Friday, March 22, 2019

"Serpentina" is decadently heavy and cool from Sharkmuffin's sc-fi concept EP "Gamma Gardening"

Serpentina, from the Brooklyn punk trio Sharkmuffin feels trippy cool. It's shifting drum rhythms, snaking bass lines, spaghetti western meets surf punk guitar lines and brazen reverb washed vox are wild and decadently cool. The track is from their latest "Gamma Gardening" EP, a sci-fi concept album based around the Serpentina (herself), as:

"a space dominatrix with a day job as receptionist for a gene editing lab and her new “designer baby,” Sharkmuffin have built a world that explores the dystopian future, in both it’s most colorful and darkest turns. There’s sex, snakes, and plenty of sci-fi intrigue, inspired by workplace boredom and a fear for a genetically altered future of super babies." 

Really? Really. An Artfully intriguing concept. Me thinks Sharkmuffin should get together with artist Craig Gleason on this. NPR once described the bands sounds as "glam grunge" which I think is pretty right on although (maybe) a simplification. Their punk sound blend in proto punk tones, 60's almost Phil Spector-esque "Wall of Sound' tones, post rock neo psychedelic elements and, yes, grunge and garage rock and surf music. A heady brew that might just have to be described as "Sharkmuffin".

Sharkmuffin isTarra Thiessen (guitar/vocals) and Natalie Kirch (bass/vocals). "Gamma Gardening" finds the duo joined by frequent collaborator turned full fledge Sharkmuffin, Jordyn Blakely (drums/vocals). All three handle the songwriting influenced by The Shangri-Las, Nirvana, Broadcast and The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. "Gamma Gardening" drops April 5th via Exploding In Sound Records. 

Robb Donker

Thursday, March 21, 2019

SONG PREMIERE: "The Chicago Board Of Trade" by Spelling Reform feels darkly sweet and cinematic

The Chicago Board of Trade by Philadelphia indie rocker / power poppers Spelling Reform snaps like the theme song of a 90's movie of the same name as directed by Joel and Ethan Cohen. The movie would have dark comedic elements, a semi comical death or two and a bruised and battered central romance. The song with it's sad core sway, 70's pop rock tones, a (sort of naive) tender vocal performance, dramatic downbeats and big rock crescendos feels like Ben Folds Five, Weezer, They Might Be Giants and Tod Rundgren pushed through Unknown Mortal Orchestra filters. 

The Chicago Board of Trade is from the band's second full length album entitled "Stay Inside" and, of the song, lead singer and songwriter (guitarist) Dan Wisniewski says: 

“There’s a joy in reliving specific thoughts and feelings, and there’s a sadness in realizing how common those seemingly unique memories can be."

On the album, the band, rounded out by drummer Mark Rybaltowski, bassist Tom Howley and keyboardist Jim Gannon hammer out longer songs with more choruses and much more synthesizer.

"Stay Inside" drops April 5th (2019).

Robb Donker

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Red Steppes' evocative "Leonine" feels like a beautiful journey

Leonine, the debut single from Red Steppes' 10 track album "Arcs", feels like a musical diorama of tangible places and trancy feelings. California singer songwriter and visual artist Nika Alla States writes in such a poetic way turning feelings, perceptions into rich descriptions: 

"fire my brood and bloom in canyons, blow the glass, and bend the steel. but I'll be true to you, my rude companion. I've known the shape of smoke, and I am hopeful still. The summer is waning and I'm here to get my fill"

She flirts with her melodic cadence, her vocal harmonies dancing amid upfront electric guitar with supporting background instrumentation but she keeps it spartan and intimate. In the end, with the percolating percussive sounds, Leonine feels like a journey. Cool and beautiful minimalist pop / avant garde folk. 

Red Steppes is currently based in Brooklyn and "Arcs" drops on May 31st of this year.

Robb Donker

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

"Before" by Buffalo's Johnny & the Man Kids is a full charge cheeky lo-fi rocker

Before by Johnny & the Man Kids out of Buffalo, New York is a full charge cheeky lo-fi indie rocker with a runaway beat and a catchy guitar melody that feels like a precocious kid's "na na naaas". The unbridled energy is infectious and John Marciniak's vox feels cool and croony. I thought a bit of a kind of blend of The Strokes, The Orwells and Together Pangea. The band is rounded out by brother Tyler Marciniak (bass), Andy Pszonak (guitar), and Alex Bogart (drums).

This is the first single from Johnny & the Man Kid's upcoming EP You Made Me Hurt, out 4.12.19

Robb Donker

Monday, March 18, 2019

Nip (UK) unfettered punk on the runaway "Bear Pit"

Bear Pit by punk provocateur Nip (UK) is a bit of a mystery but his sound on this track is steeped in such cool Brit punk tones. It feels at once fresh but old school too possessing potent bass and drums, sonic attacks of guitars that feel both punk and grunge at times and Nip's vox that are strident and wailing just like punk vox should be. -
Robb Donker

Sunday, March 17, 2019

The dark romantic wave of "Whatever and Ever" by NRVS LVRS (Nervous Lovers)

NRVS LVRS (pronounced “Nervous Lovers”) is the dreamy darkwave project of husband & wife duo Andrew Gomez and Bevin Fernandez and the track Whatever and Ever feels like an 80's new wave time machine running on industrial drums and self aware artistically postured vocals. Everything feels a bit angular from the driving guitars and smashed synth notes. I thought of new wave artists like Gary Numan and the Human League and romance wave artists like Bryan Ferry (Roxy Music) and ABC. The San Francisco natives cite artists like Massive Attack, Can, and Kate Bush as influences while others have described their aesthetic on the fringes of electro-pop elements similar to that of The Knife, Bat for Lashes, or Crystal Castles. 

Robb Donker

Nashville indie duo The Hamaleighs and the jagged raw "Sorry I'm Busy"

"Sorry I'm Busy" by the Nashville indie duo The Harmaleighs, the musical moniker of Haley Grant and Kaylee Jasperson feels like a jagged raw power pop song. It vacillates between an edgy verse with harried vox that feel anxious and desperate to an even more harried, even manic chorus. It is one of those grab your head and scream at the top of your lungs type of songs and when the song mellows (but only for  seconds) you feel like you can breathe only to suffocate again.

The revelatory song is from their new full-length album "She Won’t Make Sense" that drops on August 2nd, 2019. A concept album about mental illness, specifically Haley’s deeply personal journey through anxiety, depression and mania.


Robb Donker

"Mellow Yellow (Smoke Trees)" by T-Shirt Dream Party is like a brand new candy with a flavor you can't describe

Mellow Yellow (Smoke Trees) is a dynamic blendo shape shifter of a song by T-Shirt Dream Party, an indie / alternative outfit created by brothers Ben and Dan Dickson with lifelong friends Eggs (David Egbe) and Sam Powell, collectively known as Green Eggs and Sam. All are from the suburbia of Manchester (UK), between Stretford and The Tesco in Baguley.

The track has a dreamy groove feeling like a cross between tropical punk flavors and an almost 80's dance wave feel then it deftly shape shifts with some proggy elements and jazzy shapes. Eventually, it gets big with rock tones. Curious but tasty like a brand new candy.

Robb Donker

"Break My Heart and Let Me Go" by Matthew Pinder featuring Molly Bush is a beautiful cold reminder

Break My Heart and Let Me Go by Matthew Pinder and featuring Molly Bush is the kind of song that inspires and fractures your heart at the same time. Pinder's voice holds comfort but with pearls of pain and as the emotional cadence of the song shifts from verse to chorus, from hurt to a kind of resolute suffering it feels like a twist of the knife. The addition of a beautiful female voice, blending emotions and harmonies does soften the blow (thankfully) feeling like a passion play reminding us that these deep emotions are in the artifice of song. A cold reminder of how much love can hurt us in the end.  

Robb Donker


Seeking to find answers and slow the world down, Matthew Pinder is an artist that explores the mountain range of human emotions with a tender artistry that commonly threads throughout his music. The Bahamian singer-songwriter sings from his own experiences, never afraid to bare the raw honesty of life and use his music to tell the stories that often go untold.
With lyrics encompassing the fickleness of relationships, the depths of human longing, and the hope of new days to come, Pinder has created two albums of original music. His first studio EP, Too Young To Understand, released in March 2018 and established Pinder as a newcomer to watch in the saturated singer-songwriter landscape. Working with producer Chris Jacobie (Penny & Sparrow, Jarrod Dickenson, Duncan Fellows), Pinder developed his newest release and first full length record of original songs and stories spanning the lyrical and thematic range of upbeat tones about finding love, to heartbreaking ballads of seeking hope and understanding. The result, Give Me Some Time, showcases Pinder in an undeniably human way as he grapples with finding that balance between the heartbreak and hope of life. 

Charlie Lane reveals hard truths on "Faker"

Charlie Lane is a singer songwriter out of Melbourne (AUS) who has the ability to swim in many styles. Whether indie pop or cabaret or art pop with post punk leanings she always writes from the heart and spills her guts for everyone to see. Her music is in that sense, cathartic and inspirational. Her latest offering Faker, a dynamically rich indie rocker, is no exception. Of the track she reveals :

I wrote this at a time when I was in a relationship where the person was getting effected by my mental health, but didn’t fully understand it, nor wanted to. 
Didn’t understand what I have to go through and how much blame I actually put on myself, and how much you don’t actually mean to do what hurts them in the long run, but inevitably end up in a lonely as hell relationship. 
Therefore, you are always smiling to cover up the fact you are not happy at all. You are faking everything.

Robb Donker