Archive for the Best of… Category

Best of 2008, the great pumpkin, and more

Posted in Best of... with tags on January 29, 2009 by Tom

Hello Everyone,

I haven’t made a post in a while, and that is for several reasons.  I wanted to finish up my best of 2008 lists, and because I have been working on my new blog the great pumpkin.

The great pumpkin has moved away from doing exclusively  reviews, and is a little bit more free form…news about things going on in New York City (slightly focused on Greenpoint and Williamsburg), pictures,  my day to day life, basically what ever I feel like posting about…and of course reviews too. I hope you enjoy the great pumpkin:

Best Albums of 2008

Best 7″ singles and 12″ eps of 2008

random reviews I have done since the begining of the year.

If you would like to follow the great pumpkin on your google reader click here for the RSS.

I’m toying with the idea of posting links to reviews that I do on the great pumpkin on critical reviews to a have a go to source for all of my reviewing, but I’m not sure…we’ll see what happens.



Best of 2008

Posted in Best of..., Leah, movies, music, shows on December 21, 2008 by criticalreviews

You know, 2008 wasn’t as bad as I keep telling people. I got to go back to Asia for the first time in 20 years, started a book club, discovered a love for graphic novels, joined a group of mix-tape enthusiasts, spent time in Paris, and made some new friends along the way. All the while, my top tens were forming in the back of my mind. So, here goes…

1. TV on the Radio – Dear Science
2. Dodos – Visiter
3. Beach House – Devotion
4. Marnie Stern -This is it and I am It and You Are It and So Is That and He Is It and She Is It and That Is That
5. M83 – Saturdays=Youth
6. Titus Andronicus – The Airing of Grievances
7. Hercules and the Love Affair
8. No Age – Nouns
9. The Walkmen – You & Me
10. Gang Gang Dance – Saint Dymphna

-Honorable Mentions: Santogold – Santogold, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Dig!!! Lazarus, Dig!!!, High Places – High Places, Atlas Sound – Let the Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel, Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes,  Times New Viking – Rip It Off

(5/3) Woods, Vivian Girls, Crystal Stilts at Cake Shop 3-Year Anniversary
(5/6) No Age, High Places, Fiasco at Bowery Ballroom
(6/13) Teenage Jesus and the Jerks at Knitting Factory
(7/12) Oneida, High Places, Abe Vigoda, Vivian Girls, Ponytail, Titus Andronicus at The Yard
(7/17) The Dodos secret show at Cake Shop
(7/18-20) Mission of Burma, Fleet Foxes, !!!, Animal Collective, Times New Viking, Dirty Projectors, Health, Dodos, Spiritualized at Pitchfork Music Fest in Chicago
(7/25) Times New Viking for Wordless Music Series at The Whitney
(8/24) Titus Andronicus and Yo La Tengo at McCarren Pool
(9/6) Matmos at The Stone
(10/11) Elephant 6 Holiday Surprise at Knitting Factory
(10/25) Marnie Stern, All the Saints at Bowery Ballroom (CMJ)

-Honarable Mentions: (March ?) Stanley Brinks at Mains d’Oeuvre, (5/1) Scout Kniblett at the Tap Bar @ Knitting Factory (6/6) MIA at McCarren Pool, (6/25) Herman Dune at Union Pool, (8/8) Radiohead, Girl Talk, Grizzly Bear at All Points West Fest, (9/26) Meat Puppets, Dinosaur Jr., Built to Spill at Terminal 5

1. Let the Right One In
2. Reprise
3. Paranoid Park
4. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days
5. Boy A
6. Cloverfield
7. Savage Grace
8. Pineapple Express
9. Slumdog Millionaire
10. Fear(s) of the Dark

-Honorable Mentions: The Dark Knight – Vicky Cristina Barcelona – Synecdoche, New York – Milk – Doubt


Peter Pan Donut and Pastry Shop

Posted in Best of..., food, restaurant, Tom with tags , , , , , , on November 13, 2008 by criticalreviews

Peter Pan Donut and Pastry Shop
727 Manhattan Ave
(between Norman and Meserole)
Greenpoint, Brooklyn

This past summer while sitting at home on a depressing day (bad news the day before, good news later that night), we were looking at blogs and exciting things in our new neighborhood. We came across the the NYC Donut Reports‘ post about Peter Pan Donut and Pastry Shop. Being that Peter Pan was right around the corner the only option was to bury our sorrow in sugar. We walked around the corner, picked up a sampling and headed back to the house. My love affair with Peter Pan was born that day.

I am a really stubborn donut eater now. Peter Pan can’t be beat, and I will never go into a Dunkin Donuts ever again as long as I live in Greenpoint (when ever I want a donut I can always justify that I can wait til I get home to go to Peter Pan). We have tried a large variety of flavors over the past couple of months and so far this shop can’t be beat. My recommendations are the Sour Cream Glazed, the Chocolate Glazed with Coconut, any Jelly Donut, and the Chocolate Frosted French Cruller…but honestly you can’t go wrong. The texture is perfect whether it is a cake donut, a yeast donut, a cruller, jelly, cinnamon bun…it doesn’t matter. This place is top notch.

On top of the wonderful Donuts and Pastries Peter Pan has a wonderful diner feel…the inside gives me a bit of the Twin Peaks vibe (and that is something I can’t get enough of), and the ladies who work there have fabulous outfits (as Pipeline pointed out).

Peter Pan was even kind enough to be handing donut holes to the Marathon Runners the other week. This is fine Bakery and deserves support from everyone in Greenpoint, everyone in NYC, and all you you tourists that come to visit our little part of Brooklyn.

Greenpointers wrote a while back that Peter Pan was losing money due to the Dunkin Donuts down the block(both ways), and Starbucks…but if you care about quality you really should try the BEST DONUTS IN TOWN and that is at PETER PAN’S! NYC Donut Report even sites their Donuts as the Best in NYC (not to discount the wonderful Donut Plant, but those are a totally different beast).

Get over to Greenpoint if you are a pastry lover, and eat some donuts(or cream sticks, or cinnamon buns or what ever sweet you love)…so I don’t eat them all…get there early if you plan to try my favorite Sour Cream Glazed, because those go quick.

Long Live Peter Pan!

Photo of Peter Pan and first Donut photo by One Sweet World (via flickr)

Peter Pan Staff by Pipeline


Charlie McAlister – “Mississippi Luau” LP (Catsup Plate Records 1997)

Posted in Best of..., music, records, Tom with tags , , , , , , , , on April 9, 2008 by criticalreviews

Living in New York City you are kinda spoiled having so many great musicians right at your finger tips, but growing up in South Carolina there aren’t quite as many (but we do have some gems). That brings me to a musician and “living legend” from my home town, Charlie McAlister. McAlister started out, or at least people started to notice his work, in the mid-nineties when he was putting out a whole bunch of cassette tapes. McAlister continues to make music/art/whatchamaycallit, and ended up with a bunch of tapes, a couple proper albums (on Catsup Plate), and is still playing the occasional show.

While I lived in Charleston I started booking and promoting shows (originally punk rock), but I hadn’t done it in a couple years and while I was working at Fifty Two Point Five Records I booked (with the help of Clay) Charleston’s first ever Mountain Goats show. Years later I was involved with the album release show for The Sunset Tree. This show was booked at a really wonderful art space called REDUX. In the process of getting the show set up Charlie McAlister contacted me, and asks to play the show….I really didn’t know what his deal was(and this wasn’t my call…it was the Goats), but John Darnielle ended up being a really big fan. John had Charlie open for him, and it was truly amazing. Charlie’s band played a really unconventional and astonishing set with a really interesting collection of people, instruments, and tools (really I mean it…saws and hammers, ect). While talking to John at the show he told me if I could get a copy of Charlie’s Mississippi Luau (on Catsup Plate) to check it out, because it was one of his favorite albums of all time (and that is a really big statement for someone like John to make).

After the show Charlie told me that he would bring a copy of it by the record store for me, but that unfortunately never happened. This was back in 2005. Now this brings me to my personal experience with Mississippi Luau.

So three years later I no longer live in South Carolina, and I was record shopping at Academy Records in Brooklyn. It was a Sunday and I was waiting for friends to get ready for bagel brunch at Brooklyn Ale House. I was taking my time browsing the used LPs, and I finally got to the “M” section. Charlie McAlister wasn’t even something I was looking for (because I was pretty convinced that I would never find any of his records…even though I read that they are not that hard to come by), but I was flipping through all of the used records and I had one of those moments where I actually said “Holy Shit!” out loud. I had found a copy of McAlister’s Mississippi Luau on LP! The reason I was so surprised was that there are only 350-400 copies that were collaged/painted/screen printed. And this was one of them (there were only 500 copies ever made).

As a big fan of The Mountain Goats (and most things that are low-fi and folky ) this record has quickly become one of the prizes of my collection and all around favorite (I find when I listen to it I have to listen to it at least twice in a row), but I think that I will let others describe it for me (because their descriptions are so spot on): says about Charlie:

“So John Darnielle , Guided by voices and Daniel Johnston walk in to a bar. They hash it all out and create a large venn diagram. From this diagram they find the point that their three sensibilities intersect. They call this point Charlie McAlister, lyrics like Darnielle, exploring the possibilities of the 4 track like GBV and as crazy as Johnson.”

Secondly, as I said before, John Darnielle is a big fan and after he played the Charleston show with Charlie he wrote on his website:

“Charlie’s music could probably be described by any number of not-quite-right music terms: it’s back-porch jug band stuff, sorta, but it’s got a real affinity with guerilla noise warfare, and also with actual gorillas, who nine times out of ten will make the guerillas look like amateurs. It’s got that organic Neutral Milk Hotel feel, but its spiritual side isn’t the transcendent schtick that Jeff Mangum mastered and then put behind him; Charlie’s spiritual kin are the mediums who charge you a quarter for an hour’s worth of Ouija board in a shack down the highway near some southern beach town, and you think they’re maybe fulla shit but then they hit that huckster vein where it’s not really a con any more because everybody’s agreed to just ride the moment out even if it did start out phony. Charlie’s the wizard in Kansas without any MGM sanitization. He likes rum.”

Please read John’s full post about Charlie here at Last Plane to Jakarta!

Needless to say I think my best record find of the year was made on January 5th (only five days into it). I am excited to have this wonderful record in my collection, and hope you enjoy checking Charlie out.

I am also very excited. Charlie McAlister only has two shows scheduled right now, and one of them is August 8th at The Stone in the East Village (this night, I have been told, is being curated by Trevor Dunn of Mr. Bungle and Fantomas). All though not that many people know about Charlie he definitely fits into the freak-folk term pretty well…I hope people come check him out. I will definitely be there.

Here are a couple MP3s off of Mississippi Luau:

“Island of the Robot Building Monkey”

“Darla Comes Down From Jackson”

Download all of the CD-R I’ll See you in Hell. From Tape Mountain!

Charlie also does a really crazy zine called Sardine…which you can mail order from him for $3 or $4 dollars at Charlie McAlister P.O. Box 24, Johns Island, SC 29455.

his new address

Charlie Mcalister
(International Beachball International/Sardine Magozine)
PO Box 20095

Photo of Charlie from Wolfie Whitman’s flickr


2007 (year in review)

Posted in Best of..., music, Tom on January 18, 2008 by criticalreviews

So, 2007 was a bizarre year for me musically. I really didn’t listen to anything the first half of the year (and the second half of 2006 for that matter), but I picked up the pace starting in May. I got to see a lot of wonderful music, and surprisingly enough I actually purchased hard copies of every album on my top ten. This is my year in review…mostly lists, but some amorphous blobs of information that I also found important.

Tom’s Best of 2007 LPs
1. Scout Niblett- “This Fool Can Die Now”
2. Jens Lekman – “Night Falls Over Kortedala”
3. Mt. Eerie- “pts 6 & 7”
4. Boris with Michio Kurihara – “Rainbow”
5. Les Savy Fav- “Let’s Stay Friends”
6. Dan Deacon- “Spiderman of the Rings”
7. Deerhoof – “Friend Opportunity”
8. Karl Blau- “Dance Positive”
9. St. Vincent- “Marry Me”
10. Animal Collective- “Strawberry Jam”

Other Things I really liked:
Bonnie Prince Billy- “Ask Forgiveness”
Melt Banana “Bambi’s Dilema”
The Fiery Furnaces- “Widow City”
Bill Callahan- “Woke on a Whaleheart”
Caribou- “Andorra”
Of Montreal- “Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?” (Please note this is the first Of Montreal record I have ever enjoyed)
M.I.A.- “Kala” (I hated this at first)
Blitzen Trapper- “Wild Mountain Nation”
Aesop Rock-“None Shall Pass”
Feist- “The Reminder”
Baroness- “Red Album”
Peter, Bjorn, and John “Writer’s Block”

Bands/Albums I wish I would have given more/some time in 2007….maybe in 2008:
Akron/Family- “Love Is Simple”
Black Moth Super Rainbow – “Dandelion Gum”
Times New Viking- “Present the Paisley Reich”
Pissed Jeans- all
Frog Eyes- “Tears of the Valedictorian”
Maritime- “Heresy and the Hotel Choir”
Yeasayer- “All Hour Cymbals” and live
Ariel Pink- “Scared Famous” (among other things…I think it is time I revisit)
Team Robespierre- any recorded and live
Deer tick- any recorded and live

Two genres that I was never really into that effected me drastically at the end of 2007
1. No Wave
—thanks to the two v/a comps “No New York” (compiled by Brian Eno) & “New York Noise Vol. 1” (Soul Jazz Records)
——-also The Contortions “Buy”
2. Reggae (thanks to Tunnel One on WNYU, When Roots Attack on KVRX, and Mystic Sounds on East Village Radio)
——-albums specifically Augustus Pablo’s “Africa Must Be Free by 1983 Dub”
——————————-“Studio One Dub” (Soul Jazz Records)
——————————-“More Pressure- Straight to the Head” (Pressure Sounds Records)

Top 10 Live Shows
1. Limp Wrist @ the Knitting Factory
2. Scout Niblett & St. Vincent @ Bowery Ballroom
3. Jens Lekman (solo) @ MHOW
4. Mountain Goats @ Soundfix
5. Defiance, Ohio @ Death By Audio
6. Built to Spill @ McCarren Pool
7. Boris with Michio Kurihara @ MHOW
8. Melt Banana @ the Knitting Factory
9. Karl Blau @ Cake Shop
10. Dan Deacon & USAISAMONSTER @ The Yard (Brooklyn)


best of 2007 (imho)

Posted in Best of..., Leah, movies, music on January 18, 2008 by criticalreviews

Another year has past, and an exciting one it was. A couple of the things that kept me sane were great music and films. I’ve created a comprehensive list of my top ten albums, shows, and films of the year. 2007 was a cultural explosion for my eyes and ears and it was really difficult narrowing down these lists.

10 Best Albums –
1. Animal Collective – Strawberry Jam
-While riding the train, whether I was on my way to work or to Inwood, this album was perfect for zoning out.
2. Radiohead – In Rainbows
-Yes, old habits die hard, but still, this album is undeniably amazing and was a beautiful surprise. I didn’t pay for the download (I know, I know) but I bought it on vinyl January 1st. Plus, I’ve seen them four times, people. Give me a break.
3. St. Vincent – Marry Me
– This album has been stuck in my head from the moment that I first heard it. And, Annie can fucking shred.
4. Jens Lekman – Night Falls Over Kortedala
-Beautiful man, lovely songs. He makes me want to nest.
5. Panda Bear – Person Pitch
-This album is like lying in a park on a beautiful day. You close your eyes and the sun shines right through your eyelids. I don’t know if that makes sense and I don’t care.
6. MIA – Kala
-I’m not the biggest fan of her fashion sensibilities, but how can anyone resist her booty-shake inspiring bhangra funk? It makes me long for MJQ on Wednesday Nights (ATL reference).
7. Of Montreal – Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?
-Break out performance of the year must go to Kevin Barnes’ schlong in Vegas. Anyway, the music is infectious. This is my favorite album of theirs yet.
8. Battles – Mirrored
-I enjoyed putting this album on for background music. Sometimes, it’s not about the lyrics.
9. Scout Niblett – This Fool Can Die Now
– If I had discovered this album earlier, it would probably be higher on my list. Kiss is one of my favorite songs of the year.
10. Dan Deacon – Spiderman of the Rings
-I understand if you don’t get it, because I didn’t, until I saw him live.

Honorable Mentions: Grinderman, PJ Harvey – White Chalk, Deerhunter – Cryptograms, Beirut – Flying Cub Cup, Deerhoof – Friend Opportunity, Boris – Rainbow, PB&J – Writer’s Block

10 Best Shows (In order by date)
4/21 – Flaming Lips at Brown University
-There’s not much better in life than playing with huge, inflated balls and truckloads of confetti with fucked up ivy leaguers.
5/5 – Bjork at United Palace Theater
-Bjork didn’t make it on my top ten albums. I was a little disappointed with Volta, to be honest. She definitely made it up to me with her performance that night.
5/6 – Beirut at Bowery Ballroom
-All the horns!! It was a busy weekend.
6/10 – Melt Banana at the Knitting Factory
-I had forgotten how much fun it can be to rock out next to a mosh pit.
6/15-17 – Bonnaroo in Manchester, TN
-I still don’t think that I have recovered from all of the dust inhalation, but holy crap, I had so much fun. DJ Shadow and Ween were my favorite performances.
7/24 – Porter Wagoner, ,White Stripes and Grinderman at Madison Square Garden
-I was hesitant to purchase tickets to this show, based on the venue. Both bands delivered amazing performances. I’m glad that I got to see Porter Wagoner live, before he died. Plus, Nick Cave fell on his ass—definitely funny. I vaguely remember wanting to throw beer bottles at people booing Grinderman.
8/9 – Daft Punk at Keyspan Park, Coney Island
-I know this is a controversial topic, but…BEST SHOW OF THE YEAR!
10/10 – PJ Harvey at Beacon Theater
-This was my first time seeing Polly Jean live. She was wearing that crazy, Victorian looking dress that she dons on the cover of her new album, White Chalk. Her voice sounded amazing and the theater perfectly complemented the creepy, ethereal vibe of her latest album.
10/18 – St. Vincent at the Knitting Factory
-Although she didn’t start until after 1AM, and I had to sit through 2 or 3 completely uninspiring opening acts, and I had to work the next day at 830AM, I still could not get over this girl and her guitar!
10/26 – Scout Niblett at Union Pool
-She commented on our photo booth pictures before the show. She was wearing a reflective construction worker’s jacket and camouflage. She looked like she needed a shower, bad. I love her.

Honorable Mentions: Peter Bjorn and Joan @ Bowery Ballroom, Fujiya and Miyagi @ Mercury Lounge, Built to Spill and Cat Power @ McCarren Pool, Boris @ Music Hall of Williamsburg, Jens Lekman – Music Hall of Williamsburg, Justice @ Terminal 5

10 Best Movies
1. No Country for Old Men – Javier Bardem is obviously the main draw of this film, as a psychopath with a Prince Valiant haircut. Honestly, I don’t understand why people were so upset about the ending. Obviously, the Coen Brothers (and Cormac McCarthy) wanted to show that life is bleak. The good guys don’t always win. Get over it.
2. Control – How did they find someone who looks so much like Ian Curtis?
3. La Vie En Rose – Marion Cotillard deserves some kind of award for her portrayal of Edith Piaf.
4. Into the Wild – It made me want to go on a long road trip, that is, until the ending.
5. This is England – Who doesn’t like a movie about skinheads?
6. Darjeeling Limited – I had to grow to love this film, but it really was great. I felt that it had more depth than other Wes Anderson flicks.
7. I’m Not There – Cate Blanchett is going to make me gay. I swear.
8. Rescue Dawn – Christian Bale ate maggots in this movie. He is one dedicated actor.
9. Lust, Caution – pretzel sex. Yeah.
10. Sicko – This movie made me angry, which is saying a lot, because I’m pretty apathetic.

Honorable Mentions: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Sherry Baby, Grindhouse Presents: Death Proof, Sunshine, Scott Walker: 30 Century Man, Sicko, Juno, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly


2007, music heaven.

Posted in Best of..., klk, music on January 18, 2008 by criticalreviews

I had a great time with music last year, probably because of settling into in New York City, which is pretty much the focal point for amazing and free (!) concerts by new and exciting bands. Maybe it was also being back in school and spending a lot of time alone studying (and not studying), riding the train, reading, all the while listening to music. Also, I’d be lying if I didn’t give OiNK (RIP) some credit in my musical adventures this year. My little circa-2004 (2003?) iPod mini has had more excitement than it can handle (luckily I upgraded for Christmas this year). It’s been awesome, and I can only hope that 2008 is half as great!

Anyway, here’s my list of the best records of 2007. I guess the one thing these records all have in common is that I was pleasantly surprised by all of them, and that they were (to use a cliché) moving in some way.

I was especially moved by these records:

10. Mary Timony Band – The Shapes We Make

9. Deerhunter — Cryptograms

8. Sondre Lerche – Phantom Punch

7. Animal Collective – Strawberry Jam

6. Dan Deacon – Spiderman of the Rings

5. Fiery Furnaces – Widow City

4. Jens Lekman – Night Falls Over Kortedala

3. St. Vincent – Marry Me

2. Of Montreal – Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?

1. Scout Niblett – This Fool Can Die Now

It was really hard to pick only ten, but I figured that it would be best to narrow down the list to make it more “meaningful” or something. That said, here are some Honorable Mentions:

Radiohead – In Rainbows

The Shins – Wincing the Night Away

The Field – From Here We Go Sublime

Panda Bear – Person Pitch

Stars of the Lid – And Their Refinement of the Decline

Beirut – The Flying Cub Cup

Blonde Redhead – 23

Blitzen Trapper – Wild Mountain Nation

Boris with Michio Kurihara – Rainbow

Devendra Banhart – Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon

Keren Ann – s/t

Weakerthans – Reunion Tour

!! klk.