02.11.2016
Moon Tooth
Chromaparagon
When the promise of a new band that sounds like Shudder to Think and Converge and the Mars Volta and Alien Ant Farm (I swear that's a good thing) and Mastodon and Jeff Buckley and Dillenger Escape Plan and Meshuggah and Queens of the Stone age is so exciting that you become temporarily unconscious and buy their record online within 3 minutes of skimming through their Bandcamp page, only to wake up an hour later feeling like a little fat kid who ate too many strawberries, wondering how anyone could ever let this happen.
02.03.2016
Baroness
Purple
Baroness would be one of the best metal bands in the world if they didn't have one of the worst metal vocalists in the world. Here you've got an absolutely tight, melodic, heavy-but-groovy Mastodon-but-poppier crew killing it in in every direction, and then suddenly you get this voice that sounds like somebody at Bud Light's ad agency searched for "hard rock + cool metal + male + vocals + royalty free" at a stock music site and picked the first thing that popped up. It's a miracle their instrumental chops are good enough that I can even stand to listen to these guys.
01.29.2016
Eleanor Friedberger
New View
I'm going to hold off on actually reviewing this new Eleanor Friedberger record until the snow melts. Because like her last album, this is sunny-day music. It's rolled-up-sleeves-and-mowing-the-lawn music. As far as I can tell, it's good. But as long as I'm slipping on icy sidewalks and wrapped in a scarf, I can't tell how good.
01.29.2016
Shearwater
Jet Plane and Oxbow
I left a snotty little mini review (or preview, rather) a few weeks ago about this new Shearwater album, based on its first single, which has a distractingly synthy vibe to it. You know my feelings on this whole synth trend. So I was being preemptively frustrated with it, to try to stave off the actual frustration that might come with the actual album. Good news is: I was wrong! It's not a trendy annoying synth-heavy cash-in! Bad news: If anything, it's Shearwater-by-the-numbers, which isn't actually bad, because Shearwater's numbers are usually impeccable. But considering the incredible heights their last few albums get to, Jet Plane and Oxbow just doesn't have enough surprises. I hate to say it, but I think maybe they should've made a synth record! Fail spectacularly rather than succeed timidly.
01.17.2016
David Bowie
Blackstar
Look, David Bowie died, and all the thoughts and feelings I had about Blackstar before are no longer valid after. So I won't bother. But I just copy-paste here some thoughts I had about him last week:

You know what's amazing about David Bowie, when you think about it... he made it to age 69, year 2016, fully intact. No embarrassing public freakouts, no shameful interview quotes, no (truly) regretful artistic choices, no cheap money grab projects, no laughable appearances in TV commercials, no offensive political stances, no boring duet or reinterpret-the-hits or Christmas albums, nobody wishing he would just retire, nobody lamenting how good he 'used to be', nothing but 69 years of absolute integrity. Bob Dylan won't be able to say that, Paul McCartney won't be able to say that, Stevie Wonder won't be able to say that, Mick Jagger won't be able to say that, Paul Simon won't be able to say that, and everyone else who could've tried died young anyway. Bowie somehow managed to do it. He won.

01.17.2016
Jens Lekman
Postcards
Jens Lekman released one song a week all of last year, written and recorded in that week, often diary-style, about things that were on his mind those particular days, as a sort of experiment in songwriting. I heard his first one on January 2nd, and then I totally forgot about it for the next 12 months. Though despite its general high-quality, noble execution, and occasional moment of real inspiration, I don't think it would've made my year end list anyway. The one-week limit on each gave it all a (intentional) feeling of tossed-off demos, and nearly all the 52 tracks could've used another couple studio sessions to flesh out. Still, a pretty great experiment, and if you pare it down to 10 songs or so, there's probably a solid Jens Lekman record hiding in there.
01.17.2016
Jamie xx
In Colour
I guess this (highly acclaimed!) Jamie xx album is better and more thoughtful and more musical than most garbage dance music I ever hear. And it has interesting moments on it. And it's not desperately sub-genre dependent. And I actually listened to it front to back without rolling my eyes or skipping any tracks. So I basically give it my highest possible score for an album of its genre: 6/10!
12.31.2015
Steve's Favorite Music of 2015
A List
It's apparent there's a bit of a theme with my list this year–at least the front half of it. Power pop, man. Guitars. Drums. Melody and harmony. Nothing too experimental, nothing too groundbreaking, nothing too sad. But that's just where I was at this year, okay? To quote fictional Los Angeles PD officer and personal hero Jim Kurring, "It's good to rock out sometimes!" But beyond that, the good guitar pop rock stuff that came out this year was seriously, flawlessly good. Plus everything else was a bunch of crappy synth pop and mumbly trap hip hop, so rockin' guitars is what you get.

Albums
1. Screaming Females - Rose Mountain
2. Trust Fund - Seems Unfair
3. Courtney Barnett - Sometimes I Sit And Think...
4. Jim O’Rourke - Simple Songs
5. Dick Diver - Melbourne, Floria
6. The Go! Team - The Scene Between
7. Hop Along - Painted Shut
8. Deafheaven - New Bermuda
9. Sufjan Stevens - Carrie & Lowell
10. Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp a Butterfly*
11. CFCF - Radiance & Submission
12. Joanna Newsom - Divers
13. Julia Holter - Have You In My Wilderness
14. Natalie Prass - S/T
15. Kamasi Washington - The Epic
16. Elder - Lore
17. Beach House - Depression Cherry
18. Alabama Shakes - Sound & Color
19. Girlpool - Before the World Was Big
20. Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment - Surf

* Once again, Kendrick Lamar has put out a totally unimpeachable artistically triumphant album. And I have to put it low on the list because it is absolutely no fun to listen to. Sorry.

Songs (in no real order)
Ought - “Beautiful Blue Sky”
Beach House - “The Traveller”
Laura Stevenson - “Torch Song”
Dick Diver - “Private Number”
Tame Impala - “Reality In Motion”
Joanna Newsom - “Divers”
Screaming Females - “Wishing Well”
Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment - "Sunday Candy"
Trust Fund - “4th August”
Wilco - “Cold Slope/King of You”
Kamasi Washington - “Cherokee”
Go! Team - “What D’You Say?”
Courtney Barnett - “Aqua Profunda!”
Hop Along - “Horseshoe Crabs”
Natalie Prass - “Bird of Prey”
Blinker the Star - “Wolf Eyes Through the Smoke”
Beach House - “Elegy to the Void”
The Decembrists - “Lake Song”
Jens Lekman - "Postcard #42"
12.26.2015
Elder
Lore
A stoner metal band is only as good as its album cover, and Lore's album cover kicks ass. So wouldn't you know, the record does the same. These guys aren't doing a whole lot beyond what their genre entails, but they do it with talent and taste, and enough proggy, Zeppliny flourishes that you almost feel like they're not stoner metal at all. If their singer can find a setting beyond "snarl," they'll be a force to reckon with.
12.21.2015
Girlpool
Before the World was Big
There was a time in my life when I probably would've loved Girlpool, intensely listening to the CD in between spins of Minus Story and Beekeeper. And then there was a time when I would've hated Girlpool, maybe, like, in the couple years before and after those spins of Minus Story and Beekeper. Right now, I'm simply appreciating this odd thing that they do—writing honest lyrics, singing their honest guts out, and doing it one note at a time, without playing a single chord or backing it with even the simplest drum beat—without getting myself too hung up about how fucking twee the whole thing is.

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12.17.2015
Laura Stevenson
Cocksure
A running music theme of this year has been girl-fronted bands putting out excellent rock albums. Or should I say excellent rock albums. Screaming Females, Sleater-Kinney, Hop Along, Courtney Barnett (and Speedy Ortiz and Mourn, if you're into that); all the best pure rock albums have been lady-based. And in comes Laura Stevenson, with this song "Torch Song," and I was ready for her to cap off the year with one more killer record. But she didn't quite do it. Nothing bad, it's just a step down from those other ones. Still, if "Torch Song" is all the impression she leaves on this year, that's plenty for me.
12.13.2015
Serge Gainsbourg
Histoire de Melody Nelson
Je ne veux pas être le gars qui est assis ici et critique de la merde qu'il ne sait rien à propos, mais honnêtement, je ne se soucient pas vraiment de cet enregistrement Serge Gainsbourg, en dépit de son statut de classique, et ont très peu à dire à ce sujet, de sorte Je vais le traduire en français et copier coller dans ce poste de la musique et passer à autre chose. Drôle, hein?
12.11.2015
Beach House
Thank Your Lucky Stars
So Beach House is all, "Hey, maybe we should put out another album even though we just put out a perfectly good one a month ago." And nobody was like, "Yo, Beach House, maybe just hold up for a second. Give it some time. Let it marinate a bit." Although if you were to take "The Traveller" and "Elegy to the Void" and throw them on Depression Cherry in place of that record's two worst songs, you'd have one hell of an album. One hell of an album.
12.10.2015
The Mountain Goats
Get Lonely / We Shall All Be Healed
Continuing my dive into Mountain Goats fandom, I just picked up both Get Lonely and We Shall All Be Healed in a used bin the other night. And I'm gonna go ahead and clump them into the same review. They're both good. They're goth listenable. They seem to create a dividing line between 'old' and 'new' Mountain Goats; Healed is a little rough around the edges, natural distortion and tape noise, while Lonely has a crip studio clarity to it, as well as more gentle piano and guitar strums. But neither fully satisfy me like some other MG collections, and beyond maybe "Home Again Garden Grove," there don't seem to be any knockout singles on either record. Still.

(1)
11.19.2015
Shearwater
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.
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.
01.17.2016 - by Steve
Burger Burger - Bloomington
Burger
There's a Shake Shack opening up at the Mall of America soon. This is big news, I guess, because Shake Shack is a burger chain of downright mythic proportions. Of course, once it opens up here, it will no longer be mythic, and all the stories of people standing in line at the single Shake Shack in a park in New York's Flatiron District will be a distant memory, and it will just be Shake Shacks and Five Guys and Chik Fil A's and (eventually) In And Outs everywhere we look. On the opposite side of the mall, a 180 degree walk around the third floor, you'll find Burger Burger, a "local" burger shop that desperately, desperately, desperately wants to be Shake Shack. They've built their entire brand around fooling people from outside NYC into thinking they are—black and green and white, little iconographic burger and shake illustrations, promises of hand-pattied burgers and fresh fries, a two-word, repeated first-consonant name. It's sad. And when the real Shake Shack opens up across the mall, it will be even sadder. Because despite their desperation, Burger Burger is good. Really. There is nothing wrong with their burger, or their fries. It's tasty and not-too-greasy. A quality burger! They should be proud! But they're probably going to be sued into oblivion.
12.31.2015 - by Steve
Steve's Favorite Food of 2015 - South Minneapolis
A List
For reasons (and circumstances [and because]), I once again didn't really hit up most of the hot new restaurants in the city this year. Because while we may live in a great food city, it's really only a great food city if you make at least $100k a year. For the rest of us who can't afford to just pop in to your new Parisian champagne bar or farm-to-table North Loop small plate warehouse space, it's mostly just a matter of making due with old favorites before they all close for good. So take this list with a grain of salt. Maybe next year.

1. Homemade porchetta
2. Chimborazo - Arroz chaufa
3. Naf Naf Grill - Chicken shawarma
4. Sonora Grill - Chicken and Chorizo Khinkali
5. The Happy Gnome - Sausage poutine
6. Pico de Gallo - Tacos
7. Al's Beef - Italian beef sandwich
8. Blue Door - Cheese curds
9. Monello - Braised rabbit
10. Bump's - Hot beef commercial

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12.31.2015 - by Steve
Hoa Bien - St. Paul
Bánh xèo, beef noodle salad
Hey, you! There's more to Vietnamese food than banh mi and pho, okay? And it all contains rice noodles, bean sprouts, mint and fish sauce. Lots of it. And if you want some of it, you could do worse than Hoa Bien I guess. Just bring like four more people with you.
12.31.2015 - by Steve
Rocky Rococo - Brooklyn Park
Pizza
Here's one of those posts where I just need to tell you, straight away, that I'm fully aware of how pointless it is. I don't need to be writing a review of Rocky Rococo here on a fancy pants food blog. It's not good, okay? You won't like it. It's gross thick pizza that barely even qualifies as "pizza." An Italian person, or even a New Yorker, would have no idea what this pile of food is if you put it in front of them. But I used to go to this place all the time as a kid, this very location in Brooklyn Park, formerly across from Circus arcade in the Village North mall, which no longer exits (the arcade or the mall). And I'd basically forgotten about its existence, until a recent trip through western Wisconsin, where there's seemingly a Rocky Rococo in every town. So I had a car and some spare lunch time, so I ventured out to Brooklyn Park and went into a full-on childhood reminiscence mode. This place hasn't changed a bit. For better or worse. Same booths, same carpet, same weird pictures of Rocky on the wall. And the pizza is still thick and oddly sweet and square. And I secretly love it.
12.31.2015 - by Steve
Ha Tien Market - St. Paul
Banh Mi
This was a good banh mi. Maybe not the best banh mi, but it was a good banh mi. This place does have a bunch of other stuff in its deli that all looks delicious though, and I want to try one of each. I just don't know what any of it is.
12.17.2015 - by Steve
Holey Moley Coffee + Doughnuts - Milwaukee
Doughnuts
Holey Moley's doughnuts, as far as the new breed of hipster doughnuts goes, were not very good or memorable or even notable. But I'm posting this here simply so I can get a nicer picture on the top of this site instead of that disgusting Solly's cheeseburger. God, that was so gross.

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12.14.2015 - by Steve
Solly's Grille - Milwaukee
Double butter burger
If you read any list of Best Burgers in Milwaukee, or Essential Milwaukee Eating, or Best Cheap Milwaukee Eats, or Blah Blah Milwaukee Blah, you'll probably see Solly's come up. People love their burgers. They're greasy. They're buttery. They're disgusting. "But aren't greasy buttery burgers delicious?" In theory. But these aren't greasy buttery burgers—these are burgers of grease and butter. You have to drink this burger. You have to slop it up like an old Chinese man slurping his soup. The poor bun is swimming in a yellowish clear pool of slimy grease, and it just keeps oozing out the more you eat it. All over your fingers. Dripping back onto the plate. It's horrible. It's revolting. "Okay, this is where Steve turns the tables and says it's actually amazing". No. It's disgusting. Never again. Don't do it. Cute little place though?

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12.13.2015 - by Steve
Vanguard - Milwaukee
Bratwurst, chili fries
Milwaukee's a pretty cool city. Who would've thought? Lots of nice old German style architecture that (unlike dumb old Minneapolis) hasn't yet been torn down to make room for North Face stores and high rises, a cool art museum and lots of Lake Michigan lakefront park area, and apparently a booming foodie food food scene. But I suppose that's every city. Still, as much as Minneapolites like to fly the flag of being a "food city" of some sort, this shit is happening everywhere. Milwaukee is no different. In fact, I'm almost ready to say Milwaukee has a better food scene, simply because of a place like Vanguard. So simple, so affordable, so unpretentious. Okay, maybe a little pretentious—they have a tee shirt that has "Vanguard" written in the style of a black metal logo, with a pentagram goat surrounded by sausages. But basically Vanguard is a bar with a couple tables and a grill and a bunch of cool sausages. Comparable maybe to New Bohemia over in these parts, but cheaper, with more topping options, and less off-puttingly chainy. So I went with a basic bratwurst with onions and kraut, cuz it's Milwaukee, right? And I have to say, it was as satisfying as any bratwurst I've ever had. Not saying it was better than any bratwurst I've ever had, but it got up to the theoretical Bratwurst Apex, the ceiling of quality which no traditional bratwurst can ever truly exceed. But it scratched every itch I had, and the bun was perfect, and I can't complain one bit. The cheddarwurst was also quality, though the cheddar was a bit intense, and the chili fries were heavenly, and impressively cheap. A nice way to kick off a whirlwind tour of Milwaukee, and yet another call for Minneapolis to get its food shit together.
12.13.2015 - by Steve
Granny Donuts - West St. Paul
Donuts
Remember Mr. Donut? The local Dunkin Donuts competitor chain back in the late 80s? Well step inside Granny Donuts and be transported to goddamn first Bush administration! It's like nothing changed, except Mr. is a Granny now, and Granny is an old Hmong lady, and the donuts are good enough.
12.13.2015 - by Steve
Piegram - Milwaukee
Pie(s)
Pie! In the mail! In little boxes! Happy birthday to me! It's probably not groundbreaking that the Honeypie Cafe in Milwaukee offers mail order pie, but they do do a good job of making it fun and cute, calling it a "Piegram", putting some fun stickers on it, packaging it nicely, all that junk. But how's the pie? Pecan: Not as good as Stockholm's, but good. Apple: Very good. Caramel custard: Good. All in all, I bet they're a little bit better actually at the cafe where they're made, as the crust is a little dense and 'lived' by the time it crosses the country, but I've had plenty of worse pie.