Tuesday, March 31, 2015
There is something about being the new kid on the block. Maybe you strive just that much harder. That seems to be the case for the Shaky Knees Festival taking place this May 8th, 9th and 10th at Central Park in Atlanta, Georgia. This year the festival turns only 3 years old and the buzz on-line (and the street) is that Shaky Knees' line up has outdone both this year's Bonnaroo and Coachella. Free from the left field choices like Billy Joel at Bonnaroo and Steely Dan at Coachella, some of the buzz around the Shaky Knees has to do with the lack of EDM and or DJ infused acts that makes those who yearn for acts where "people actually play instruments" jumping for joy.
NOW one can argue line ups until they are blue in the face and one can defend Joel and the Dan as great choices (or not) so before things get heated and even if you like the Coachella or Bonnaroo line up more you must acknowledge that pound for pound, dollar for dollar that Shaky Knees wins hands down. Tickets for Coachella start in that $400 plus range, Bonnaroo is in that $300 plus range and Shaky Knees, the new kid on the festival block with a killer line up for only $200 plus.
For me, for my tastes, Shaky Knees takes the top spot no matter what the cost. The breadth and scope of the acts feel more cohesive. The acts are varied but not so varied as to cause one to scratch their head and say "what the fuck?"
Get your Shaky Knees tix here: Tix / Early Bird Tix
Saturday, March 21, 2015
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??
Sunday, March 15, 2015
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.
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.
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.
Saturday, March 14, 2015
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.
Sunday, March 8, 2015
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.
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
On SUNDAY MORNING LIVE:
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.