05.30.2016
Katatonia
The Fall of Hearts
Like most Katatonia albums, this is about 14 tracks of Katatonia doing what Katatonia does. Which means it will probably end up on my year end top 10 list, but not too high on my year end top 10 list. These guys have hit that metal band sweet spot where, for about the last 15 years, they haven't really veered more than a few degrees left or right on any given album, and yet every single track is totally solid. Maybe not as many transcendent high points as there were 10 or 15 years ago, but it still makes for great listening. If you're into this sort of thing. (Which you should be, because this is about as pleasant as heavy metal can sound. Practically soothing.)
05.27.2016
Radiohead
A Moon Shaped Pool
You already know my stance on Radiohead. This album changes nothing. Although 1:20 into "Decks Dark" is the closest I've gotten TRF* since, I don't know, "Lucky"?

(* That Radiohead Feeling)
05.16.2016
Walter Martin
Arts + Leisure
I love this album. Everything about it. The short description is it’s the first official solo album from the of the keyboardist from The Walkmen, with some goofy songs about old paintings and a ramshackle, world music meets American folk feel. The long description is it’s a musical novella; an autobiographical memoir of a life of art—both making it and appreciating it—and growing old as a musician and artist, written with a literary attention to structure and detail, an honestly funny sense of both humor and pathos, and a keen ear for surprising couplets, performed with a small cast of musicians who are truly pros, but having fun and seemingly recording these perfect songs on a lark. This is music for musicians, lyrics for writers, fun, and funny, and filled with joy. But what really strikes me is (bear with me) that each song rolls out perfectly according to its own logic; there’s no cheating, no shortcuts. He sets up a world for each one, a palette, a mode, and never strays, leaving the surprises to be found in the content itself, rather than anything extraneous to the content, which does not exist in the world of the album. Does that make sense? It does to me. I also love that, despite this being a 21st century singer songwriter folk album, the best references I can make are Randy Newman, Burl Ives, and Harry Belafonte. And sure, also Vampire Weekend and maybe Pavement and, obviously, the Walkmen. It's pretty much perfect.
05.16.2016
Chance the Rapper
Coloring Book
I like Chance the Rapper. I think he's good. I liked Acid Rap. I liked (most of) Surf, even if that wasn't technically his album. Problem here is the rest of the world likes Chance the Rapper too, and everybody wants a piece. And when Kanye and Young Thug and Future and Justin Bieber and 2 Chains and T Pain and Lil Yachty—whoever that is—and for some reason not Andre 3000, come knocking at his door, how is this dude supposed to say no? So on the majority of this record, Chance isn't necessarily overshadowed or steamrolled by all those big names—because honestly, he's probably a more talented performer than all of them—but he does spend most of his time seemingly trying to fit in. His usual energy seems absent throughout most of it, and a lot of the production is pretty cookie cutter circa-2016 hip hop. Not terribly exciting. And the other half is church camp counselor gospel cheese. Although two of those are genuinely fun and exciting. Praise be.
05.16.2016
Cate Le Bon
Crab Day
Weirdo avant garde pop rock from a Welsh lady who sings like Trish Keenan from Broadcast (or more obviously: Nico) with a heavy Wales accent, backed by Eleanor Friedberger's band and a kickass marimba player. Or at least a halfway competent marimba player. Cool record. "Weirdo" and "avant garde" do apply, but more importantly it's fun. It's catchy and energetic. Hard to find that combination, but this totally nails it. A real hoot!
05.16.2016
Starling Electric
Electric Company
When you wait 10 whole years for the follow up to an album that you thought showed great potential, and it doesn't live up to that potential, and if anything is a downgrade. But it's still okay anyway and you listen to it incessantly for a couple weeks even though you wish ever aspect of it was better.
05.03.2016
Andrew Bird
Are You Serious
Best Andrew Bird album since Mysterious Production of Eggs. And I mean it this time. I just wish he'd play his goddamn violin more.
05.03.2016
Autolux
Pussys Dead
Autolux is hard. They've released so little music for how long they've been around, disappearing for extended periods of time between albums (a child who is conceived on the night of an Autolux album release is reading books and doing math by the time their next one comes out). And now, with all this time to write and record and create and prepare, they go and choose Boots to produce their new one. Boots and I have a funny relationship. Which is to say: I do not like Boots. This doesn't come from his work with Beyonce or Run the Jewels, but from the one performance I saw of him in concert. It was weird. He was weird. He tried way too hard. Kinda embarrassing. Luckily, he doesn't ruin Autolux here. Autolux ruins Autolux. Sort of. I don't know. A lot of Carla Azar's bombastic drumming is compressed and enveloped and looped, generally declawed. But other than that Boots generally stays in the background. My big issue with it is that (much like their last album), the melodies just aren't as strong, and the vocal performances seem strained and passionless. And in an odd twist, they decided to include their old—and fantastic—song "Future Perfect", which did not appear on the album Future Perfect, and here has been retitled "Change My Head." And it's not as fantastic. It's good. Probably the best song on the album. But it just doesn't have the same spark as the original. Anyhow, it's okay, because Autolux will come back in another 6–7 years and really impress me for once.
03.29.2016
Lindsey Buckingham
Law and Order
Do you like Tusk? Do you? Of course you do. But do you ever burn through the second disc of Tusk for the fourth time in an afternoon and think to youself, "Boy, I wish Tusk had a third disc, and I wish it was even freakier than the first two." Law and Order, you guys. It's Lindsey Buckingham's first solo album, and is for all intents and purposes the child of Tusk—which was, for those same intents and purposes, itself a Lindsey Buckingham album. This thing is good you guys. And it's the kind of good that should really hold more of a place in the esteem of music dudes. There should be entire local mini-scenes devoted to its essence. Pitchfork writers should be referencing it in reviews like everybody knows what they're talking about. It should be a thing. Even just for a year. Let's make 2016 the year of Law and Order you guys. It's a treat.
03.27.2016
Kendrick Lamar
untitled unmastered
There’s this whole contingent of music writers who refuse to accept Kendrick Lamar as our lord and savior. I understand them, but I don’t understand them. And it’s not an uninformed bunch. It’s hip hop dudes (albeit, probably like, white academic hip hop dudes who listened to Wu Tang growing up and wrote their doctorate theses on “Violence and Jewish Identity in Mobb Deep’s The Infamous”). They seemingly know their stuff? And yet there’s this uncomfortable unwillingness to give Kendrick Lamar his due. I almost feel like they want to fight off dudes like, well, me, who come in as outsiders who don’t really follow their world much, don’t care which mixtape Young Thug just released, have no idea who Lil Boosie is, and suddenly proclaim Kendrick (oh, sorry… “K Dot”) the contemporary master of the art form. I get it. We’re annoying. Kind of how I felt back when the Arcade Fire became a Thing. I had to be like, “Okay, calm down everybody” and then check out for a couple album cycles. But still—what’s their problem? The dude is great. He has things to say. He has a multitude of ways to say those things. His voice is a multi-instrument ensemble. He’s extraordinarily thoughtful, but still funny and surprising. His taste in collaborators and beats and arrangements is impeccable. What’s not to like? He’s the best. And this untitled unmastered proves it; it’s a collection of “unfinished” recordings not good enough to make his last album, and it’s possibly the best hip hop album of the year. I’m sorry hip hop music writer dudes. It’s real.
03.25.2016
Genesis
Abacab
I wasn't prepared to like a Phil Collins era Genesis album, but this is a Phil Collins era Genesis album I like. Particularly the song "Keep it Dark," which I hadn't heard before, but sounds like a Sumday era Grandaddy song in the best possible way. It's great. The whole album is pretty great. Not in a Lamb Lies Down on Broadway way (way), but in a 'Peter Gabriel hasn't been gone long enough for this band to forget how great they can be' kind of way.
03.03.2016
Mount Moriah
How to Dance
This isn't as good as Mount Moriah's last album, but that's okay.
03.02.2016
Sun Kil Moon
Ghosts of the Great Highway
Other than my endless reverence and appreciation for Benji, and the occasional song I'd hear on KEXP, my relationship with Sun Kil Moon has been more or less nonexistent. I've always put them in the same box as groups like Songs:Ohia and Tindersticks and Great Lake Swimmers—thoroughly tasteful and ruminative and adult, but just too shrouded for me to even feel like I was allowed into their club. But having been introduced via unbelievably-good Benji, I've now finally picked up a second, perhaps more traditional Sun Kil Moon record, Ghosts of the Great Highway, and I'm glad I did. Yes, it's tasteful and ruminative and adult, but in the best way possible. Honestly beautiful music. It's not fun, it's not even very exciting, but it's quality. Maybe it's time now to give Mark Eitzel another shot.

(1)
03.02.2016
Pinegrove
Cardinal
If you like alt country and you like indie rock and you like your guitars just the right amount of dirty and you like guys who sound like Colin Meloy without trying to sound like Colin Meloy, and maybe you prefer A.M. to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, and yet you prefer Perfect From Now On to Hollywood Town Hall, Pinegrove might be the band for you. Although admittedly after the first two (great) tracks on here, I sorta zone out. Still, they're good and I'm glad they're doing what they're doing.
03.02.2016
Ches Smith
The Bell
Ches Smith was Xiu Xiu's drummer but really more of a percussionist because he always played a bunch of crazy bells and cymbals and stuff but now he does jazz music and I was excited to hear this record because he has good taste and it features a good pianist and violinist but it's aimless and dissonant and boring and I guess I should've known. Moving on.
05.27.2016 - by Steve
Revival - South Minneapolis
Roasted pork, fried chicken, fixins
Here's a funny thing: Revival actually lives up to the hype! Wow! Hey! But. Except for the chicken, which is very good, but not so much better than your average mom n pop fried chicken that it's worth the two hour waits and parade of Minnesota Monthly superlatives. But. Everything else, from the mac'n'cheese to the rice and beans to the cheesy grits and collared greens (holy shit that rhymes!), and the bread & butter pickles and the barbecue sauces, and especially the roast pork, is perfection. Top to bottom. Just absolutely delicious. I'll (of course) argue that a place serving this food shouldn't be as fancy (read: exclusive) of a sit-down place as it is—it should really be a counter-service 'meat and three'—but I don't care enough to belabor that argument, and I'm an idiot anyway. All that matters is the food is awesome and now that it's been open for a year maybe you can actually get a seat and try it soon.
05.16.2016 - by Steve
Terzo Porchetteria - South Minneapolis
Porchetta
I feel like Terzo's Porchettaria is flying under the radar, as much as a place can fly under the radar in this town these days. Deal is: You know Broder's Pasta Bar, and you probably know Broder's Cucina across the street. Well down the block is Terzo, a newer, smaller, lower profile cafe from the Broder family. I'm sure it's good. But more importantly, on the side of Terzo, by the patio, is a small window and a pig-shaped sign announcing the Porchettaria, where during the day you can get take-out porchetta sandwiches that have been a staple on Terzo's bar menu since day one. This is a wonderful thing. This town needs more of it.
05.16.2016 - by Steve
Dong Yang - New Brighton
Korean short ribs
Dong Yang is still the best Korean restaurant in the city, so you'd assume they have the best bbq short ribs in the city. And, well, yes, they do.
05.03.2016 - by Steve
Hi Lo Diner - South Minneapolis
Hot beef commercial
I was very skeptical of this Hi Lo Diner. Restaurant investors buy up an old timey historic diner car in Pennsylvania, move it to East Lake Street, create a menu of "American diner food with a modern twist", charge $20 for a lamb patty melt and $25 for lobster scrambled eggs and $18 for local honey walnut waffles, and people will go crazy for it and you'll never actually get a table and it's just going to be annoying. But! I was wrong! Mostly! Kind of! I mean, it's not cheap per say, but it's not terrible. And the menu really is fairly "normal" diner food for the most part. Most exciting of all is they serve the southern-Minnesota staple Hot Beef Commercial! See my review of Bump's for my history with the beef commercial. And it's pretty darn good! It's "modern" in that the beef is short rib rather than just regular old chuck roast or whatever, and it's plated kinda fancy, and drizzled with a horseradish aioli, but otherwise it's pretty standard. Only problem is it could've used more gravy. It should be swimming in gravy. And oddly enough, despite its urbane and implied quality, I almost sorta kinda enjoyed Bump's more trashy beef commercial more. Still, I do have to admit that Hi Lo is hitting the right notes in what they're doing. And best of all: Late night pie!. Stay tuned for that.

(1)
05.03.2016 - by Steve
Icehouse - South Minneapolis
Pork nachos
I already wrote about Icehouse on here a couple years ago, but I just went back and had a much more enjoyable experience. Not a ton to add really, but they have a nice late night happy hour, and the seating in the bar area is pretty chill. The pork nachos were much better than the jazz trio in the main room.
03.25.2016 - by Steve
United Noodle - South Minneapolis
Japanese curry
United Noodle! The myth is real! A well stocked Asian supermarket hidden in the industrial warehouse glut of the Seward/Riverside no man's land, whose deli serves up some of the most highly regarded noodles in the city, and staffed entirely by first-generation Asian—wait, no, it's a bunch of hipster college kids. That was unexpected. But still, this place is pretty close to matching its reputation. Maybe not quite, but close. I can only speak for the Japanese curry (tasty but a little on the tame side; it got boring after 4 or 5 bites, and the breaded pork was on the dry side) and the bbq pork ramen (of which the broth was a bit bitter for my taste, but the pork itself was soooo good. Absolutely perfect), but it's right up there with any of the cooler, hipper, expensiver, louder shops that have opened up in recent years. I'd love to go back, but they close so early that it's not going to be easy.
03.25.2016 - by Steve
Melt Shop - Bloomington
Fried chicken melt
This is part of the Mall of America's new collection of "good" food court places, a mysterious entity that clearly is somehow a chain, but who even knows who owns it or runs it or created it or where their money is coming from or if there are other locations somewhere else or if the food is actually prepared in house or if it's the same Aramark crap as everything else, or what. Melt Shop. Like, "Malt Shop," but with melt sandwiches, got it? Cuz they have malts, too. So anyway I got a "buttermilk fried chicken" melt. It was on sourdough bread and had some red cabbage slaw and pepperjack cheese and "Melt Sauce" on it. The chicken was actually quite good; they didn't fry it to order, but they had some prepped and ready to go, and it actually had good breading on it, rather than being the crappy frozen chicken I expected. Everything else, the sauce and the slaw, was just As-Expected. Not special, but good enough. So it was good. Fine. My biggest problem was price; for a mall food court place (even a "good" one), the addition of tots and a drink to the sandwich would've put it up over $15. Which, I don't know. I get it—the sign says "artisanal". But it's still a mall food court.
03.25.2016 - by Steve
Il Foro - Downtown Minneapolis
Steak, meatballs, vodka sauce pasta
This doesn't really count as a real Food review, because I was just at Il Foro for an event that had a buffet-style meal. So it's not like I sat down with a menu and chose an entree and saw the prices and this and that. But given that, I can say I was quite happy with the food I ate, and surprised at its very traditional Italian appeal. This isn't, like, a modern Italian kitchen or some nonsense (see: Monello), it was meatballs in a hearty red sauce, some sort of elbowed hollow rigatoni-like pasta in a creamy vodka sauce, and a fairly traditional—but absolutely perfectly prepared—steak at a carving station, with horseradish. I guess it would be really expensive if I was actually paying for it, but I wasn't. Really though, nobody's going to this place for the food. It's all about the interior, which is a lovingly restored art deco era interior. It's fancy. But like, legit fancy. Very fun. I'll never eat there again.
03.03.2016 - by Steve
Taco Cat - South Minneapolis
Tacos
Have you seen these hilarious "Damn Daniel" videos? They're hilarious, and everyone's seen them. Have you seen them? Where the guy says "Damn Daniel" to the other guy? Shoes maybe? Have you eaten Taco Cat?
02.21.2016 - by Steve
Surly Brewing Co. - St. Paul
Brisket sandwich
I don't drink beer. But I do eat brisket sandwiches. And this was a good (if slightly overpriced) brisket sandwich. And even better (but still overpriced) corn bread. Apparently people like their beer, too. But you know what people don't like? Communal seating. Nobody.

(1)
02.21.2016 - by Steve
Domo - Northeast Minneapolis
Kimchi ramen, sausage bahn mi
Domo isn't bad—its kimchi ramen is particularly tasty, certainly more exciting than Ramen Kazama—but it's not exactly remarkable. If I hadn't left my credit card there by accident, I may have forgotten about the place by the following morning. And as long as the Rabbit Hole still exists, I'll probably just go ahead and forget about Domo by the time I publish this post.
02.11.2016 - by Steve
Red Lantern - St. Paul
Sushi, Japanese sausages
Aged tuna nigiri: great. Red snapper nigiri: great. Flounder and shiso nigiri: great. Kampachi nigiri: great. Urchin nigiri: great. Scraped tuna nigiri: great. Winter roll: great. Prices: high. Waitstaff: obnoxious. Japanese sausage: tastes like lil smokies. Bartender's Asian-person impression: regretful. TV behind the bar: Pokemon. Location: the old Fuji Ya space in St. Paul. Original location: White Bear Lake (really!). Ramen: TBD. Red Lantern: sure!
02.04.2016 - by Steve
Lowry Hill Meats - Uptown Minneapolis
Roast beef sandwich, salami sandwich
Lowry Hill Meats wants you to know it is a premium meat purveyor for those with a sophisticated modern urban meat purveying sensibility, and will sophisticatedly purvey said meats for anyone willing to pay a premium for the purveying of sophisticated meats. They will even put those meats into a sandwich for you, in between two pieces of locally baked european bread. You will like the sandwich, because what's not to like? But will you love the sandwich? Can anyone truly love a sandwich?

(Yes. The answer is yes. Just go to Clancey's and get a roast beef sandwich. You will love it. Lowry Hill Meats, meanwhile, you will like just fine. But that's all.)

01.29.2016 - by Steve
Saint Dinette - St. Paul
Bologna sandwich, latkes
The Saint Dinette, see, isn't actually a dinette. It's irony. Because it's kinda fancy, see. Right there, top of the menu, you can't even pronounce that stuff! But then a few items below those, here's one you can pronounce, despite its tricky spelling—a bologna sandwich! Well what the heck! That's not fancy! I ate those as a kid! I'll have one, please! This'll probably be the best bologna sandwich you've ever had, because it's on the menu at a place that uses "dinette" ironically. Except it's kinda salty and super greasy and desperately needs some sort of mustard.

This second paragraph is about the potato latkes, which were delicious, and don't deserve to be in that previous snark-filled diatribe, even if they were no better than the delicious latkes you'd get at Cecil's, a place which is much closer to actually being a "dinette." Really, the bologna didn't deserve it either. It was fine. The Saint Dinette is fine.

01.29.2016 - by Steve
Mama's Pizza - St. Paul
Pizza, pasta
Mama's Pizza, you St. Paul residents have had me believe, is the city's hidden gem of a neighborhood pizza place. For years I have have heard your whispers and seen your Yelp stars. I even tried going this summer and found it to be packed to the brim and lined up out the door, so respected was its reputation. Well I've now eaten at Mama's Pizza, St. Paul residents—and I am not impressed. Its pizza is Red's Savoy with a more crackery crust. Its pasta is tame and dull even by Marcello's / Donatello's / Michaelangelo's standards. Like, I mean, it's fine though. If you're in the neighborhood, it's probably great to have around. Particularly the pizza. But don't worry if you're not. You have your own place nearby, I'm sure.
01.17.2016 - by Steve
Victor's 1959 Cafe - South Minneapolis
Cubano
Somehow I've never actually managed to order a Cubano at Victor's until this weekend. Every time I've been there previously was for their (equally-if-not-more famous) breakfast. In fact I didn't even realize that their lunch menu was available during the hours I was there, so the Cubano never even crossed my mind. And I'm a man who loves Cubanos. They're a perfect sandwich, and I imagined a Cuban restaurant would make a good one. Guess what? They do.