect pumpkin pie.

Like the bakery itself, it isn’t doing anything remarkable. It doesn’t have a fancy walnut granola crust, it doesn’t feature, I don’t know, cayenne and Mexican chocolate in its mix, it’s just a pumpkin pie. It looks like a pumpkin pie, it tastes like a pumpkin pie. But the flavor, the texture, balance, everything, it’s everything you want. Just close your eyes and imagine your ideal pumpkin pie, and this was probably it.

“But Steve you said ‘nearly perfect’!” Okay fine. The bottom crust could’ve been a little crispier. But whatever.

 

November 25, 2022

Eat Offbeat

Manhattan

Chicken yassa, jollof rice

Manhattan

So here I am at Chelsea Market la di da looking for something to eat, and there’s this unfortunately named place called Eat Offbeat (please, everyone, do not use the word “eat” in your restaurant name), which seemingly serves a rotating menu from an assortment of “refugee chefs”—the quotes are simply because that’s the language they use, not because I feel like they’re lying about it or something, but I do include them because it isn’t exactly a term that I would’ve fashioned on my own, the idea that these aren’t refugee chefs as much as they’re chefs who are refugees. Which is a pretty nice idea if it wasn’t coming from a place called Eat Offbeat.

But anyway I saw that they had some Senegalese items on the menu, and I’ve never had Senegalese food before, and I generally really like African food, and I just watched Senegal play in the World Cup today, so of course I had to do it.

What they offered was chicken yassa on jollof rice. The chicken was swimming in yummy caramelized onions, and roasted in a peppery mustard sauce. The rice is a sort of tomato-based Spanish rice type thing. It was all delicious. Nothing crazy, not wildly spicy or aggressively flavored. It was just a nice,  comforting plate of food. Somehow just what I imagined Senegalese food might be.

November 23, 2022

Schnipper's

Manhattan

Sloppy joe

Manhattan

When’s the last time you ordered a sloppy joe at a restaurant? Or really, when’s the last time you’ve even seen a sloppy joe on a menu? It’s probably been a while, if ever, but this Schnipper’s sloppy joe has opened my eyes to what we’ve been missing.

Schnipper’s is a Manhattan-local chain (pretty sure there aren’t any outside the city), which is basically doing “old school 50’s burger joint” in a way that tries to minimize all of the corny poodle-skirt, Howdy Doodyisms of your standard 50’s style diner, and leave you with just the good stuff. Simple burgers on clean white plates, crinkle fries and malts. I had one of their burgers way back when I moved here, and it was good. But last week I discovered their sloppy joe, and I’m kind of in love.

I don’t even know how to talk about sloppy joes on a critical level. They’re a mush of ground beef and ketchup and anything and everything else just cooked together. They’re sweet and savory and kind of dumb. But they’re also immensely satisfying on occasion. What makes one good? I don’t know. They just have the right stuff mixed in I guess. And whatever Schnipper’s has mixed in their version is satisfying as hell.

Needs some pickles though. And next time I plan on ordering potato chips to put on top. Because sloppy joes are better when topped with potato chips.

November 23, 2022

Jacob's Pickles

Manhattan

Biscuits and gravy

Manhattan

There’s been a few times in the last year or two when I’ve found myself on a weekend morning thinking, “I really want some biscuits and gravy right now.” This has led me down some internet rabbit holes trying to find the best biscuits and gravy in New York, and that more often than not leads directly to Jacob’s Pickles.

The problem is that everyone else in the fucking city has also been led to Jacob’s Pickles. The place is a zoo every time I’ve ever tried to go there, which granted is always at prime weekend brunch time.

But I eventually managed to sneak in and sit at the bar and finally get some of these famous biscuits and gravy. Are they worth the trouble? Hmm. You know? I don’t know. I mean, they’re excellent. They’re very, very good. But biscuits and gravy might be one of those ‘ceiling’ foods—the basic ingredients, flour and cream and sausage, are so simple that even the average version is delicious. It’s hard to elevate it too much. That said, again, these were some damn good biscuits and gravy.

November 23, 2022

Paul's Daughter

Brooklyn

Potato knish

Brooklyn

This isn’t exactly a post about Paul’s Daughter. I’m sure Paul’s Daughter is well and good, a fun little boardwalk spot at Coney Island to get a hot dog and a beer and whatever else. What this post is about is that I ate a potato knish there.

This isn’t really a big deal, but it’s a little bit crazy that I had never had a knish before. And hey, it was pretty good. I’ll probably have another knish again sometime.

November 15, 2022

Mandato Bakery

Brooklyn

Doughnut

Brooklyn

I’ve ranted before about the surprising difficulty of finding above-average donuts in New York. I don’t understand why this is. The Dunkin Donuts monopoly probably has something to do with it, but otherwise it seems there just isn’t that much energy devoted to art of donuttery.

Luckily, there’s a Mexican bakery just down the block from my new place that has just-short-of-excellent donuts, Mandato. Actually everything I’ve had from Mandato is great so far; the place isn’t much different than your average Mexican bakery, but they just nail every single item that they make. But this donut is maybe the best of it all. The only thing keeping it from top-tier donut sainthood is the frosting, which gets a little bit waxy. But other than that, it’s an absolute pleasure to have this place nearby.

November 15, 2022

Rowdy Rooster

Manhattan

Indian chicken sandwich

Manhattan

This isn’t hyperbole, I’m not making this up; but I’m also not 100% confident in saying it. But I’m going to say it: This is the best chicken sandwich I’ve ever had.

November 15, 2022

Freddie & Peppers

Manhattan

Chicken mole pizza

Manhattan

I think I wrote about Freddie & Peppers a while ago; it’s a mostly indistinguishable pizza place on the Upper West Side that has impressively good pizza for an indistinguishable pizza place on the Upper West Side. But on my first trip there, I learned (after already eating) that they make a special chicken mole pizza on weekends. Chicken mole pizza. It seems so obvious. Chicken mole pizza. Think about it. Of course.

Well I tried going back to Freddie & Peppers three different times over the following weekends, and the promise of chicken mole was never fulfilled. First I learned they didn’t have it on Sundays. Then I learned they didn’t have it on Fridays. So “weekend” really just meant Saturdays. Except for the one Saturday they didn’t have it.

But just last week, the timing finally worked out.

6 out of 10, it was just okay.

 

November 10, 2022

Cicci di Carne

Manhattan

Porchetta sandwich

Manhattan

This might be the best porchetta I’ve had in New York. Which is pretty crazy because I’ve probably had 2 or 3 better porchettas in Minnesota. Considering all the Italian to be found around here, it’s surprisingly rare to find any porchetta, much less the good stuff. Too much of it is dry and thin, treated more like cold cuts rather than hearty slow roasted hunks. But this place does it right. And expensively.