Saturday, March 21, 2015

SUBSETS - "twothousandfourteen" Addictive London Punk from Cincinnati, Ohio

As I dashed up and down my Twitter feed I saw this amazing graphic which turned out to be the Subsets album cover for "twothousandfourteen" which they release late in 2014. Great artwork of a snarling wolf or wolf guy (whatever). That artwork peaked my interest as did their band name. If I wouldn't of noticed that they were from Ohio (from their sound) I would of guessed they were from London. The vocalist has that brit punk tone and their sound is a dirty retro indie barrage / blend that made me think of bands like The Hives, Ty Segall, The Sex Pistols, Black Flag, Fidlar and Thee Ohsees all rolled into one.

From the first track (It Breeds) to the last (Body Zero) I had a big fucking annoying grin on my face. The thick guitars, super active bass and vocals that have a tinge Jello Biafra meets Johnny Rotten is instantly addictive. Songs like Situation and You Tasting Colors don't necessarily mine new territory but Subsets do what they do so well and with such righteous punk zeal that they hook you into the fold right away. The sound is wide eyed crazy and for some reason I thought of ravishing zombies ala George Romero while I listened to some of the tracks. In the Sunday Knif the punk attack slows down in such a great way to only roll up big at the end. My favorite track The Wolf Waits is luscious in it's punk sway with thick guitars and amazingly busy bass lines. My second fav is Duct Tape Make Out Party which feels like a punk riot.

I love this album. Where the fuck are my Doc Martens??
Robb Donker

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Storks and Mosquitos by Sacred Destinies (Charlyne Yi and Jet Elfman) gave me goosebumps

Today I stumbled across "Sacred Destinies" which is (as far as I can tell) the musical outfit or project of Jet Elfman (formerly of Wide Streets) and actress, writer, comedian and musician Charlyne Yi. I and quite possibly, you, first saw Carlyne in Judd Apatow's Knocked Up. She did not have that much screen time but the moments she had were unforgettable. She also shined in her 2009 debut feature film Paper Heart and played a surprisingly "normal" role on the final season of House as Dr. Park. I have always been wildly impressed with her talent and seen her perform her own music around different haunts in LA. I am also a huge Wide Streets fan and felt my heart twinge a bit when Jet Elfman left to "pursue other things".

I imagine that Sacred Destinies is one of those "other things" and what a lovely thing it is. Jet has been romantically involved with Yi for quite some time and you can feel their love on this lone track called Storks and Mosquitos as part of their "Mountain" Demos.

The cadence and sound of the guitar strumming feels like Wide Streets but the comparison ends there. Jet and Charlyne's voices sound more real than ever before. This simple song is stunningly beautiful. As it enveloped me I got goosebumps. Just so damn lovely and endearing. There is no need to describe it but I can honestly say that I feel like a better person having heard it and (of course) I look forward to hearing more.

Robb Donker

Drug Cabin's "Yard Work" - A Blissfully Deep Mix of Jesus, Marijuana, Lost Dreams and Hollywood

The songs on Drug Cabin's - "Yard Work" feel like serene California pop with alternative folk roots. The varied tracks shine and dance with cool festive guitar passages, vast pedal steel, super deep bass grooves, steady beats and soothing vocal harmonies. Nathan Thelen (Pretty Girls Make Graves, Moonrats) and Marcus Congleton (Ambulance LTD) write melodies (musical and vocally) that have hooks galore and you may get so intoxicated by the garden rock high that you miss what lays beneath it all. While you frolic in the shallows these songs can also be deceptively deep. Your toes may not be able to reach the sea floor and you may even encounter a riptide or two. The seemingly blissful sounds sometimes edge into social commentary and emotional ennui.

In Baywatch, the casual cadence and sounds feel carefree but carries a sad tone too- "Is it anarchy if I teach you how to love my land" and within the almost defiant push of Noche you feel the late night sleepless burdened heart among the truly beautiful moving musical passages as the lyrics offer more questions than answers: "broke up the bottle on your misfit head, come back tomorrow or you'll soon be late, I can't understand why there's tow of them in the middle of the night."

The smart groovy Hollywood might decry the city's mystique as much as celebrate it. It feels like a cocky epitaph to the heralded destination of broken dreams as Thelan and Congleton sing, "We can make anything happen.... limitless, undying fancy free. Here you are my only friend, evil one that I let in. We're only close in my world." As catchy as a Quincy Jones produced Michael Jackson track, every sound and lack there of is perfectly placed. Pop with an edge. Thelan and Congleton's free form musical style coupled with lyrical content that carries such emotional weight (and is full of drama and comedy) is what makes Drug Cabin a notch above similar fair. I have heard some comparisons to Simon and Garfunkel and in the way they mine lyrics that tell stories (vague or specific) I can see a similarity although Drug Cabin is definitely a more collaborative affair.

Thelan and Congleton's creative 'throw it to the wind' attitude makes for some surprises as well. Jesus is a kind of funky mind-bender. It is definitely fun but also feels weirdly twisted as a companion to the other tracks. Kind of like Hollywood, it is hard to figure out if the pair is skewering religion or religious freaks or drinking a bit of that kool-aid as they sing, "I come to party, I pray to Jesus, I have a good time, I'm out of my mind." The track Powder Moon, awash in peddle steel sounds is a dreamy lovely slow dance with free falls of sound. Sapphire is perfectly suited for an afternoon ride in your car looking for a neighborhood party.

In the end, Drug Cabin's "Yard Work" is a blissfully deep mix of love and life with subject matter spiked with Jesus, marijuana, lost dreams, lovers and Hollywood. For me, the track California might be the most beautiful and lush song on the album. As tender as a slow motion bottom turn on a perfectly walled four foot wall of water at Trestles, the song glides like the sweetest embrace and yet still hold's some tears in it's happiness.

California breeze.
We wake up to morning marijuana.
Look into the trees what a wonderful world at your feet.
You can stay if you want to ... leave if you want to...
Don't be surprised by the look in her eyes when she goes by.
I always loved you.
Can't afford a dream.
You shoot up come down... now you're gonna land upon your knees.
Give me love low enough I can reach.

Robb Donker

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Official Video for "The Best Way To Drown" by Passenger Peru -

The Official Video for Passenger Peru's "The Best Way To Drown" as directed and animated by Michela Buttignol is an impressionistic wash of imagery that feels a bit like an idyllic vacation gone awry. It also feels a bit like dancing on the Titanic. Oh, such is life. Incredibly engaging and thought provoking song that pulls you inward. It is from Passenger Peru's album "Light Places" that I reviewed a while back. If you have time, please check out the review and this amazing album.
Robb Donker

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Napster, 1999, and FUZZ45 Bedroom Band or Prank and 15 Seconds of Fame

Recently a ghost of sorts from my past resurfaced as someone on Instagram asked me, "Is this FUZZ45 Robb?" Quite frankly, I took a couple of hours to answer as the whole FUZZ45 thing hovered in my past like something between a true musical project and a prank. In 1999, the same year that Shawn Fanning, John Fanning and Sean Parker released Napster, the peer to peer sharing platform were MP3 files were easily traded I started doing bedroom recordings at my best friend Mark Dicken's house in Whittier, California. It was nothing well conceived but directly inspired by Napster and the ability to put out your own music and get instant feedback. I had been in real bands well over a decade earlier, had sold my gear, guitars, drum kits and all and only owned a crappola guitar purchased from a garage sale.

I had fully given up playing and writing and was pulled and or pushed by Mark into getting back into music. I went kicking and screaming. The whole band thing had left me battle scarred. For me writing songs had been more like therapy sessions than fun and my control freak nature cause the entire recording process to be super stressful. This time around there were no band members to contend with except Marco, no deadlines or preparing for gigs. Just putting your music out for the world to hear or not.

I purchased an old version of Cakewalk (recording software) from a Fullerton College student, Marco had guitars, my brother had a proto Phantom bass and we had a Roland Tr505. The calendar was soon going to flip into the 2000's soon so FUZZ45 was officially born on October 1999. Of course, recording at home was nothing new and it was being replicated in thousands and thousands of bedrooms and garages across the country, across the world. It just so happened that it was becoming easier to publish your songs.

While FUZZ45 was strictly a social thing, a way to have fun and be creative with my buddy Marco I also wanted to construct a fictional band. I don't know why. At the time, I thought making people think their were 4 players instead of two or one would be more interesting. I thought it would make FUZZ45 more legitimate in a way. Looking back it was just stupid but that is how I framed it at the time. On line, the band was Robb Donker on guitar and vocals, Mark Dickens on lead guitar, Sandra Van Horst on Bass and Al Dib on Drums in reality, Marco was primarily the lead player on all the songs that I didn't solo record. He also played bass on a song called Lotus. I played guitar, bass and sounds courtesy of the TR505. I cannot program drum machines so I tapped out the beats live. As a drummer, not playing a real kit was frustrating and the sound suffered.

On Napster, FUZZ45 did have a loyal following albeit a very small one. It was, in some way, rewarding to hear feedback from those who liked the songs. I haven't listened to some of the songs for years and, in fact, it was difficult for me to locate the songs at all. I found some on lline on the Internet Archive and eventually found them on an old external hard drive. Listening back, some of the songs are, to me, pretty cool, some are ok and some are downright horrible. For anyone making music in a solo sort of way, or with friends as recording projects it is, in the end, not really important whether the songs achieve some sort of notoriety on line or not. I used to think that it was important if the songs became big or sold or whatever but the older I get I think the important part of doing bedroom recordings is the process of doing it. It is about the laughs, sharing drinks and each others company, achieving that sound you wanted to achieve or that exact feeling you felt. It is that text or email or Instagram message from a stranger who love "that" song. It is the journey not the final destination and it is, of course, the memories.

Robb Donker

NOTES: I went ahead and posted a few FUZZ45 songs, I may post up more over time.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

"Silly Girl" - "L'adulte" - "Queen Lullabye" - SUNDAY MORNING LIVE : Peter, Bjorn and John - Sebastien Tellier - Ty Segall


I absolutely love live performance videos especially when artists do those amazing acoustic performances or interpret their recorded works a bit differently. The live setting can also be unforgiving. Sometimes they are not afforded the best sound checks, the best playbacks and sometimes they are in and out, oftentimes on rush rush schedules, twisted hours and playing on too many cups of coffee and not enough sleep. You can sometimes hear this in their vocal strain and I LOVE that. Great artists step it up when they have to. So enjoy these 3 live performances.

By the way, I grouped these together because I imagine that each artist would not only love the other's tracks but would love performing them as well.

Peter, Bjorn and John: "Silly Girl"

The boys jam the hell out of "Silly Girl" on Radio Hamburg. Peter's voice is on the edge in a kind of Lenon-esque "Twist and Shout" gargling razor blades way and it adds a harried passion to this great song. As fierce is Peter's "Andy Warhol-ish (Bowie) riff , Bjorn's stair stepping (veering into dissonance) counterpoint and John killing it pounding out the beat on a guitar case of all things. Backing vocals are spot on as is the entire performance.


 Sebastien Tellier- "L'adulte"

I must admit that I do not know much about Sebastien Tellier but happily stumbled into this video and immediately liked his look. The song L'adulte is the perfect chill song. Kind of pretty in an almost mysterious way. It makes me want to drink a martini while doing a mellow sock dance.

Ty Segall: "Queen Lullabye"

Ty flashes a peace sign and strums headfirst into a trippy live version of Queen Lullaby. Sweet mix with heavy bass, bright bell rings on the cymbals and a cool vocal yelp before the psychedelic music break.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Violent Mae - Bootleg Video for "Long Hard Wait" - Rated Mature - Beautiful, Dark Dreams

From the moment the down trodden beats and forlorn guitar strains seep into your senses, Violent Mae's "Long Hard Wait" sets a beautifully sad atmosphere and then (through this fog) Becky Kessler's sultry broken vocal performance give you a cold chill. Her tone is closed eyed intimacy and lost chances but when Floyd Kellogg's drum beat starts you feel a single ember of hope start to glow. From there the song's progression glides into surprising places, pretty sparkles of guitar work that feel all id and dreamy, emotionally and musically spontaneous. Set against the slow motion dark comedic surrealism of Vincent Gallo's 1998 indie film Buffalo 66, the song twists even darker.

"Long Hard Wait" is from Violent Mae's self titled debut album that is being reissued by The Telegraph Recording Company. The duo based out of Hartford, Connecticut plans on releasing their second album this year.

Rated Mature for Sexual Themes and Violence.
Experience before the lawyers catch wind.
Robb Donker

VIOLENT MAE (Becky Kessler & Floyd Kellogg) was never intended to be a band. Becky asked Floyd to record and produce her first solo album, and as soon as they hit the studio, chemistry and dynamics between the two sparked the evolution of an artistic partnership. Their full-length debut record was released at the end of 2013. Becky, a songwriter, singer and guitar player, calls the Outer Banks of North Carolina home, where she finally settled as a teenager after moving every year or so, mostly around the Southeast U.S., to 11 different places. A few years ago, a friend invited her to live and work on an organic farm in Connecticut, where she soon met Floyd, a multi-instrumentalist, engineer and producer. The two began recording at Casa de Warrenton Studio in Hartford, expanding Becky’s songs with Floyd’s arrangements and parts. They ultimately formed VIOLENT MAE after making a record, playing all the instruments on it and being invited to perform one of their first live sets as the opening act for Nels Cline and Julian Lage. Paste recently listed VIOLENT MAE as one of 10 Connecticut bands you should listen to now. At the 2013 Connecticut Music Awards, VIOLENT MAE won Best New Band, and editors at The Deli Magazine named the duo one of New England’s Top Ten Emerging Artists. The band tours nationally more than ever, playing alongside acts such as Courtney Barnett, Jessica Lea Mayfield, Cymbals Eat Guitars and Marissa Nadler. VIOLENT MAE is reissuing their self-titled debut record with The Telegraph Record Company out of New London, Connecticut, including a full national college radio campaign through Never Better. Two new music videos for the songs “Long Hard Wait” and “Right Here” will accompany that campaign. In the meantime, the duo is working on completing their second full-length record, due for release later in 2015.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Regal Peaches - Self Titled EP is Beautiful (starring Hannibal Buress and Lemley the Polar Bear)

The Regal Peaches out of LA just released their self titled EP. To say that the tightly woven pop songs are ebullient is a massive understatement. They are jammy as hell, progressive in spots, quirky for sure, and non-pretentiously upbeat. Their is a wide eyed fun to them. They are part well crafted hyper activity and part Elks Club bar band after copious amounts of Yuenglings. The thing is this, some of the mild mannered zany slant has (to me) an almost sitcom theme song quality. Let me be clear, this is not necessarily a bad thing, in fact the songs are full of catchy melodies, emotionally large, dig their happy nails into you and beg repeated listening (I cannot stop listening to Beautiful).

So, instead of a traditional review. Let's imagine if each of these songs were sitcom theme songs. What would the sitcoms be.....?

1. "Blame It On The Weather" coming this fall on ABC stars Fred Armisen about a guy in Boston, Mass who wakes up to find that the ugly thrift store sweater has fused permanently to his body and hilarity ensues.

2. "Chicago Typewriter" on HBO. A zany comedy starring Jack White and Jack Black as two Chicago Suns sports writers in 1964.

3. "Shiny Suns" on FOX. A romantic comedy starring Naomi Watts as a 46 year old nuclear physicist who falls head over heals for 36 Justin Long who is a produce manager at the local Publix.

4. "Standing In Line" coming this fall on CBS. Drama about the trials and tribulations of the 70's rock band Standing In Line as they battle record companies and drug addiction starring Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, Chris Parnell and Luke Wilson as "fudge boy"-

5. "Beautiful" coming this fall on NBC. An inspiring, heartwarming story of the bipolar polar bear Lemley and his hilarious caretaker Stanley played by Hannibal Buress.

Robb Donker

Sunday, February 8, 2015

AP Review: We Are The West - "Regards" - Beautiful Scars

When you listen to the 3 intimately rendered folk songs on "Regards" by We Are The West you might be surprised to find out how they were crafted. Brett Hool and John Kibler recorded the songs live in Sebastopol, California away from home tucked in a small room keeping clear of the rain falling outside. When they listened to the recordings later they decided to call musicians of note, their friends, to contribute their artistry to the songs. And so they did with wonderful results.

When you listen to the title tracked Regards you can feel the earnest live touches. The guitar slides, buzzes and ambient noise (is that faint rain in the background?) all perfectly imperfect. What you also hear is such a heartfelt tender vocal performance that it pours directly into your heart. Thankfully, the after touches like Jesse Olsen Bay on pump organ and Beth on cymbals are so wonderfully placed. All the contributors put such a tender embrace on their performances and that is what makes them each special.

The Thin Red Line written by the duos close friend Michael Bush moves in unexpected ways, is truly lovely and maybe the most vast track of the three. The cadence has a vagabond heart, lyrics get dark and Dina Maccabee's emotional violin lines working off the vocal performance creates drama and tension. The opening track Hold On, at first, feels like a traditional Americana folk befitting of a porch concert and then skews into a darkly dreamy place with sad accordion played by Marie Abe. Elizabeth Goodfellow's background vox and percussion combined with the broken vocal performance turns the first simple folk song into something emotionally dissonant and complex.

Brett and John refer to this EP as an aural postcard and if you extend that analogy it makes you wonder from what emotional place it was sent (and why.)  It is at once so beautiful and moving but also so scarred and beautifully sad as the cold rain falling in the background.
Robb Donker

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Natalie McCool - "PINS" Cuts a Deep Indie Pop Groove

I wish I could dance. I can move about, spaz out when required but dance, not a lick. If I could dance I would want to do an amazing interpretive dance to Natalie McCool's track Pins from her forthcoming EP, recorded and produced with David Berger from the band Outfit. McCool's intimate vocal performance floats over electronic percussive sounds as her harmonies solidify the rhythm. The melodies entice movement from those who can dance and those who cannot. It pushes and pulls, gets small and big creating a deep dynamic groove.
Robb Donker