Chicago Fire

Punk rock is a hot topic.  Too much melody is a sin.  Liberty spikes and patched up denim jackets don’t carry the weight they once did.  There was a time when you had to bite your tongue during a discussion of your favorite bands because there could be an officer of the punk police lurking in the shadows to shame you for the Blink 182 pin on your backpack.  Six albums in, The Lawrence Arms couldn’t care less who or what you think is punk rock rock.

Metropole is set to drop on January 28th, and it’s a stellar bike cruise through the dust of a Chicago summer.  From abandoned buildings to trips around the globe, The Lawrence Arms have toured the spectrum of experience and bring that slice of reality to their music.  There’s enough grit for the purists, and plenty of sap for the soft core kids who need a chorus for their broken dreams. Enjoy.


The Odd Sea

Oddisee is a DC producer who double times his board work with superior stints on the mic.  His 2012 debut, People Hear What They Seeremains in constant rotation, not for its blinding creativity or its genre bending beats, but for its complete and utter honesty.  Oddisee is making a career of speaking freely.  He’s not traveling the world as a millionaire jet-setter; he’s simply making a living off art pure and true.

With two projects currently in circulation, the instrumental The Beauty In All, and the mixtape Tangible Dream, 2014 is going to keep Oddisee a busy man.  He raps with a confidence that makes your favorite street MC feel like an amateur.  He’s trying to get his in real time.  Each release is finer than the last and fueled by the scenes in his rear view mirror.  Support Oddisee’s hustle at


Full Of Grace

Don’t cross your fingers and pray for some sort of revivalist incarnation of Against Me in 2014.  Sure, the lineup has changed and Tom Gabel has undergone a nearly complete transformation.  Yet, Against Me is still one of the smartest modern punk rock and roll bands in America, and Laura Jane Grace layers a fresh perspective over the raw power of Transgender Dysphoria Blues.

The music is sharp and polished but stylishly avoids the sheer flashbulb grin of 2007’s New Wave.  There’s an agenda here, accompanied by real deal story telling akin to the infamous David Bowie.  Laura is the elephant in the room, and it wouldn’t work any other way.

“Drinking With The Jocks”, and “Osama Bin Laden As The Crucified Christ” rage with an uneven energy born from obvious discontent.  At a tad under a half hour you barely have to time to make catalog comparisons.  When it’s over you’re absolutely sure what you just experienced was Against Me in all its awkward glory.

Hard Working Hand

Luke Temple used to paint murals on very expensive walls in New York City.  Painting is about layering on, and applying the right type of pressure, and Temple exploits that same skill set when making music.  His first few solo records were banjo-heavy folk with an obvious Brooklyn bend.  Those recordings were followed by his work in Here We Go Magic, a band that somehow fuses the pulsing brain of Radiohead with the playfulness of Vampire Weekend.

Just like a painter, Temple had a blank canvas to dirty up when creating Good Mood Fool.  He dabbled in pop, mixed in moody indie rock, then smeared the entire project in a sugary falsetto that works in the most natural way.  This record plays like a homage to Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye, without ever losing it’s new era edge.  It’s either the soundtrack to an epic night, or the background noise for a series of questionable decisions.  It’s nervous, fun, and getting a ton of spins around these parts.  Enjoy.

The Worst Guys

Childish Gambino’s Because The Internet was one of my favorite records of 2013.  It still feels so new that I haven’t stopped listening.   The record and accompanying mini-screen play tells the tale of a disinterested dealer and his crew of would be entourage cast mates as they meander through their world, one hamburger at a time.  The entire record was ambitious and strange, which is a half-way decent explanation for Gambino himself.

Today’s visuals are for “The Worst Guys” featuring Chicago’s indie darling of right now, Chance The Rapper.  The clip is another carefully constructed piece of the script/album/short film project, and finds the mob spending a day surfing while simultaneously smoking blunts (seemed impossible to me too), crushing chicken wings, and training on the beach like Daniel-son and Miyagi.  Cue the glow sticks, fire pit, and shark bites.

From The Galaxy of South Florida

Creativity as a Release: Part 2

As artists go, there’s few with the unique vision and angle of Rad Reef leader and Florida MC Zachg.  His lane doesn’t travel in any set direction, and to say it winds slightly to the left understates the calculation that he channels into his work. Part 2 of our chat finds Zach detailing songwriting, the importance of smoking quality green, the power of a good meal, and what Rad Reef has in store for 2014.  Enjoy!

Hip-hop raised me, so naturally I understand the power of trends and the passion that’s poured into fads.  But what really interests me and what really keeps me dialed in searching daily for new and exciting sounds, is the process by which a musician reaches that final stage.  I write, so I understand the revision process.  But never having written a song, I love digging into the minds of artists to gain insight.  Songwriting for Zachg is something intuitive, and beings from the gut.

He explains, “Songs always start with feelings for me, either I’m overwhelmed and looking for  a way to vent. or I’m compelled and I’m looking for a way to create in order to deepen an experience. The former is more of a reaction to life and it’s about maintaining, while the latter is is an investigation of life and is about exploring. I use music as a tool to better understand myself and the world around me, and to affect a desired change on myself and the world around me. Speaking in terms of art though, and the relation of my person to the process of creating art, the type of change that I’m trying to affect only has to do with me. It’s true that I’m trying to affect a kind of change to the world around me through music, and I do aim to influence the institutions we live in, but when I’m making art I’m not thinking about that, or experiencing it on any substantial level. The change that I’m after when I’m making is strictly internal, and it’s about how I feel, or how I experience the world around me in that moment.”

Listening to a Zachg project is an event in itself.  The vocals are poured over stacked layered sounds, making it possible to digest straight ahead or as nerds like me do, through a cross-sectioned experience.  He explains further, “So, basically I come to the computer not with a melody in mind, but just with a kind of vibration to attain. I either start with an existing project file, or start from scratch. Lately I’ve been using existing project files more and more. It cuts out a lot of time, especially since the tracks have already been mixed. Each project basically becomes like a group of session musicians that I know, and these session musicians all work in particular ways, to produce particular musical experiences with consistency.”

Adding the live element gives the records a more natural feel, which pulls the listener away from the bottled, formulaic style of today.  “From there I either start with drums, samples, or synths. If I start with drums I’ll work out a groove, then start building on top using samples or synths. If I start with samples  I don’t combine samples from multiple songs (except in the case of percussion, or non-tuned sounds). Basically, no mater how I start though, I’m composing a 4 or 8 bar loop first. I go through and figure out the parts for each of the instruments until I’ve got a good basis for a song going. From there I will duplicate that cell until I have the desired length for the beat, which is usually between 2’30” and 5’00”. Then I start taking things out, and arranging. From there I will create the flow, and pacing of the song. At this point I either bounce a rough version and start writing, or keeping arranging until it’s done,” he says.

Zachg is an artist who tweaks until the sound is precise.  He explains, “The whole process can take anywhere from a few hours, to 6 months. I usually finish a beat in a single sitting, or split between night composing, and next morning refining. This year though I’ve been working South.Florida.Mountains. pretty much exclusively. I’ve got songs on there that have been rewritten three or four times. I’ve got beats on there that I recorded, then reworked three months later. It’s pretty cool. I guess ultimately I like to just remain open and flexible about my process, and try to adapt to circumstances.”

Along with the release of a new album, 2014 is looking up for the Rad Reef camp.  “I have a few things planned next. My album South.Florida.Mountains. should hopefully be out by March. It’s got features from Lofty, Left Leberra, Stash Marina, Western Tink, Tree, Blam Lord, Turbo Sonidero, Dizzy D, Joeybagadoughnutz, Supa, Shady Blaze, and a few more that are being finalized still.  I’m working on redesigning the Rad Reef site.  I’ve got t-shirts coming finally, and new stickers too. I’m gonna be doing a lot more writing for Wax Poetics, and the first official Mindcrate Collection (at least 15 different kits from 15 different producers) will be releasing before the year ends,” he says.

What’s most impressive about Zachg is his drive.  His vision is expansive, and he’s a worker, which is what’s necessary for success in today’s rat race.  Expanding the Rad Reef brand to new cities and new markets is a top priority.  He goes on to explain, “Probably the biggest thing though is the launch of The Rad Reef in downtown Las Vegas. I finally got some people behind me with some capital and I’m putting it to work to realize the most crucial element of Rad Reef, which is creating a service for artists. The space is a Venue/Recording Studio/Shop. The shop is modeled after Costco, where folks pay a yearly membership fee, then they can purchase music equipment at wholesale prices. We’ll also sell other lifestyle goods, and music and stuff at normal retail prices though. The recording studio will be free for members to use during business hours, and myself, or any of the other artists at the space will be available to give advice. The venue will be more akin to an art gallery than a club. The venue will host musical performances as well as panels, and workshops.”

He continues, “It’s a wide open space, with an impeccable sound system, and a 12′ x 12′ x 12″ high stage in the middle of the room. Capacity is kept low, and the idea is to experience the music instead of subjugate the music to a social spectacle. Of course, there’s a kitchen in the space too, and we’ll prepare food there for people constantly, because food brings people together in a substantial way. The idea here is to create a community center that turns all of the new connectivity that our internet music culture has created into a way to be included in something. People connect on the internet only so that they can be included in something beyond what they’re already a part of, Rad Reef is is creating something to include people around music.”

Food is a tie that binds, and being familiar with Zachg’s YouTube presence means you know his foodie love runs deep.  After chatting about meals I was ready to put on my fat kid pants and snack.  So what exactly would he serve at an invite only Rad Reef dinner party?  “Definitely gotta have wine and beer ready for when folks arrive. I’m not a huge liquor drinker, so I wouldn’t have any on hand. And of course, it’s cheese and crackers our for folks when they arrive. But not just any cheese and crackers. It would be mostly sheep milk cheeses cause those are my faves. Maybe some pecorino crotonese, manchego, ossau-irraty, bucheron, and garrotxa. For the crackers I would go with  Trader Joe’s whole grain pita crackers (the round ones in a box, not the pita chips), or Blue Ribbon Bakery matzos,” he explains.

“The first course is a salad, this one is a classic Zachg original: arugula (baby or wild), shredded golden beets, fresh corn, heirloom tomatoes, crumbled feta, homemade maple syrup vinaigrette, and topped with crumbled tortilla chips.  Second course is another Zachg classic, the turkey taco: eryngi mushrooms, fennel, cashews, serranos, fresh corn, kale, and turkey breast. Seasoned with: cumin, pimenton, fenugreek, and ajiwan seeds. Topped with a manila mango salsa. Served in hardshell tacos.  Palate cleanser would be the Zachg juice: Carrot/yellow pepper/kiwi juice.  Third course, classic Zachg Rigatoni: Fennel, oyster mushrooms, serranos, and fresh corn. Seasoned with : fresh tarragon, fenugreek. Topped with grated pecorino.  Palate cleanser: fresh ruby red grapefruit juice with seltzer water.  Dessert: Chocolate chip, cardamom bread pudding topped with fresh berry compote.”  Told you this dude knew his way around a kitchen.

And what about elevating his mind?  It’s naive to believe that drugs and art don’t swing hand in hand, especially in a day and age when the culture of smoking is at it’s most technologically advanced levels.  So it goes, weed and rap are the veritable peas and carrots or the music world.  Zachg admits, “Weed has most certainly elevated my game. I definitely use it to help me get in a zone that is conducive to creating art, and I use it to stay in that zone too. But for me it goes way deeper than that. Being involved in the cannabis industry has provided me the means to understand myself in new ways, and experience the world around me in new ways. I built a reputation for myself with weed, and I’ve made a communion with this plant. I mean, they wrote that article about me in GOOD magazine, and I wrote a weed column for Vice for almost a year. I think if you really look at my art, and who I am, and what I represent in a social/cultural sense it gets difficult to parse Zach from Cannabis. I would not be who I am today without weed,  and I am grateful for the opportunities that it has given me.”  Preach brother, and pass it to the left hand side.

It wouldn’t be me if we didn’t talk drinks, so I had to put it out there., what’s Zachg’s drink of choice?  “My drink of choice is most definitely seltzer water. But when it comes to booze I’m usually drinking a Negra Modelo,” he admits.  He’s truly my brother from another.  Much love to Zach for taking the time to open his world to Shiny Glass Houses, and be on the look out for a Rad Reef takeover in 2014.

Click here for part 1 of our chat, and be sure to follow @tzachg on twitter.  Visit and to keep up with the movement.

Made You Look

Gorgeous Children make raps to fuel chopped and screwed field trips to your weed dealers house in a Honda Civic with two JL Audio twelves in the back. There’s a double cup in the center console, and someone just burned a hole in your hoodie.   You couldn’t care less.

The duo of MC Face Vega and producer Gila Monsta make dark art which hits from a distance.  Gorgeous Children is cold weather hip-hop, spaced out enough to wear the cloud-rap tag, but sharper than the blunted masses they undoubtedly reach.

Their self titled 2012 release is a staggering testament to the elusive nature of internet rapThey dropped a new project in November called ICE which picks up right in stylish stride.  Light up, dial in, and let it play a few times…