Monday, April 13, 2015

Official Video: "Off The Ground" by The Traveling Suitcase from there album "Nobody Wins" - This song will stick in your head.

The official video for Off The Ground by The Traveling Suitcase is my first introduction to the band. Yeah, if you didn't know I sleep under large rocks. As directed by Brandon Dower (the bassist / keyboardist for the band) it deftly and instantly highlights the talents of drummer / singer / guitarist Nicole Rae. Bill Grasley rounds out this three piece rock outfit with his guitar talents. While the video has a trippy cool tone I can't help but focus on the song itself which is a kind of blendo rocker. It is dynamically dense moving from proggy syncopated sounds that give way to dramatic sustains of heaviness. There is that kind of dream theater taking place done up cool and sultry in that Queens of The Stone Age sort of way. Guitar work: RAD. Bass line: RAD. Drumming: RAD. Throw on melodies that engage and you have a powerful song and very wonderful introduction to a band that I am eager to discover more about. Oh, yeah, and they based out of Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Off The Ground is from the band's album Nobody Wins which you can check out here (I know I will be doing just that).

Well, it is late and I need to go to sleep. Where is that large rock?
Robb Donker

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Heartwood - Single: You Should Really Thank Me / No One Can Do You Wrong - Pure Pop Rock In Panavision

Heartwood is a 4 piece rock outfit out of LA that proudly wears heavy pop and glam pop adornments on their sleeve. They are currently releasing 5 singles and the first two songs show their diverse styles and their unabashed love of pure rock musical tropes too.

You Should Really Thank Me feels almost bi-polar in it's construction. It starts off feeling like an almost garden rock ode in the Neil Young heavy electric vein and shifts dramatically to a pure pristine pop sound in the Todd Rundgren vein. I can tell you that upon first listen the shift felt awkward, daring for sure, but so poppy. I tend to gravitate to a more raw sound and the shift didn't sit well with me. As the song progressed, I must say that all the musical pieces fell into place for me. I also realized that there is a fair amount of theatricality to Heartwood's performance and overall tone. That this pristine produced sound is part of their thing, an ode to classic sounds (at least that is what I sense not having spoken to them). The backing vocals flooding in and erupting into a heavy pop rock ending is pure hard rock candy and they gladly relish in it.

Side B: No One Can Do You Wrong starts off as tweeny as a song in a Muppet Movie and then descends into a glammy rock affair with Brian Mayish guitar flourishes. This song like the first, turns very lush in it's production. It also feels like rock burlesque with grand guignol bloody heart as the lyrics delightfully kill those who get in the way. Now, the murderer may just be a metaphor for one who kills relationships but the violent imagery is playfully there nonetheless.

Heartwood's propensity for the theatrical feels a bit like a throw back but then today every thing goes in the current musical landscape and that is a good thing. There is definitely something enticing and mesmerizing about their approach. I have not seen them live but I know one thing, this kind of music that is overly dramatic and kind of cinematic has to be sold to work live so I truly hope that they are entertaining performers. If they are, they will go a long way.

Robb Donker

Diet Cig's Debut EP "Over Easy" - A Killer Pizza Slice Of Pop Punk

Diet Cig, the duo of front woman Alex Luciano (vocals / guitar) and Noah Bowman (drums) cut out a killer pizza slice of pop punk that mainly speak about navigating youthful self doubts and relationships from Alex's point of view. She doesn't mince words. Her vocal performance can sound at once pretty, pretty ballsy and petulant (at times). Noah's drumming is as explosive as it can be considering the musical material. He brings a ton of foundational energy to the short songs.

I like what I am hearing, especially Harvard and Scene Sick which has a comic underbelly to the lyrics. Alex's vocal tone and her specific characteristic sound is engaging and I truly look forward to hearing more from Diet Cig but while I am enjoying the songs, they are not making me feel all that much or making me relate to anything about them. Could be that it is because I am not a twenty something girl or could it be that the songs, lyrically / thematically feel a little self absorbed. I don't know.  A killer slice of pop punk, yes but on thin crust. A pretty kick ass debut nonetheless. Check them out on Father / Daughter Records.
Robb Donker

Thursday, April 9, 2015

King Grizzard and the Lizard Wizard - The River (video) - Aussie Garage Rock Trippers Get Mellow

Pour yourself a drink or light up to the utterly chill swill of King Grizzard and the Lizard Wizard's The River. The seven piece Aussie garage psychedelic band that sometimes stir in jazzy garden rock flavors into their post punk fusion get really mellow on this track which is effectively animated by Jason Galea. Put on your tie dye shirt or take it off and trip out to this dream soundscape.
Robb Donker

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

LISTEN: Skinny Chewy by Loose Tooth explodes in your mouth. Debut Album Drops April 21st on Fleeting Youth Records

April 21st the debut album "Easy Easy East" by Loose Tooth based out of Philadelphia drops on the world via Fleeting Youth Records. Get excited as you listen to the album's second track Skinny Chewy. Dynamically dense, the song instantly explodes in your mouth like a thousand post punk pop rocks. I love the down beats and arc of the song as it shifts tones. This band definitely knows when to let the open spaces grab you by the collar as much as the fuzzy guitars.
Robb Donker

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Speedy Ortiz- Foil Deer (upcoming album) teases- Puffer, Graduates, Raising the Skate - Tour Dates including Shaky Knees Festival in May

I have been thinking about Speedy Ortiz lately not only because I have been listening and liking the new songs  / teases for the sophomore album entitled Foil Deer that is dropping via Car Park Records on April 21st BUT the fact that I will get to see Sadie and the boys perform at the Shaky Knees Festival in Atlanta (May 8th-10th). This is major for me. It is the first Festival AP will be covering since I relocated to Georgia from California and I have loved Speedy Ortiz since I first reviewed their Sports EP in 2012. Their first full length, Major Arcana was also on our Best of 2013 List. Oh, the possibilities.... maybe even an interview or at least a face to face "thank you" to Sadie Dupuis for enriching the musical landscape.

Check out the latest public offering from Foil Deer below.
Robb Curtius

PUFFER- from the upcoming Foil Deer

The latest track to be released as a tasty tease to Foil Deer, Speedy Ortiz's second full length on Car Park Records cuts a new path for the band. It doesn't move like most Speedy Ortiz songs. It stalks at an industrial pace. It has an almost Euro-post new wave rock feel ala Bowie (Scary Monsters era) or Gary Numan. It is as catchy as can be but so different for what has come before. I need to chew on this one awhile swaying to it at the same time.

Raising The Skate - from the upcoming Foil Deer

Raising The Skate is once again mired in the delicious thick guitar wash that was so inspired on Major Arcana. Sonically, this track portends a pretty lushly produced album.

Graduates - from the upcoming Foil Deer

Major Arcana was heavy with Sadie Dupuis code poetry that was difficult to decipher. Graduates from a purely lyrical standpoint seems easier to interpret and the melodies feel (dare I say) happier. Sadie sings, "and we were pregnant on the balcony, and you caught me with a cigarette. I never put this thing on my lips... just crushed it and spit on where I laid it to rest" and my immediate thought was that this track feels more polished, and maybe even more mature. Would the Major Arcana Sadie dragged on the nicotine??? I don't know. I do know that Speedy Ortiz's sound has graduated to a new level here. It will be interesting to see who will want to hang with the head of the class and who will want to hang with the drop outs. There is certainly those of us who like hanging with both. Graduates is infectious.


04/22 – Cambridge, MA @ The Sinclair
04/24 – Hamden, CT @ The Space
04/25 – New York, NY @ Bowery Ballroom
04/26 – Philadelphia, PA @ Johnny Brenda’s
04/28 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Cattivo
04/29 – Cleveland Heights, OH @ Grog Shop
04/30 – Chicago, IL @ The Empty Bottle
05/01 – Madison, WI @ The Frequency
05/02 – Minneapolis, MN @ 7th St. Entry
05/03 – Iowa City, IA @ Gabe’s Oasis
05/04 – Champaign, IL @ Highdive
05/06 – Washington, DC @ Black Cat
05/07 – Richmond, VA @ Strange Matter
05/08 – Carrboro, NC @ Cat’s Cradle
05/09 – Atlanta, GA @ Shaky Knees Festival
05/11 – Tampa, FL @ The Crowbar
05/13 – New Orleans, LA @ Gasa Gasa
05/14 – Houston, TX @ Walter’s Downtown
05/15 – Austin, TX @ Red 7
05/16 – Dallas, TX @ Club Dada
05/21 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Echo
05/22 – Santa Ana, CA @ Constellation Room
05/23 – Santa Cruz, CA @ The Catalyst Atrium
05/25 – Portland, OR @ Mississippi Studios
05/26 – Vancouver, BC @ The Cobalt
05/27 – Seattle, WA @ Barboza
05/29 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Kilby Court
05/30 – Denver, CO @ Larimer Lounge
05/31 – Kansas City, MO @ The Riot Room
06/01 – Columbia, MO @ Rose Music HAll
06/02 – St. Louis, MO @ Firebird
06/04 – Detroit, MI @ UFO Factory
06/05 – Toronto, ON @ The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern
06/06 – Montreal, QC @ Bar Le Ritz P.D.B.
07/17 – Louisville, KY @ Forecastle Festival

Major Arcana by Speedy Ortiz - A Dour, Messy, Depressive, Stunning Debut

originally published July, 10th 2013

Major Arcana, the debut full length album from Speedy Ortiz contain songs that are oftentimes shrouded in a kind of dour haze, a musical and emotional ennui stewing in heavy grungy guitar sounds in that Sonic Youth, Nirvana, Pavement sort of way but what elevates these compositions are the way the songs veer off (at a moments notice) into progressive lead lines that feel twisted in that Frank Zappian sort of way. This fusion of proto punk and post rock grunge work because the musicality is top notch as is the songwriting itself.

Speedy Ortiz's musical and emotion voice is that of Sadie Dupuis. Her vocal performance holds a lot of things, It is bittersweet. Beautiful and scarred at the same time, the lyrics, delivered with a hard undercurrent, are poetic code that is sometimes hard to decipher but the tone and feeling is not. In Tiger Tank Dupuis sings "oh my mouth is a factory for every toxic part of speech I spew" and she does navigate rough waters in many of these songs which may or may not have to do with life's battles with toxic people, with depression and the curiosity of what life is all about.

The music, the tone is not for the faint of heart. In Gary the guitars jigsaw puzzle so wonderfully. They are composed of puzzle pieces that don't fit and the song builds into emotional and sonic turmoil. The lyrics feel as vague as they do existential, "once you've sat with kids, it's so hard to leave their table... for the kids full grown and my, I've grown some very big teeth." Fun churns out so much post punk fun. It made me think of Chelsea Light Moving (more than Sonic Youth) and in some way The Pretenders but it is it's very own pulse pounder.

In a 2012 Youtube video Sadie plays an acoustic rendition of "Um Are" and apologizes (in advance) for it being "sappy" and I bring this up because she seems to feel more comfortable swimming in the uncomfortable and even hurtful part of life. I wonder if these superb songs are her catharsis. I know I need to hear, feel, songs that are born out of pain. Songs that feel sad in a way. I doubt she would apologize for the heart wrenching beauty of No Below. The first time I heard the song it slapped me across the face and punched me in the stomach. It, for me, veered into Aimee Mann territory a bit (whom I love as well). Speedy Ortiz's ability to mine this kind of song shows their brilliance. Sonically and lyrically it tells a story that you feel deep inside. It feels like an ode to the pains of childhood, of hard times at school. It is one of Major Arcana's high points.

Casper is creepily charming. It uses the dissonant guitar work superbly bending the tone like a carnival mirror. The song conjures up a strange dream theater and again, the musicality exhibited is so top notch. Plough feels at home in an underground club or garage, feels messy but is as tight as hell. In a way, it also feels like one of the most accessible songs production wise.

Major Arcana is a stunning debut from a band that will be around a long time. Purchase and cherish this record.

Release Date July, 9th 2013 on Carpark records.
Robb Donker

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Ty Segall's F**king EPIC Performance of David Bowie's "Moonage Daydream" @ Burgerama 4

Ty Segall performs an incredible kick ass cover of David Bowie's Moonage Daydream while a stage full of lucky onlookers become part of the show. This happened at the recent Burgerama 4 in Santa Ana, California. I can only imagine that Bowie himself would absolutely love this live performance. I have seen Ty performing this Bowie classic acoustically on various videos but never in full electric glory and never so amped up and epic. Being a huge Bowie and Ty Segall fan makes this a veryd special piece of video so a huge thanks to Youtuber Christian Kassoff for capturing it. Another personal connection for me is that I happened to connect some random footage of Ty Segall and photographers in the "gallery" to my own off the cuff (and rather maudlin) rendition of Moonage Daydream back in 2012. I had shot and met Ty first in January 27th, 2011 when he played at the Echoplex along with Monotonix and Tijuana Panthers. Super nice guy and such an amazing artist. I have been a huge fan ever since I witnessed the incredible live energy he gave off that night. Enjoy this epic performance and thanks again Christian Kassoff.

Robb Donker

 Personal connection years ago:


Friday, April 3, 2015

Best Coast's Official Video for "Heaven Sent" is, well, heavenly.

In the video for Best Coast's "Heaven Sent" Bethany Cosentino wears a pretty white lace dress and a crown of roses and Bob Bruno a buttoned up shirt. Rose pedals swirl in the air eventually giving way to red heart balloons. Shot with semi-slow motion zest and come hither allure as directed by Lana Kim and Bethany herself, the spartan look combined with a hazy filtered wash kind of mirrors the song itself which feels like Best Cost lush. Dreamy cool stuff.

Robb Donker

NOTES:  Heaven Sent is from Best Coast's third album California Nights due out on May 5th on Harvest Records . I haven't seen Best Coast perform since August of 2013 and am stoked to see them in May at the Shaky Knees Fest in Atlanta.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

I hope that "Young Jesus" never Grows Up - NEW Album "Grow / Decompose" Burns Out Personal Stories (due to drop May 13th)

Young Jesus is back on my radar screen. I reviewed the album "Home" way back in 2012 (see here) and kind of lost track of these guys. Their latest album, "Grow Decompose" drops May 15th. I would say that to 20 somethings it might feel like an old stoner friend that you will always love and to those younger might feel like a new discovery.

The tone still feels very organic in that 90's post rock sort of way. Like in the beautifully transient Brothers, John Rossiter and the boys let the rock and stories breathe / air out and float around your senses. The thoroughly catchy G churns while it tells personal stories. It feels as big as the biggest Weezer song in spots but also has an almost down home backyard porch rock feel too. Dynamically rich, it darts around, get's lost and then runs down dark city streets like youth run amok at a break neck pace. I guess it is not surprising that Oranges reminds me a bit of Peaches by the Presidents of the United States but Young Jesus is less cheeky and their songs adeptly mix the 90's post rock with a deep well of current indie sound and, more importantly, feeling.

The tendency to veer into that cool bendy guitar dissonance makes me love them even more. Young Jesus shares some of that musical DNA that swims around bands like Speedy Ortiz, Porches, Pavement, Ovlov, Paws and the aforementioned Weezer just to name a few. Listen to Slug and the dreamy fuzzy embrace of Dirt and you will know what I mean. One of my favorite songs on the album is Blood and Guts. It plays like a wierd movie, it's got this amazing indie rock arc. Mixed in the quirky progressive fun punk tone is a shape shifting ballad of sorts with a musical break that sounds like a triumphant march. It is all over the fucking place but it all works.

Young Jesus is indeed back on my radar screen and I hope on yours as well. "Grow / Decompose" is an album that should be in your record collection (whatever form your collection is in).

Robb Donker