Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Ykiki Beat - F O R E V E R and Nobuki Akiyama's "British" Flavor

When you first hear the staccato guitar and dreamy beat of  Ykiki Beat's Forever you feel a shot of 80's adrenaline. When Nobuki Akiyama's impassioned (British meets Scottish accented) vocals cut into you the song has the power to carry you away. It is a stunning, stirring sound fueled by post punk, new wave, new romantic flavors of bands like Joy Division and Big Country and more. Ykiki Beat's sound feels both comforting and inspirational at the same time. Akiyama who is influenced by 50's and 60's rock bands as well as The Smiths and Belle and Sebastian listened to a lot of Western Bands to help him with his English pronunciation and through it all he naturally gravitated to singing in something that resembles a British accent.  He also cites poetry especially from the Victorian and Romantic eras for improving his language skills. There is something in Ykiki Beats total sound that brings you back (or forward) to high school loves and heartbreaks scattered with a million sparkling lights from that spinning disco ball. I look so forward to hearing anything Akiyama and the boys put out and Forever is my current addiction.
Robb Donker

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Miley Cyrus and the SNL Cast / Writers Sparkle and Shine On the Season Opener

Miley Cyrus and ostensibly the entire cast shined on the SNL season opener. Miley opened with a fond farewell to this years news stories / scandals with a killer rendition of Frank Sinatra's My Way as everyone from Kim Davis to Josh Duggar to "That Dentist that Killed Cecil the Lion" was summarily skewered. No skit fell flat except for the overly pandering surprise cameo by Hilary Clinton. I mean, that segment was admittedly sort of fun and Hilary did seem like a nice person and I guess that was the idea but it just felt like politicking propaganda gone awry and then segue into Hilary introducing the first Miley Cyrus performance was just so weird. APART from that, the rest of the show was surprisingly spot on as was Miley.

Performing with the Wayne Coyne and the Flaming Lips, Miley appeared to be a vision of Eve and she looked angelic. Besides the trippy art rock, maybe Coyne's hippie lifestyle has rubbed off on Miley too. She doesn't look as gaunt as she did during the Bangerz tour, looks more rested and as the camera lovingly focused in on her face I am reminded how beautiful she is. Her subdued yet vocally stunning performance was beautiful too. The song, Karen Don't Be Sad sounded like old school Flaming Lips, like it could of been off of 1999's The Soft Bulletin. I really liked the song. At this point I am wondering who benefits more from this creative pairing??  Cyrus or The Flaming Lips??

The News Segment was as smart as it was funny and I love Leslie Jones and Pete Davidson. SNL thrives on it's filmed segments and the "Albilify" segment will undoubtedly find it's way on Youtube. Political humor needs to contain truths to cement in the satire and the writers made this biting satire truth heavy.
 Miley's second song, an artfully rendered rather abstract pop love ballad entitled The Twinkle Song mixed nonsensical dreams with a simple yet pretty melody. Performed in a spartan way with only Cyrus on piano, she actually had tears streaming down her face by the end of the song. She is after all an actress and the Miley haters might just assume it was superb acting. Maybe so or maybe she went into a sad zone and the tears were real. Either way, her performance was great theater.

For whatever reason, Instagram was filled with Miley detractors and seemed to regard her being the host as beneath SNL which is just hilarious to me. That kind of attitude also seems so highschool so clique-ish. In the end, Cyrus did a great job as did the writer and cast. They all killed tonight and hopefully this will portend a great entertaining season ahead.

Robb Donker

Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Velvet Hands - "Who Cares" - Oh It's So Good To Be Young, Rocking and British

Who Cares by The Velvet Hands is a raw rocker that cooks with the kind of proto punk prowess of bands like The Orwells and The Strokes. To be sure some of the progs might feel derivative of what came before but I cannot deny the hookiness of this track that is locked in my brain and the vocal performance has this kind of measured aloofness that is as alluring as it is timeless in it's youthful coolness. The instant you hear that opening guitar lick you will be bopping your head, the "Strokes-ish" vibe is totally addictive and the lead break is absolutely killer.

The Velvet hands are Dan Able and Toby Mitchell based out of Austell and London. On this track Jake Fiore is on bass and Charlotte Tunnicliffe on drums. Who Cares (along with Games) is their debut single that dropped last month and available as a free download on Oct 9th from the bands website : www.thevelvethands.co.uk

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Goddamn Beautiful Bullshit of Father John Misty - The Memo

When you listen to the gospel of Father John Misty you want to jump up for joy one minute and drop down to your knees and cry the next. There is something deeply sad in his sardonic art folk. As provocateur, as social commentator Joshua Tillman may of (for me) hit his epic moment on David Letterman were his performance of Bored In The U.S.A absolutely floored me. The song skewers and questions our over medicated dull headed single focused desire for the American dream, organized religion and more. The embedded laugh track twisted the knife.

As much as I adore Tillman's aesthetic and the questions he asks, his latest upload "The Memo" cuts me both ways. As he seems to deride "boy bands" or fabricated bands / art I got the same feeling I got when I watched the Banksy directed film "Exit Through The Gift Shop" which explored similar themes questioning the concept of art itself, whether it be an earnest creation or simply a hoax.

By the end of that totally engaging documentary (or mockumentary) I was not entirely sure if Banksy had pulled the wool over my eyes. Does Banksy consider his art as a hoax? Is he even one person? The movie hinges on Banksy unintentionally creating a monster who becomes an artist while basically winging it. Copying others art, riffing ideas and having an small army of other creative types helping him create his art. By pretending to be a so called artist he has become one and his "fake" art is eaten up by those ravenous art buyers who are eager to buy the newest thing.

It seems to me that in The Memo, Tillman is asking similar questions. He also fully and deeply skewers our narcissistic internet age, our obsession with ourselves via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Ultimately it feels to me that he is always asking the collective us to look inward at our moral core as opposed to our materialistic (out) side. Soul searching is all well and good. It truly is but sometimes I cannot tell if Tillman desire to comment on society at large is becoming a bit stale as to feel disingenuous.  After all, if art is subjective then a Rembrandt has no more value than a Banksy or even your average kindergarten crayoned drawing of a house and family. And while Tillman throws barbs at our own narcissism no one seems more self aware of his image and how he markets it. Not that there is anything wrong with that and I am sure Father John Misty is perfectly happy deriding his own art.

In any event, I love what the man does. The Memo is snarky and thought provoking and depressing as hell. I love it, love Father John Misty and also love when he creates artful songs that don't necessarily comment on society at large. In the end maybe it's all bullshit anyway and if art and entertainment are the opiates of the masses, Father John Misty is one of our most interesting drug dealers.

Robb Donker

The Pristine Pop of The Corner Laughers - "Matilda Effect"

When you hear The Corner Laughers' Karla Kane's pristine vocals on the track The Girl, America it feels very much like 60's Brit Pop. She imbues each syllable with a kind of wide eyed innocence. Like a lot of the songs on their latest album "Matilda Effect" the production is big and sweeping and the musicality is top notch. Sophie In The Streets of Stockholm with its jammy bass heavy beat and almost proto punk polka feel could almost be a Blondie meets Abba song. I actually felt an Abba thing going on in tracks like Midsommar and Go Fly Your Kite and, well even Lammas Land.

The Corner Laughers' sound is so polished, so nice, so non offensive that at times it can feel like you are listening to music composed for a Disney cartoon soundtrack or as in Martha (Cincinnati 1914) geared for the dinner crowds at some show in Branson, Missouri. I hope this is not coming across as a dig. It is not. Anytime an artist stays true to themselves I applaud them.

In Fairytale Tourist the amount of whimsy is amped up ten fold as to feel like it might be geared toward ten year olds. There is, of course, absolutely nothing wrong with this kind of all inclusive ultra mainstream pop and The Corner Laughers do it well. I think the ABBA comparison is a kind of good one and quite frankly, ABBA did pretty well for themselves. While The Corner Laughers' "Matilda Effect" doesn't appeal to me overall as an album, the aforementioned tracks The Girl, America and Sophie In The Streets Of Stockholm do. All this being said, I hope you check this album out and decide for yourself. It just might be your cup of tea. I suppose I just enjoy my tea a bit stronger.

Robb Donker

Saturday, September 26, 2015

V1BE's "Dream Out Loud" Building Musical Bridges

V1BE based out of San Diego are Singer / producer Rossy and rapper C.Young and their latest effort Dream Out Loud is a kind of big anthemic feel good track with a Gary Glitter beat and an inspirational tone in that FUN vein except it may swing for a wider audience.

Truth be told, it is not the sort of track that I usually feature, usually my tastes run more raw but there is something totally good natured and positive in V1BE's sound. It is a sound that brings people together and that is a good thing.

Check out V1BE-

Robb Donker

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Seldom Family's Two Track Cassette Casts Some Beautiful Yet Dark Shadows

As Patrick Norris croons with a kind of wounded passion on the track The Dogs, the bass with a plodding cadence almost seems to be following behind, hiding in the shadows as a sad jangling guitar contain the rhythm amidst muted drums that subtlety explode from time to time. The whole torrid affair feels both emotionally sad and conflicted, some times lashing out and sometimes comatose. It saunters along like a slow dance but for one not two. It is as dark as it is sad and as sad as it is passionate. It is part of a two track cassette basically called Cassette #1. As an opening track it feels heavy warning that this band may dwell in those dour places.

The second track, Mine Forever, Mine Alone feels a little lighter (only a little) with sounds that show flourishes of hope in the melodies but it still has an awfully beautifully sad tone.  Both tracks might feel less like songs than emotional soundtracks or soundscapes. Both would lend themselves perfectly to cinema to fortify some emotional scene. This is my first introduction to this talented duo (Patrick Norris: vocals, guitar and Chris Caulder: drums, bass, guitar, lap steel) who are based out of Philadelphia. I look forward to delving deeper into their music.

(review notes: When I first listened to the Dogs, I was feeling an Interpol vibe. I also thought of a darker sadder version of the Buttertones but then the more I listened the emotional edge didn't feel as stylistically "posed" as Paul Banks etc.)

Robb Donker

Heyward Howkins - Forecasting / Midway 7" Single Limited Edition - Elegant Indie

Heyward Howkins has always created music that seems to exist in its own alternate universe. In his universe the stars shine a bit brighter, pop melodies fall elegantly into articulate frames that don't possess any right angles. Instead they sit beautifully askew projecting images not set in any particular time.

His latest musical offering is the Forecasting / Midway single that you can download via his Bandcamp page at a "name your own price" price. It is also available as a one if a kind clear vinly lathe cut 7 inch single but hurry as there are only 5 remaining. Experience Howkin's elegant universe below (a musical interlude in Forecasting made me think of Burt Bacharach and how awesome is that?). Also check out my 2013 interview with the man himself.
Robb Donker

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Bomb... Not A Bomb. Bomb... Not A Bomb. The Strange Case of Ahmed Mohamed and Paranoid Dominos

By now the entire world has heard about Ahmed Mohamed, the 14 year old high school student who brought a clock configured in a Vaultz Pencil box to MacArthur High School in Irving, Texas and all hell broke loose. The facts are sketchy but apparently Ahmed who aspires to be an engineer wanted to share his clock with his teacher.

According to the Dallas Morning News: "He showed it to his engineering teacher first thing Monday morning and didn't get quite the reaction he'd hoped for. Ahmed said, "He was like, "That's really nice. I would advise you not to show any other teachers."

Through the course of the day, the pencil box sat in his school bag until the alarm beeped in the middle of his English class. After the lesson Ahmed brought his contraption up to show his English teacher and she told him that "It looks like a bomb." Ahmed replied, "It doesn't look like a bomb to me." The teacher kept the clock and by sixth period Ahmed was summarily pulled out of class by the school's Principal and a Police Officer. And then, somehow this happened: (see pic)

How and why was Ahmed handcuffed and detained and how in the world did seemingly bright adult professionals throw logic and reason out the door. After the rash of school shootings and the recent Boston bombing you would of thought that all governmental agencies would be educated on what and what doesn't constitute a real concern.

A simple cursory view of Ahmed's clock doesn't look at all like a bomb. In the simplest of terms there is nothing inside the pencil case, no vessel at all to contain any type of explosive material. Nothing to go boom. Typically a terrorist's home-made bomb utilizes pipes to contain explosives (gun powder or match-heads). The pipe itself becomes the shrapnel.

Clearly, Ahmed's clock did not look like a bomb and, in reality, no one thought it looked like a bomb. Think about it. The Engineering Teacher knew it wasn't a bomb but seemed to think other teachers might not be as smart as he or she and mistake it for something sinister. Why did he not at that time bring the clock to the Principal and explain the situation? Now, consider the English teacher, she obviously did not think it was a bomb either or she wouldn't of confiscated it.  Clearly, the police, the principal, no one, absolutely not one person who viewed the clock and thought it looked like a bomb. The school was not evacuated, the bomb squad was not called. Was this the pompous case of each adult thinking that they were smart enough to not know it was a bomb but treating the rest of the staff like idiots?

At any point did one adult think to simply call Ahmed's parents as opposed to the Police?  If no one thought it was a bomb then who thought it was a bomb hoax. The devise was not presented in that way. If, for example, it was left by itself at the end of a hallway with empty pipes attached then, YES, it would look scary and would warrant calling the police. And, if that would of happened, I can assure you that the school would of been evacuated and the bomb squad called. From all reports I have read, it appears that no one even remotely thought that Ahmed was involved in any hoax at all.

So if none of these adult professionals thought it looked like a bomb and no one thought that a hoax was being perpetrated then why did it go down like it did. Maybe, someone or all of them thought Ahmed was creepy. Maybe he fit the prescribed stereotype for a bomber or hoaxer. Quite frankly, to me, he looks like who he is.... an aspiring engineer, a bookworm, a bit of a nerd.

I hope this is not what we have become. I hope this is simply a case of adult professionals over (and under) reacting and that (after much reflection) they will learn from their mistakes. Now, before you even ask the question: Was it wise for Ahmed to bring his contraption to his class?? Maybe, maybe not but remember, he innocently showed it to his Engineering Teacher and it was that teacher who pushed the first paranoid domino over.

Robb Donker

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Lovely Bad Things Engage In 7 SUBJECTS- Bitcoins for Pizza and the Buffest Viking

For a band like The Lovely Bad Things life on the road means being stuck in a van for 9 or 12 hour stretches at a time, existing on little sleep and killing time mining obscure and not so obscure albums on Spotify, each Lovely Bad Thing scoring accordingly. They gave me high praise on some 80's Jermaine Stewart record.

Currently touring in support of Best Coast, I saw them perform at the iconic 40 Watt Club in Athens, Georgia. They churned out fan favorites like Darth Lauren, Honey Comb Cocoon, Fried Eyes, I Just Want You To Go Away and Hear or Anywhere and their latest single Space Waste but also offered up brand new songs like Teenage Grown Ups, Noon Babies and You Don't Hang Around plus their version of Pavement's You Are A Light which absolutely stunned me.

Now I could of spoken to them about their batch of new songs or their seemingly mad crush on Stephen Malkmus  but, instead, chose to throw some random topics at them. Check it out below as well as some vids I shot at the 40 Watt.

Robb Donker

Currently on TOUR with best coast- DATES: