07.20.2016
Michael Kiwanuka
Love and Hate
Dear recording artist,

Please stop letting Danger Mouse produce your records.

Love,
Steve

07.13.2016
Astronoid
Air
The word on Astronoid is that they're helping spearhead a new era of extreme metal, bringing major chorded, clean vocal'd melody and genre-agnostic experimentation to the traditionally genre-dogmatic world of black metal. That's the word at least. But what the word fails to mention is that Astronoid more often than not comes off sounding like these guys graduated high school and discovered Deafheaven and decided to just do what they're doing, except the kid on the left, who got super into Dragonforce after beating Guitar Hero in his dorm. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't. Like, if you told me they were a christian band I'd believe you. But I guess they'd be a pretty good one, all things considered.
06.23.2016
Trust Fund
We have always lived in The Harolds
One day last summer, I went from having never heard of Trust Fund, to putting their Seems Unfair album near the top of my Best Of The Year list, and putting the band near the top of my Super Excited To Hear What They Do Next list. Awesome album, really smart power pop, fun and charming, well done, funny videos. They're good. Well What They Do Next didn't take long, because they just released this new, uh, album? Is it an album? What is an album anymore? It was only $1.49 on Bandcamp, and I can't help but feel that it's basically a series of demo recordings that would've been better off kept behind the scenes in preparation for their next real album, half song ideas, and half instrumental arrangement experiments (some woodwinds here, some mellotron there, some connective drones yonder). But I can't complain, because $1.49. The songs are nice though, and they're seriously on a roll in terms of knocking out sweet smart melodies—and I'm currently listening it to about the 5th time since last night. Still, just because it's so easy here in 2016 to release an "album," doesn't mean that you always should.
06.22.2016
Laura Mvula
The Dreaming Room
A couple years ago, Laura Mvula released this really beautiful album of carefully and lovingly orchestrated art pop, that was mostly too polite and adult to be given much consideration by anyone outside of NPR and the quiet few of us who love adult and polite lovingly orchestrated art pop. So now here's her follow up, and it's mostly a continuation of that vein, but with a notable addition of some electronic 'stuff,' and bigger booming Florence drums here and there. The songs are generally good, but it all has a slight feeling that somebody at the record company wanted to try a little bit harder to score a big hit this time around. Luckily, they didn't try that hard. So it's still a lovely polite adult art pop record. Just not as flawless as the last one.
06.17.2016
Mammal Hands
Floa
The jazz quartet Courageous Endeavors is easily my favorite local 'band' these days. Maybe you've read about them on this music slash food blog. What I like about them, aside from their obvious technical talent and taste, is that they are a jazz combo who doesn't care about sounding like a jazz combo. They write songs that are seemingly inspired as much by post-rock and Amnesiac era Radiohead as by Kind of Blue—and while nobody would mistake their music for anything other than jazz, there's no reliance on swinging hi-hats and walking basslines, nor on tuneless squawks or anything "acid." They just make music. They do it well. Mammal Hands, a quartet from Norwich England, strikes this same sweet spot in my ears. There's piano and upright bass and saxophone and drums, and they are playing jazz, but they don't care what that means. What they do care about is music—melody and harmony and rhythm. Nothing is trying to break or distort or upset. They're good. I like it. But they don't quite reach Courageous Endeavors levels; they have a tendency to fall into Steve Reich-y, Phillip Glass-y arpeggio patterns, and you could probably point to a handful of European ECM artists of the 70s and 80s who they take inspiration from. But still, they make really lovely music that's a pleasure to listen to, and is everything I need until Courageous Endeavors finally releases a second damn album.
06.13.2016
Leapling
Suspended Animation
Here's some praise that sounds faint, but I assure you is not: This is a totally solid indie rock record.

(2)
06.08.2016
Moon Tooth
Chromoparagon
I posted about this album earlier, but things have changed. It's great. So great. Basically, take everything I said in my first review about it sounding like Shudder to Think and Converge and Mastodon and fucking Incubus and Alien Ant Farm all at the same time, but then stop reading at the point where I say it's overkill. It's not. It's perfectkill. Super heavy, super proggy, super melodic, and most interesting of all for a 21st century metal album: It's colorful. Joyful. Fun. It has heart and it will gouge out yours. It's so hard to find metal that's fun without being somehow ironic or satirical, but this does it. It's even harder to find metal that's somehow indebted to nu-metal without being awful, but this does it. It's great!

(1)
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.)

(1)
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.
07.19.2016 - by Steve
Marino's Deli - Northeast Minneapolis
Lasagna and meatball
Sometimes on this dumb site I'll start a post with, "I've been waiting 3 whole years to go to this place," or "I've been meaning to try this place for most of the last decade." Well check this shit out: 15 years I've waited to go to Marino's Deli. 15 years. Since back in early college when I had a summer job that would take me down Johnson, I'd drive by it and fantasize about what must be inside. Don't ask me how so much time passed before I finally took the leap today, I don't know. Just never was around that neighborhood hungry I guess. But I went. And it's charming and great in every way a neighborhood Italian deli should be. Good red sauce. Good meatballs. Good prices. Low key friendly service. It's exactly the kind of place a neighborhood needs. Problem is, like—look, I love dives. We need dives. We need to support our dives. Marino's doesn't need to spend money on an interior design firm or new reclaimed wood flooring or anything. But they could really stand to just take a weekend and tidy up a bit. It's a mess. Still on the right side of charming, but just barely. You should go there though.
07.05.2016 - by Steve
Bibuta - Food Truck
Pork sushi burrito
A new (to me) food truck at the Minnesota United game caught my eye this weekend. Or rather, the lack of a line compared to the Anchor truck next to it caught my eye. It's called Bibuta, and it specialized in sushi burritos and OMG are we in Manhattan or something?? And while you might have an idea of what a sushi burrito is, just stop for a second, and stop thinking so hard about it. It's simpler than that. It's really, a giant sushi roll. There's no tortilla, just a big sheet of nori, with sushi-grade rice and filling rolled inside of it, all held in by a heroic piece of foil. The idea of eating this much actual sushi didn't quite appeal to me, so I got the pork belly burrito, while Paul got the beef bulgogi, and we went splitsies on them. And I have to say: They were both very good. I preferred the pork, even if the beef tasted a little more like sushi, but that's almost beside the point. Really it's just a tasty pile of sushi-like food to fill your gullet. And despite the absence of a nice hot sauce (which would've been made it a near perfect food truck item), it succeeds tremendously.
07.05.2016 - by Steve
Hi Lo Diner - South Minneapolis
Reuben, pie
Okay, Hi Lo fully won me over. It didn't take much, I was impressed on my very first trip. But I've been back there 3 times now, and I'm continually impressed. All the worries I had about it being this or that (or the other) are basically moot. Like, yeah, it's a little on the yup side, but not by much, but none of that matters, because all the food I've had has been fantastic. This time it was the reuben. It's not a 100% traditional one—it's served on some sort of toasted roll rather than rye bread, and the sauce in which it's downright slathered has a bit more bite than your standard Russian dressing—but it is profoundly satisfying. And then they toss in the classic crinkle-cut diner fries, which unlike a crinkle-cut standard bearer like Cecil's, have a rich golden brown fry to them, something we've grown used to on hand-cut pub fries, but is really a rarity on crinkle cuts. It's great! And then we get to the pie. You guys. They've done it.
07.05.2016 - by Steve
Giordano's - Uptown Minneapolis
Chicago style deep dish pizza
Best thing about Giordano's pizza is how there's so fucking much of it.
06.13.2016 - by Steve
The French Hen Cafe - St. Paul
Banh mi benedict
A banh mi benedict! It's like banh mi! But in benedict form! Are you slapping your forehead as much as I am? It's so obvious. Honestly this is one of the best breakfasts I've had in a long time—pretty much perfect. And this one meal alone (and a couple bites of their shockingly dense yet somehow still moist pancakes) has vaulted the French Hen up towards the top of the Twin Cities breakfast joint hierarchy as far as I'm concerned.
06.08.2016 - by Steve
Hello Pizza - Edina
Sausage pizza, meatball sandwich
A pizza by the slice joint that actually serves good pizza and quality meatball sandwiches? Hello! Stupid. That was so stupid. I'm not even going to finish this review. Look, Hello Pizza is good but not great, but that's all it needs to be, and we need more places like it. Wait, is it owned by the Lola people? I think it is, but I'm not going to look it up right now, because I don't take food blogging very seriously. Also there was a manager/owner who was back in the kitchen the whole time, and he was big-dogging the employees and making me a little uncomfortable. Just let them get high and make some pizzas, man!
06.08.2016 - by Steve
A Baker's Wife - South Minneapolis
Chocolate donut
Baker's Wife started using darker chocolate on their donuts! Today is the first day of the rest of your life.

(1)
06.08.2016 - by Steve
Umami Bowl - Apple Valley
Hunan chicken
I go to Apple Valley sometimes. It's the worst. But they have a Half Price Books, and an express bus line to get me there, so that's where I'm at. This place called Umami Bowl popped up a while ago in one of the town's countless strip malls, and it looked kinda interesting maybe? At least more interesting than China Dragon Wok Star Garden #1 or whatever, and their menu was at least promising enough to contain masaman curry and drunken noodles, rather than just, like, "Thai coconut chicken" or something like that. So I finally gave it a shot, and it's—kinda interesting maybe? I was really in the mood for Chinese, so I just got their "Hottie Hunan" chicken, which, yeah, does sound pretty lame. But it was good enough. Better than Leann Chins or Panda Express, better than Noodles, probably better than Super World China Buffet 79. But service-wise, it's more interesting. They're really trying to do a Noodles type thing, with a somewhat limited menu, counter order service, and some modern-y Ikea-y furnishings, and circa-2006 indie rock playing on the speakers. But most interesting of all, they have a noodle dish on their menu that has Thai curry and cheddar and mozzarella cheese. I'm kind of terrified, but very curious. Just wasn't curious enough to try it on my first trip. If there's a second, I'll tell you how that goes down.
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 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 table 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.