2014's fast food atrocities
Burger King's black cheeseburger: Made with squid ink and bamboo charcoal, arguably a symbol of meat's destructive effect on the planet. Only available in Japan.
Ron Sexsmith is a Canadian singer-songwriter celebrated for his winsome melodies, melancholy lyrics and a vulnerable vocal vibrato that recalls the royally depressed (and terribly gifted) 1960s songwriter Tim Hardin. It’s a noisy world in which to be a sensitive guy, which is why it was a good idea for Sexsmith and producers Mitchell Froom and Tchad Blake (Suzanne Vega, Los Lobos) to beef up the production of the singer’s third album, “Whereabouts.” Where the intimate arrangements on its predecessor, “Other Songs” (1997), fairly clung to the contours of Sexsmith’s acoustic guitar, instruments of a wider palette fill the more ambitious charts of “Whereabouts.”
“Riverbed” would have drowned in lyrical clichis without such elaboration. But just as patience begins to wear thin at the second verse, a clarinet offers a flavorful accompaniment, followed at the chorus by the addition of strings and a sweetly plunking banjo. In this gently unfolding manner, a simple folk tune becomes a memorable pop song. Sexsmith also has a gift for melodic phrasing. On “Beautiful View,” the ear candy isn’t the layers of strings, but the way his rhythmic enunciation breathes life into an otherwise pedestrian pledge: “There’s nothing I would rather do than sit and talk with you.”
Sexsmith and fellow cult hero Elliott Smith share an affection for the mid-tempo pop style of the Beatles (Sexsmith can also recall Ray Davies of the Kinks). But where Smith limits himself by recording most of his basic tracks as a one-man-band, Sexsmith plays guitar in a terrific quartet that includes Froom on keyboards and Pete Thomas (of Elvis Costello’s Attractions) on the drums. If only these crackerjack players had inspired Sexsmith to pump up the record: As is, it suffers from too many mid-tempo grooves. Still, from the light Memphis soul of “Right About Now” to the oddly whimsical “Idiot Boy,” Sexsmith’s “Whereabouts” shows compelling musical growth from a songwriter who has already established himself as a master of the game.
John Milward is a New York freelance writer.More John Milward.
Domino's Specialty Chicken: It's like regular pizza, except instead of a crust, there's fried chicken. The company's marketing officer calls it "one of the most creative, innovative menu items we have ever had” -- brain power put to good use.
KFC'S ZINGER DOUBLE DOWN KING: A sandwich made by adding a burger patty to the infamous chicken-instead-of-buns creation can only be described using all caps. NO BUN ALL MEAT. Only available in South Korea.
Taco Bell's Waffle Taco: It took two years for Taco Bell to develop this waffle folded in the shape of a taco, the stand-out star of its new breakfast menu.
Krispy Kreme Triple Cheeseburger: Only attendees at the San Diego County Fair were given the opportunity to taste the official version of this donut-hamburger-heart attack combo. The rest of America has reasonable odds of not dropping dead tomorrow.
Taco Bell's Quesarito: A burrito wrapped in a quesadilla inside an enigma. Quarantined to one store in Oklahoma City.