buy or sell

real estate are going to help people get over r.e.m calling it quits. this brooklyn band’s strategically lazy sound begs you to accept it for its nonchalance, but a close listen reveals real estate’s secret love for tight structures. i haven’t been able to stop spinning days their excellent new record.

domino records understands the importance of trends. they opened a US branch of their top-notch indie label in brooklyn years ago. real estate is a perfect fit for domino USA. they’re home to critical darling’s animal collective and dirty projectors. their roster is loaded with flocks of bands sporting artfully disheveled hair, tight jeans with torn knees and thrift store tee shirts.

this stuff is built on shimmering pop sensibility with clever licks and a steady bass crawl. real estate seem happy to pick up where nada surf left off a few records back. they sound as content as early death cab for cutie with a touch more redhook sunshine. it’s not exactly the happiest party. but it’s still one that’s good enough for a solid buzz, catered food and a conversation with that slighty opinionated nerd with the decent taste in old pop music. get your hands on days and let it drive you to work tomorrow.

this one’s for the stoners.


the kids are alright

queens is on the radar right now, in a major way. a few months back i brought you action bronson, the round mound of ill sounds. tonight we’ve got nasty nigel, remy banks and lasky jones. together, they’re known as children of the night. i’m tired, and zoning out to their where the wild things are mixtape, so the words escape me, but these guys…they have it. they’ve got an effortless, relaxed approach to mc’ing. it’s jazzy and smart like de la soul, it’s tightly produced and uniquely new york like mobb deep. it’s dope, plain and simple.

children of the night aren’t bashful about their affinity for top-notch rhyming. they’re consciously concerned with their craft. all three mc’s command the mic without bullying the spotlight. it’s refreshing to hear a group that has no weak link. they trade wordplay and tag team on and off the beat like a well-oiled machine. COTN seem hungry and ready to show and prove that queens has got something to say. if you knew better you’d listen up.

head to their bandcamp page and cop every tape they’ve done for free. something tells me you won’t be disappointed.

the weight is worth the waiting

max stern, steve gibson, loren shumaker and jeff russell are signals midwest, a rock and roll band out of cleveland ohio.  signals midwest work hard, play hard and tour on their own dime simply because they love playing music. i’ve written about them and championed the band here at shiny glass houses because i believe in their music.   it’s crafted without the pretense of image or expectations.  it’s the sound of young men discovering what life is all about.  it’s a bullshit-free combination energy and emotion.

this summer, vocalist and guitarist max stern and i had a chance to discuss his band, their fabulous new record latitudes and longitudes, life on the road and our favorite bands through a series of personal and detailed emails. the following is a tiny glimpse into the life of a bright, talented young musician and his quest to bring his passion to the public.

SGH: in order to understand your music, i need to know where it comes from, so part one, i guess you can say is all about beginnings?
max: i was born in nyc, my dad is from there, but moved to ohio when i was four. i was lucky growing up – my parents have great taste in music. my mom showed me the beatles and bob marley, my dad showed me frank zappa and bob dylan. i started piano when i was 8 and switched to guitar at 11 because my friend josh showed me the clash and the rolling stones. i had also just discovered blink 182 and green day at that point, so i wore my guitar really low like tom delonge. i remember trying to play extra hard to make it sound distorted because i didn’t understand the concept of fuzz pedals.

SGH:  what are your guilty pleasures?  i will stand by mine, hall and oates.  they’re the most soulful white r&b duo of all time…i can’t enter and leave a bar without playing “private eyes” on the juke box.

max:  i guess i never really felt “guilty” about any of the music i liked.  i got made fun of in high school for being the kid with the ska band (the skatastrophes), but i never cared.  being in that band gave me some of the best times of my entire life.  being in that band taught me so much about music.  through ska i discovered sublime, which led me to listen to krs-one, which led me to a bunch of old-school hip hop that i still adore today.  a tribe called quest’s “midnight marauders” is on the list of my top 10 albums of all time.  at the same time, i probably couldn’t go a day without listening straight through to all of “london calling” while i skated around in my backyard.  i never wanted to make a decision about what kind of kid i was.  i liked punk, ska, classic rock, hip-hop, folk, reggae – i never wanted to make a decision about what kind of music i liked.  i loved it all, and still do.

SGH: the fact that you tour independently, doing it your way, playing in venues like ymca’s and basements is a testament to what you do.  it’s pretty awesome.  i’d have to agree with you, two of the most influential bands of my youth were the clash and the stones.  i remember hearing the clash for the first time and thinking to myself that i finally found a band that was punk but smart enough to stand for their beliefs, socially and politically.  london calling is a classic record, and lost in the supermarket is my favorite song of all time.  i don’t know why i love it so much, i just do.  i can also clearly remember playing beast of burden by the stones over and over again in my parents living room when i was a kid.

max:  it’s funny that you mention “Lost in the Supermarket” because that is absolutely my favorite Clash song too.  it’s weird because it’s a Mick Jones song, but it’s just my favorite one.  the chord progression, the guitar intro and tone, the climbing bass breakdown in the bridge, joe strummer’s backing vocals…definitely my favorite, without question.  i heard brian fallon from the gaslight anthem does a pretty killer version that i’m hoping to hear someday.

SGH: tell me a little about what led you to starting/creating signals midwest.  college?  co-workers?  an add in the paper?  once you started the band, did it click or was it one of those things that took a few different members or changes to get off the ground.  because in all honesty, the difference between the two signals midwest records is massive.  latitudes and longitudes sounds like a band that really found their footing and hit the ground running with a clear sound scape in mind.  the songs are really honest, and heartfelt.

max:  i was 18 and growing out of playing in a band that only played one style of music (with the skatastrophes), and around then i had started to go to house shows in cleveland.  it was then i discovered DIY punk and the energy was just undeniable, which is the one aspect of music that i think i’ve been more drawn to than any other.  i’d so much rather see a sloppy punk band play three chords and jump around rather than watch some dude just stand there with a blank stare and play guitar solos for two hours.  it all just seemed much more honest to me.  loren (bassist) and i had been playing music together in our old band.  we had just started our sophomore years of college and had no real idea what we wanted to do.  we ended up meeting steve (drums) through a girl loren met at school and it turned out we had been going to the same local shows for years and years.  the first song we all played together was “the devil’s takin’ names” by the lawrence arms.  we immediately started writing songs and playing locally and doing small tours.  i think we wrote a song a week for seven or eight weeks, and there was only maybe nine months tops between our first practice and finishing our first record, which is pretty fast now that i think about it.

SGH:  do you think you’ve found your niche as a songwriter? or is there an inner “radiohead” looking to push forward…maybe towards other sounds or styles?

max: i’m really proud of latitudes and longitudes.  we all wrote it together and traded influences and ideas and it’s very much the product of a band working together to create something rather than one person dictating what we should play.  i’m not really sure if it gives any type of sonic definition to our band, especially because all of our songs are just reflections of what we’re listening to at the time.  i like it so much because we can put a song like “limnology” on there which to me is influenced hugely by bands like small brown bike and braid, and then immediately follow it with one like “january and seven” which i wrote in the middle of a huge weakerthans binge.  maybe it comes off as awkward, but i’m much more interested in doing things like that, that might catch people off guard.  you asked about finding a “niche” but i almost want to avoid it because i don’t want to get stuck writing the same song ten times over.  if it’s possible to find one and still make songs that sound different from each other yet cohesive as a whole, that’s what i’d hope for.

SGH:  so take me through the process of touring.  do you book the shows?  i can imagine touching base with the venues and houses must be a pain, but in the end totally worth it.

max: touring is one of those things where i just don’t understand how people did it before the internet – especially smaller bands.  nearly every one of the 23 shows we played on tour was booked by finding a band/person on facebook through referrals or other bands and messaging them.  there were a few connections that we already had, mainly in southern california and also through jeff (guitarist) because he’s done big tours before, but i’d say about 70-80% of it was booked just through taking shots in the dark and sending messages to people.  somehow it all came together incredibly well.  we managed to actually come back with money – not a lot, but enough to self-release a 7″ (to be released in october).   for our first national tour, we did amazingly well.  even the shows that weren’t well-attended were still fun as hell – like in stockton, CA we played to 8 people…but 3 of those 8 people sang along to our whole set.  i feel like most bands don’t have the luck we had on our first big tour.  i hope it can stay this good in the future…i feel like we set the bar pretty high for ourselves.

SGH: do you enjoy life on the road?  i know in a general travelling sense, i love being away, but there’s nothing like returning home.

max: tour life revolves around that blissful, sweaty 30 minutes that you get to play and unwind every night.  in between there’s a ton of driving, sleeping on couches/floors (we stayed in a hotel ONCE on this last tour and it was heavenly), and cramming as much fun as possible with people you love and barely ever get to see into the few hours you get together.  that’s the weirdest part for me…there’s not the “see you tomorrow” feeling you get with your friends at home.  it’s “we need to have as much fun as possible RIGHT NOW because i’m not going to see you for maybe a year or two” and it can get daunting and sad.  but i feel lucky to be able to see my friends in the first place, so what am i complaining about?  everybody has their own hustle that supports what they love to do, and if you can combine the two then you’ve pretty much struck gold.  i hope it gets to that point someday, but for now i’m just trying to hang in the balance somewhere. ———

if you haven’t heard signals midwest’s stellar record, latitudes and longitudes, there’s something wrong with you.  if there’s not something wrong with you, you’re just lazy.  or a communist.  either way, get yourself a copy (legally) and all will be forgiven.  it’s being released on november 29th by tiny engine records and it’s available digitally via tiny engine’s bandcamp page and itunes right now.  support rock and roll and rock and rock and roll will do its part to keep you up even when you think the walls might come crashing down.  thanks to max for taking the time out during this summer’s tour to throw down with me and for agreeing to let it all come spilling out here.  he’s a good dude, doing great things with a band that’s just barely tapped into their dangerous potential.  keep your eyes on signals midwest, they’re the absoulte real deal in sea of snooze-worthy noise.

below is the link for a brand new video for “the quiet persuader”.

face the…nope, too easy.

mickey factz represents the bronx, ny.  i recently caught his opening slot on the cole world tour 2011 and was blown away.  i’d heard a few verses here and there and a song with my boy stalley called “worldwide” off of stalley’s first tape, but in all honesty, mickey snuck under my radar.  he was chosen as one of xxl’s freshmen to watch in 2009, but he’s here now, and being fully endorsed by yours truly.  his set was live from start to finish.  warming up a crowd of a few thousand college kids who were all heavily anticipating cole couldn’t have been an easy feat, but trust me when i tell you, mickey factz was out for blood.

mickey factz is an artist poised to push boundaries. his projects seem like bigger puzzle pieces that have yet to fall into place.  his mixtapes tell stories, or rather create landscapes for the listener to travel through.  love.lust.lost is a tape that weaves heartache and passions of the flesh, while never truly landing on either side of the fence.  he’s clearly got something to say about relationships or the lack there of, factz simply dares you to figure it out.  his next project, mickey mau5, is the story of a young artist watching and idolizing some of the greats like warhol and basquiat while bombing train cars and ducking transit police in nyc.  the samples are coming from dangermouse and deadmau5, but the sound will remain entirely mickey.

factz’s flow is strictly new york.  there’s an agitated edge and urgent cadence to his speech that reminds me why there is no doubt the east coast has always been the hot bed of hip hop.  i’m glad i caught mickey last night.  his solid performance led me to his mixtapes.  the mixtapes exposed me to a talented young mc, ready to dominate.

risky business

surfing and punk rock are sort of like forrest and jenny. the peas and the carrots. there’s something about the freedom of the ocean and fuck you of punk rock that were made for one another. lately, i can’t help but notice the punk has been missing from the left coast beach scene. rather than high energy, punch you in the face west coast punk rock and roll, we’ve been spoon fed this load of “chillwave” nonsense. i actually feel like an idiot combining the words chill and wave into one phrase. but i digress…

today’s feature out of southern los angeles is a band called fidlar. fidlar are the sound of a wild night around a beach bonfire with a few cases of the cheapest beer twenty dollars could buy and a stolen, half-swilled bottle of old grand-dad. they feel asleep on a blanket that smells of last nights dirty deeds and camel lights, and they don’t give a shit if their music gives you a headache. they sound like the ramones if the ramones had a beach to tan on that wasn’t in queens.

i love it when i hear a band that makes me miss a certain sound. fidlar does that for me. one listen to the fabulous “wake bake skate” made me scramble around for an old buzzcocks album in search of that cocky snarl. i hear traces of the jim carroll band, black lips and even a little of the post-punky freak out of the blood brothers all crammed into a sweaty little los angeles garage (band). it’s been a minute since i dug a little deeper for you, so here it is. check out DIYDUI, their cleverly titled debut release.

there goes the neighborhood

fuck it dog, life’s a risk.

pass it to the left…

bet award cyphers are worth little more than bragging rights. but in the world of hiphop they’re everything. a forth quarter touchdown, a gold medal by a tenth of a point, a box office blockbuster…they’re massive. crew cut of the year (thus far) goes to shady 2.0 at the bet awards.

yelawolf is up first. this guy is the jeff foxworthy of rap. he’s clever and uncut, and he might be a little corny. but is anyone as nasty as he is? his verse leaves you wanting more, but its just heavy enough to remind us that there are plenty of white rappers on the radar. few are worthy. joe budden takes the second shift. his monotone flow rambles and gathers steam as his bars unfold. joe rips david stern, dead hookers and michael rapport. any and all end up in budden’s crosshairs.

crooked-i is a heavy-weight indie spitter. he feels no pain and shouts out big l, the west coast and vegans while he rides the eerie beat at what sounds like a millions syllables a second. next is joell ortiz, who might be the funniest mc since big pun. this brooklyn mc isn’t playing games while chopping down skinny jeans, referring to his shady comrades as a bunch of hakeem dream-teamers.

for no apparent reason, royce spends the first half of his verse discussing an imaginary courtship of rihanna. his detroit snarl is second only to his boss, marshall mathers. royce goes hardest when he’s got competition. he’s always had the know-how to balance out funny one-liners with venomous insults, and the proof is here.

eminem has nothing left to prove, so why is it that on this one he’s got a sour taste in his mouth like it’s the early 2000’s? nothing’s sacred. casey anthony, abortion, yelawolf’s redneck image… it’s all up for grabs as em makes more syllable combinations than the dictionary.

my head spun when i saw this video. this is exaclty why i’m still listening to hiphop. there was a time when this genre was about crews. there used to be an importance put on the strength of the posse and the cut. who was fucking with tribe after scenario came out? nobody, that’s who. if there’s a crew more lyrical, mmg included, prove it. there’s a comment button, use it.

now check this one out.

everything else is boring

naeem juwan’s alter ego, spank rock, is an enigma. spank’s seizure-inducing dance/hiphop fusion isn’t your run of the mill 2livecrew journey into nastiness. instead, it’s crafted with the same sort of energy, complete with references to sweaty body parts and morals stripped bare, but there’s a brain behind it. there’s also an mc here, dishing out brags and boasts like kanye west sliding down a soul train dance line, with groupies grinding each thigh. it’s m.i.a minus the nonsense, dizzee rascal if he turned down the grime and let the beat ride. this shit is meant for partying like every night is your birthday. spank rock is here to play, whether you like it or not.

things changed for spank rock upon meeting mega dj, diplo. diplo pointed spank in the right direction, helping him craft his bass-heavy trademark and linking him up with london’s famous ninja tune label. the result was 2006’s yoyoyoyoyo, spanks terrifically odd debut. tours and guest appearances followed with artists like beck, the beasties and mark ronson. though not a sound hand-spun for radio, spank’s raucous live show has put him on the map, and rightfully so.

late september saw the release of everything is boring and everyone is a fucking liar. spank pulls no punches on this record. he sharpened his skills on the mic and delicately chose his production team to bring the album to life. there’s a little something for everyone here, as long as everyone is ok with dancing. the beats and synths pound, yet beneath the glamour of the 4 on the floor house rhythms, there’s a rapper spinning a tale of life after the hype. #1 hit and turn it off are monster records. they’re the sound of an artist coming to terms with the height at the top of the ladder. let this record rip your headphones apart, and if you don’t like it, you’re lying. or you’re boring.