Jet Plane and Oxbow
This Shearwater album isn't out yet. Probably not until the new year. I haven't heard it either, just one song. But I know everything I need to know: Shearwater is going synth, and everything sucks.
Iron and Wine
Ghost on Ghost
Totally not timely here, but I was just listening to this record again randomly, and it's really good! I even liked it when it came out I guess, but it really got forgotten really quick by everyone. It's great though, right!?
Trust Fund
Seems Unfair
My personal Superchunk phase is well into its second year now, with no sign of stopping. I guess it's more of a 'power pop' phase, but really it's specifically about the kind of power pop that Superchunk and their ilk play—more Dinosaur Jr. than Cheap Trick, more Superdrag than Big Star. It's probably what's going to make Screaming Females' album my favorite of the year when the times comes in a couple months. And here's this new English band Trust Fund, who I never heard of until today, and who I probably would've ignored, had Pitchfork not thrown a Superchunk reference right in the teaser text. And even though they only gave it a 6.8, I think they're wrong, and it's at least a 7.2! Good hooks, good progressions, interesting singer that would fit in a late 90s Elephant 6 band, scuzzy Dino Jr. production that's maybe just a bit muddy for me, but whatever. They're good, they're positive, they've got personality, they're clearly having fun while not forgetting to write songs. This isn't necessarily the greatest album ever, but I'll bet they put out their own mini-classic sometime in the next year. This is fine for now. Super!

New Bermuda
Sorry I just posted about New Bermuda, but I just wanted to chime in again, because I listened to it a couple times last week while boppin' around on a chilly dark night, and something about it was just perfect. If you're in the mood for what Deafheaven has to offer, it's a powerful, powerful record. It might just sneak up near the top of my end-of-year favorites.

Joanna Newsom
Sadly, this is Joanna Newsom's worst album. It's rudderless and over—or at least inconsistently—produced, with too many borrowed tendencies from the last record and no real sense of forward artistic momentum or enlightenment that all of her previous work has displayed. But guess what? It's still 100 times better than anything you can do, so chill out, okay?

Run the Jewels
Live at First Avenue, 10.23.15
This was the best.
The Decemberists
Florasongs EP
Remember that new album the Decemberists put out earlier this year? Yeah, me neither. (Aww, Steve, that was mean. It wasn't bad!) Well this is a little post-LP EP, with a handful of songs that didn't make the cut of that album that was already seemingly full of songs that didn't make their cut from their previous album—which I honestly think was one of their best, and should've been their swan song. Anyhow, Florasongs isn't bad, nor is it particularly impressive or interesting. A few good songs that could've made good replacements for Beautiful World's clunkers, one clunker of its own, and a couple nice breezy sweet nothings. That's about it. Good enough!

New Bermuda
I don't buy in to any of the critique/dialogue/commentary/consensus surrounding Deafheaven. To me it boils down to, yeah, Deafheaven does some different stuff for a "black metal" band, but calm down everybody. Metal fans and writers get so concerned about this shit. Sunbather had so much damn baggage that came with it, but I found the record itself to be pretty dull. By-the-numbers post rock doing battle with by-the-numbers black metal, recorded well and performed well enough. But otherwise it bored me. New Bermuda on the other hand. This is exciting! It's not perfect, and it's not going to compete with my all time favorite works of metal, but it's good. Italic good! Because in between the flashes of black metal blastbeats and that nonsense (which I honestly quite dislike), they actually perform here as a thoughtful-yet-tight metal band. And yeah, there's some post rock in there. There's some indie rock in there. There's some goddamn Yo La Tengo in there! But as a whole it's simply powerful, moving, organically-inclined heavy metal. If they go ahead and shred any worries about "black" in their next release, they'll truly be onto something.

The Mountain Goats
The Sunset Tree
It took me until I was 33 years old to fully appreciate the teenage discontent of the Mountain Goats. I love it. I mean, I've been a huge fan of The Life of the World to Come, and was more or less appreciative of his other work, but that was it. But the more I dig into it, the more it all makes sense. Tallahassee is quite good, All Hail West Texas is better still, but I think The Sunset Tree is perhaps the purest example of what it is John Darnielle can do.
Allas Sak
Exactly no better or no worse than the last three Dungen albums. But contains way more saxophone than the last three Dungen albums, so I'll give it the slight edge. Totally listenable, but kinda sad that they have seemingly lost the absolute precision melodic thrust of Ta Det Lugnt. I mean, that album's an unimpeachable classic at this point, so they'll never top it, but it would be nice if they could swing for the fences again.
Julia Holter
Have You In My Wilderness
I've been intrigued by the last two Julia Holter records, enough that I bought them and listened to them a few times each, and was generally impressed by their mood and intricacy; Holter has a knack for making avant garde pop music that's more avant garde than pop, but still remains listenable and pleasant, mysterious and comforting. But neither of them managed to stick with me. They float nicely, but right past your grasp, gaseous clouds of tunes. This new one moves the dial back the other way, adding some pop back into the avant garde, adding some solid ground below the clouds. And it all works, though it occasionally treads worryingly close to some sort of Regina Spector-ish 89.3-ready liberal-arts pop. In fact, one of the analogues I hear in the poppier moments is (the regretfully underrated) Laura Mvula. And while I think Mvula pulls off this sort of light-on-its-feet, handsomely orchestrated art pop better, Holter still has some sublime weirdo moments of haze and ether, and not many singers do that better.

Sun Coming Down
I really ought to dislike should dislike Ought. Especially for a band so obviously influenced by a handful of 70s post punk slash art punk groups like The Fall and Wire and Television that I admittedly and disgracefully have a hard time listening to. Basically anything that revolves around dissonance and sloppy hollered sing-talking turns me right off. No offense to those groups; I appreciate their place in the canon, but they just bring me zero pleasure. Ought, on the other hand, and for reasons I can't even pinpoint, are enjoyable to me. They just make tasteful choices. The singer—well, shout sing talker—has a unique and instrumental voice, and like a great rapper, or actor, or the guy from Future Islands, he knows how to make his projection and tenor work for the betterment of the song, even if he's not actually "singing" any particular melodies. Or if he's just trying to sound like Mark E Smith. Anyhow, this record is a better one front to back than their debut, though it's missing the one killer single which that album had in "Habit," one of my favorite songs of that year. Still, it's a good one, and this is a good group. And no I'm not going to go back and try to "get into" Wire. I've tried. It's not happening.
Broken Social Scene
You Forgot It In People
You Forgot It in People finally makes sense to me. It finally clicked. It's an echo, a remnant. It's the memory of a rock album. I enjoyed it enough back in 2002 or whenever it came out, but it never felt quite right. It felt empty. I think I'm just now realizing it's not supposed to be some beautifully rendered painting—it's the ghostly residual of that painting created by ink seeping through the back side of the canvas; the shapes and colors are there, but the details aren't as important, and it's way more beautiful than some dumb painting of a tree anyway.

Ones and Sixes
Easily the best Low album since The Great Destroyer. "I should be sleeping by your lonely side / instead of working on this song all night." /song ends. Damn.
Tender Buttons
I've been listening to Tender Buttons on and off for the last two weeks, and while I don't think it can supplant Haha Sound as my favorite of their releases, it's still so good. They're so good. And I'm as bummed as ever that Trish Keenan died. Sucks. A lot. But dammit, she left behind this amazing little collection of Broadcast records that are just getting better in time, demolishing whatever "electro pop" classification you want to put on them, running circles around the nonsense that would be their competition today. Damn near flawless. And yeah, fine, "they" are still around, without Trish, but her voice and melodic sense was key to this whole thing, and it was great.
Beach House
Depression Cherry
My relationship with Beach House is complicated. I like them. But I want them to do better. I know they can do better. Even though what they do is good. Depression Cherry is maybe building up to be my favorite of their records—I think? It's hard to draw a line between them sometimes. Their whole catalogue is basically one big gradient, from orange to salmon to pink; they're clearly in a different place now than they were 7 years ago, but I couldn't tell you how or when they got here. But it's all equally pretty and lovely and lovely and pretty. They really understand progressions and arrangement, and are slowly getting a handle on using vocal harmonies for movement rather than simply atmosphere. But what bugs me about this album in particular is Victoria Legrand's unwillingness to truly unleash her voice. It's a powerful instrument she has when she belts in her lower register, like Nico (or someone better than Nico). But she's constantly keeping it in check here, choosing instead to use a quieter, breathier head voice that just doesn't have the same weight. A shame, yeah, but they've still made a(nother) totally listenable album with melodies that hook you out of nowhere, and just enough surprises to keep from lulling you to sleep.

11.26.2015 - by Steve
Ward 6 - St. paul
Biscuits and Gravy
I like Ward 6 so far. Just based on their brunch, I guess, but just the mood and atmosphere and ambience of the place felt very positive to me. Friendly and unfussy. The kind of place that, despite being new and popular, is becoming an endangered species. I had the biscuits and gravy, not the absolute best I've ever had, but still better than your average diner b&g. The harissa-spiked eggs benedict was also better than average, though not paradigm shifting. The beignets... skip'em.
11.26.2015 - by Steve
Ramen Kazama - South Minneapolis
Everybody chill out about Ramen Kazama, okay? It's obviously not the best ramen in America. It's probably not the best ramen in the cities. Its existence doesn't turn Minneapolis into a World Class Food City like City Pages seems to want to think. The lines around the block your Facebook friends are raving about are a social media fantasy based on everybody's desperate longing to live in a World Class Food City With The Best Ramen Shop In America. This too shall pass. And when it does, when you stop worrying about how important the myth of Ramen Kazama is to your life, hopefully you'll appreciate it for what it really is: quality counter-service ramen in a refreshingly modest space in a part of town that doesn't necessarily need a ramen shop, but let's just go with it. It's good, alright? And god bless them for making it counter service, although the prices could stand to be a buck or two cheaper. And skip the fried chicken ramen. Go with the pork belly.

11.23.2015 - by Steve
Beirut - West St. Paul
Chicken kabob, falafel, etc.
West Saint Paul is still the weirdest place. I can't figure it out. I mean, it's not to the west of anything. Makes no sense. Case in point, Beirut, a full-service, wood-paneled, late-80s chic Lebanese restaurant across from the Chuck E Cheese, where all the staff were wearing Vikings jerseys despite it being a Saturday, and a belly dancer getting ready to perform for about 6 tables of people. Weird. The menu was brief, and contained mostly what you'd find at a random middle-eastern/mediterranean bodega type place in the city—kabobs, falafel, baba ganoush— but "fancy." (It wasn't really fancy). It looked nice on the plate I guess, and all tasted mostly fine. The most interesting thing about the whole meal was the "sauce" that came on the side, which wasn't a sauce as much as a garlic paste, with the look and consistency of bacon grease or lard or something. It was strange, and genuinely foreign. And super garlicy. Very intense. I can't tell if it's actually a Lebanese thing, or just a West Saint Paul thing, or if someone in the kitchen just really screwed up. Still, it was a fine meal overall, if a little on the pricey side, which I guess they have to pay the belly dancer somehow.
11.16.2015 - by Steve
Cafe Racer - South Minneapolis
Yucca breakfast poutine
Another food-truck-turned-brick-and-mortar, Cafe Racer recently(?) opened up on a quaint little inconspicuous Seward corner that has generally spelled doom for everyone that's ever tried to open there. There was the Donut Cooperative. A bakery of some sort. Another bakery of some sort. I don't even remember. But now comes Racer, who's truck I'd never eaten at, and who's reputation I wasn't even sure of, but they've got some arepas and some pupusas and some latin-inspired, yucca-heavy brunch items, as well as Columbian style hot dogs not unlike Sonora Grill's, and they've got a very, very pleasantly designed interior, not too fussy, but still clean and modern. And it is good. Not Chimborazo good (see below!), but at least Victor's good, maybe better. I'm happy about it. And they'll be out of business before the snow melts.

11.13.2015 - by Steve
Bonnie's Cafe - St. Paul
Breakfast stuff
Hey check it out, it's a breakfast review! What a treat. I ate this morning at Bonnie's Cafe in St. Paul, on University and Cretin. Or Vandalia? Whatever. This is one of those increasingly rare places that is truly a hole-in-the-wall, neighborhood mom-n-pop breakfast nook. It's the very definition of a small town greasy spoon diner, seemingly untouched—save for some occasional paint jobs—since about 1960. It's charming. It's kinda gross, but it's charming. Unfortunately, where Bonnie's can't keep up with its across-the-river contemporaries of Al's Breakfast and the Ideal Diner, is that it's just kinda not very good. It's fine, just your regular run of the mill breakfast fare, but nothing beyond what you could get anywhere else. No reason to go out of your way.
11.11.2015 - by Steve
House of Curry - Rosemount
Lamb curry, kottu roti
I bet you never knew you needed a Sri Lankan restaurant in your life. Well you do, and the good news is that you've got one! The bad news is that it's so far away you may as well just travel to Sri Lanka. But if you happen to be passing through Rosemount (which you won't be), by god check out the House of Curry, nuzzled between a lacrosse equipment store and a Dollar Tree in a strip mall off of highway or county road something or another. I'm no expert in Sri Lankan cuisine of course, my only real experience coming from Sea Salt's Sri Lankan curry (which is one of the best items on their menu), but it seems that, depsite the island nation's proximity to India, the food actually has more in common with Malaysian. We first ordered kottu roti, which is supposedly the Sri Lankan street food—imagine a spicy fried rice that uses shredded pieces of roti bread instead of rice, topped with a savory, and a little sweet, 'gravy'. Well rounded and satisfyingly chewy and delicious. Along with that was a lamb coconut curry, which again leaned more towards a Malaysian curry rather than Indian, and happily wasn't overwhelming in its coconuttyness. The lamb wasn't quite as perfect as my heroes at Gandhi Mahal make it, but the curry had a great layering of flavors, and an intense side of hot red pepper paste. I loved it all. And I'd go back immediately if it wasn't in goddamn Rosemount.

11.09.2015 - by Steve
Chimborazo - Northeast Minneapolis
Roasted pork, arroz chaufa
I won't waste too much of my text allotment here to rant about how much I love Chimborazo. What's the point. It's great. It's so great. It's so, so great. I've been passing by the place for years now, always interested in giving it a try, but never actually doing it. Years. And recently a couple friends got hooked on it and started talking it up. But still it's always just a bit too out-of-sight-out-of-mind to actually consider once dinner time rolls around. But opportunity finally presented itself, and I finally made it there—with a girl nonetheless!—and it's even better than I imagined it could be. Really puts every other Latin restaurant in town to shame. Just perfect in every way, totally unfussy and simple (but stopping just short of "hole in the wall") in both its food and and presentation, but every bite made me want to tip the table over and swear and kiss the kitchen staff. But clearly the secret is getting out, because it was packed wall-to-wall on Saturday night, literally out the door. Good for them though. It's a legitimate, long-time-coming, purely word-of-mouth success. As long as they don't feel like they need to move to Calhoun Square and add a craft cocktail bar and a patio.
11.01.2015 - by Steve
Sporty's - Northeast Minneapolis

A great place with a great burger in the weirdest not-quite-Northeast not-quite-U-of-M not-quite-Saint-Paul corner of the city that I never, ever visit. Unless specifically to eat a burger at a place like Sporty's, which has had a great reputation since it was Sportsman's back in college, but I never bothered finding it. Honestly one of the better burgers I've had in a while. And they had the World Series on 5 TVs, and the Packers game on just 1, so they have my approval.
11.01.2015 - by Steve
Cheng Heng - St. Paul
Lemongrass soup, mushroom noodle thing?
Cambodian food. Sounds exotic, right? I suppose, relatively, it is. But when you look at a map to see where the heck Cambodia actually is, you'll see it's smack dab in between Vietnam and Thailand, and that seems to be just what you get with Cambodian food—Thai to the left, Vietnamese to the right, and lots of soup. But anyway, Cheng Heng, a pretty nondescript spot in between a hundred of nondescript spots on University, is one of the only "Cambodian" restaurants in the city. Maybe the only? But it's good! Very good! Definitely better than a handful of Thai and Vietnamese spots you could try. There's not a ton of detail I can get into; the lemongrass soup was lemongrassy and delicious. The mushroomy noodley thing was mushroomy and noodley and delicious. And even had some edible flowers mixed in! I think. I don't know. Cheng Heng was real good. And there was at least a dozen other items on their menu I want to try. They'll be seeing more of me.

10.15.2015 - by Steve
The Electric Burger Co. - Food Truck
Habanero cheeseburger
If you're desperate enough in your daily food-eating schedule that you need to eat something from the back of a truck, you could do worse than the Electric Burger Co. I was, and did, and ordered their daily special habanero cheeseburger. It was like a decent quality bar burger with quality toppings. I have no complaints, other than maybe the slaw it was topped with was a little messy, particularly when forced to eat it out of a paper bag while walking on a busy sidewalk. Food trucks. Yuck.
10.06.2015 - by Steve
King & I Thai - Mendota Heights
34 with beef
The King and I is back! And while it isn't necessarily "better than ever," it is farther away than ever, with shorter hours than ever, smaller than ever, and harder to get to than ever. But I'm not complaining, because they still have the 34—which is still #34 on the menu!—and the recipe hasn't changed. The particular batch I got was a little more liquid than usual, and perhaps less spicy than it's been, but those are minor quibbles, and likely more a result of the particular kitchen crew at the time I was there than any harbinger of suburban down-dumbing. It's seriously one of my favorite dishes in the whole world. I'm so glad it's back.
10.03.2015 - by Steve
Z's Smokin Bonez - Maple Grove
Barbecue ribs
On the Great Minnesota Barbecue Continuum, Z's Smokin Bonez doezn't really factor. On the less-challenging junior circuit of the Suburban Barbecue Continuum, it lands somewhere in the middle. Maybe the upper-middle, even, because they're doing some good things, in theory at least. Whatever rub/wood combination they're using did give their meat (okay, stop laughing!) a nice layered flavor, so that's nice, but they were super fatty and greasy. That'z not nice. They have 10 (!) different flavors of sauces, some remarkably experimental for a Maple Grove barbecue joint—wasabi, peanut butter, and bacon for instance. But the wilder saucez didn't really add much. They tasted a little too much like what they were. The wasabi, for instance, just kinda tasted like somebody put wasabi in barbecue sauce. The mustard sauce just tasted like someone put a little barbecue sauce in mustard. Their bazic sauces, though, were totally decent. Above average even! And like the current kings of suburban barbecue, Q Fanatic, they're trying to go nuts on the sides. Their baked beanz were totally solid, but their bacon & blue cheese mac and cheeze was greasy and mushy and not very satizfying. So what we've got here is a suburban barbecue joint aiming high, going for that big difficulty score from the Russian judge, but landing awkwardly off the mat and breaking a bone or two. Meanwhile the aforementioned Q Fanatic and Eagan's Rack Shack are watching from the sidelines and feeling pretty good about themselvez.
09.30.2015 - by Steve
6Smith - Wayzata
Lobster sliders, short rib sliders
6Smith's grandfather made a fortune in the asbestos removal business. 6Smith's dad made an even larger fortune in real estate. 6Smith's parents gave him a Maserati on his 16th birthday. 6Smith got to move in to the guest house on his 17th. 6Smith got lucky when his college roommate scored big selling a targeted advertising algorithm and made a percentage from his role as venture capitalist. 6Smith likes to take girls out on his boat and has a Bastian Schweinsteiger haircut and fuckin kills it at the crossfit gym on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. 6Smith likes to hit up downtown on weekends and loves the local food scene there. 6Smith scored a deal on some kickass Lake Minnetonka real estate and got some buds to help put a half mil into renovating it and making Wayzata's newest lakeside spot. And yet 6Smith can't afford to serve name-brand cola or get the cable sports tier that shows the Gopher game. 6Smith is a douchebag.

09.22.2015 - by Steve
Naf Naf Grill - Downtown Minneapolis
Chicken shawarma
It's hard to get too excited about new "good" fast food chains when places like Smashburger and Rusty Taco and Which Which (gross) consistently tend to underwhelm upon their big splashy entry into the cities. Even more so when the new restaurant can so quickly be described as "Chipotle for _____." Chipotle for pizza. Chipotle for sushi. Chipotle for mac and cheese. Or that guy who won the NBC reality show and started a Chipotle for soul food in the Mall of America which shut down within 2 months, leaving this guy and his newly uprooted family to fend for themselves in Minneapolis. But that has zero to do with this. This, in fact, is about Naf Naf Grill, the brand new Chipotle for shawarma joint that just opened downtown after hitting it big in Chicago. And this, also, is where I totally eat my hat. Because, the thing is, Naf Naf is the real deal!. I say that as a lover of shawarma. And a guy with a food blog. So you can trust me. But as much as I love and appreciate places like Shish and Aida and the random bodega-style deli, Naf Naf has managed to out-shawarma them. I'm so sorry. I want those little guys to win, but the Chicago chain beat them fair and square. This shit is delicious, and it's so much more than meat and rice on a pita. They've got pickled stuff. They've got oniony salad stuff. They've got sauces that the employees could barely pronounce. It's honestly the best shawarma sandwich I've had since the Oasis of Williamsburg on my trip to Brooklyn a few years ago (yes, I'm rolling my eyes too). That was actually the closest analogue I can find to Naf Naf, with some of the same types of fixings that nobody else in Minneapolis seems to bother with. Top it all off with the fact that they bake all their pita bread in house, and that the shawarma itself was juicy and tender and flavorful, I can't wait for these guys to open up more stores. And three years from now, when you hear me complaining about how there are Naf Nafs opening everywhere, slap me in the face and make me read this review again.