Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Lovely Bad Things Official Video for "Hiding to Nothing" Stays True Premieres on Ghettoblaster

On March 31st Lovely Bad Things released the most effervescent 13.06 minutes of blissfully DIY deep post rock indie sounds in the EP "Homebodies" via Burger Records and today, on Lauren's birthday, the video for the second track "Hiding to Nothing" has premiered on Ghettoblaster.
The video like the EP is a handcrafted love affair. Long time friend and cinema artist Allyson Hernandez who directed the video taped tinged 90-ish "Teenage Grownups" video on "Hiding to Nothing" went for a shiny sheen glitter filled pristine look amping up an off kilter tone with close ups that feel too close and a post card look that feels kind of 80's on yellow pills meets M.C Escher.

The shots look all so artificial in a purposeful way with the band  (Lauren, Camron, Brayden, Tim and Wesley) looking a little lost and sad as if they are stuck in some other world in the Twilight zone. This tone only highlights the lyrical content full of disjointed feelings. On their Facebook page the band expands on the meaning of the song title and song:
(Hiding to Nothing) "is kind of our ode to our struggle in trying to get things moving the past few years. The title is from an idiom, on a hiding to nothing that describes feeling like you're bound to lose, no matter how hard you try. Despite the negative connotation, we're actually trying to be positive here, honest! Cause even when the odds are stacked against you, you can still beat those odds by realizing that sometimes the world is spouting total bullshit that you can't make room for anymore. It's a song about finding strength to be true to yourself and keep on going, even when you don't know where to begin."
Robb Donker

Hiding to Nothing
Lyrics by Lauren Nicole Curtius

Oh, what can I do?
All I do is hide
Revisit the old news.

A light, is a light, is a light.
A light I need to shine
On the self that I don’t mind, right now.

I spent too much time
Pulling things out of their place.
Making space, for lacking order.
And I need to face the way-- the way we are.

Why, why am I buying
Into all the lies
I tell myself daily?

And why, why am I dwelling
Dwelling on delusions
And getting nowhere, lately?

I spent so much time
Wondering if I’m crazy.
And I don’t try to make it better.
If I could, I would, and I should… but I don’t know how.

I spent too much time
Pulling things out of their place.
Making space, for lacking order.
And I need to face that--

I spent all my time
Wondering if I’m crazy (pulling things out of their place)
And I don’t try (making space)
To make it better (for lacking order)
If I could, I would, and I should… but I don’t know how.

Monday, April 17, 2017

"Did I Offend You" by Lauren Ruth Ward - Is A Storyteller's Song Spun With A Crazy Great Voice

Within 11 seconds of hearing "Did I Offend You" you are hooked because at that precise moment Lauren Ruth Ward's voice grabs you by the throat. Her tone part sagely, part wounded bird, with a hint of gravel captivates. It is the way bends her sentences, her pronunciation of simple words molding them into something else and those razor blade pipes that can soar one minute and get very internal the next all the while spitting out words, stories that you want to hear and feel. I will always contend that apart from a great song it is the lead singer's vocal performance that elevates it to something special. Great voices like Neil Young, or Dylan or Sam Herring or Bowie or Nick Cave or Janis Joplin or Chrissy Hynde and more can shape, sculpt songs. Lauren Ruth Ward has one of those kinds of voices.

Apart from that captivating voice, "Did I Offend You" written by Ward and her songwriting partner Eduardo Rivera feels like a wanderlust song first moving on the rails and then shifts bigger, the cadence moving with tambourine and Wards breath as percussion. Then it really takes off, the production thickening in an almost Phil Spector sort of way. I thought a bit of Kevin Morby on steroids. Wonderful production and fuck, that voice.

Tour dates below-
Robb Donker
Upcoming Shows

April 24  The Echo, Los Angeles (Draemings Residency).
May 1 KCRW's School Night at Bardot, Los Angeles.
May 3 Ace Hotel in Palm Springs, California.
May 28 U Street Music Hall, Washington DC (opening up for LP).
May 30 Bowery Ballroom, New York City (opening up for LP).
June 12 El Rey, Los Angeles (opening for LP).
June 26 The Echo, Los Angeles (Moon Honey Residency).

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

These 3 Artists Satisfy My Elliot Smith Bittersweet Tooth: Eddie Angel, Gregory Mendez, Sandy Alex G

When Elliot Smith left us there was a clear void in the universe. The exquisite way he shared the depth of his emotions through his songs was unique. There are ear marks of his sound, acoustic notes that give away to chords and then back again. Somber melodies, stacked vocal harmonies, half step progressions and building swells of sound and cascades of vocals and budding big choruses and interwoven complex musical interludes. There are also elements that are hard to discern or describe but you know it when you hear it.

Many artist's here and there reflect some of these things, these Elliot Smithisms not as copy cats but maybe just because the man's influence is so incredibly rich that everyone absorbs it in some way. As of late there are three artists who satiate my bittersweet ES tooth.
Let me say that I may be hearing these ES influences and they may not even be there really. Most of these artists in toto do not sound like ES but in some of there songs there are those delicacies that make me think of him and that makes me happy.

Eddie Angel
just released a 3 track EP called "Rise And Fall" that is cool and pure. I love all the songs and at least 2 have some of the ES tones and yet they are all Eddie. I met him some years ago in the Long Beach area of California when he was doing more of a rock thing as the forefront of a 3 piece alt rock powerhouse with a soft center. He now resides in Stockton (first pic above) raising his lovely boy and making such sweet sounds as a solo artist. Eddie's song always move me.

I first blogged about Greg Mendez at that time as just "Mendez" via last years so cool and evocative project "Phone Records" which were these stark, weird, beautiful stories recorded via his cell phone in his West Village tenement.

His latest that just came out yesterday Entitled:

¯​\​_​(​ツ​)​_​/​¯ the 7 track album out on Bandcamp. This album feels like a step up from Phone Records though you can never negate the power of that project as well. Still kind of stripped down it shows a wider scope. There is the wickedly cool Sleep that has an almost glam feel. The wide expanse of Plastic Jesus and the afflicted Gone. I hear some of the ES touches on many of the song but none more so than Real Cruel Bastard. Love Mendez.

DIY alt folk multi-instrumentalist singer songwriter Philadelphia phenom Sandy Alex G - (Alexander Giannascoli) has been turning musical minds at a quick pace his Bandcamp bedroom recordings engaging his ever growing fan base. Critical acclaim followed as his 6th album hit critical mass and multiple Best of 2014 lists. UK Lucky Number Music label remastered those bedroom recordings. In 2015 Giannascoli signed with Domino Recording Company as part of the 2015 South by Southwest showcase and in August of 2015 Giannascoli "album" album with Domino.

You can hear the Elliot Smith influence throughout Alex's sound. I really hear it on the new single Proud from his newly released album Rocket.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Burger Records WORLD SERIES -- Psychedelia and Shoe Gaze from Israel - Music Is The World Language - NOAR AVUD LABEL

Music is really the World language and Burger Records through their "World Series" is teaming up with labels and artists from around the world to expose the Burger audience to music from around the globe and conversely people from around the globe to the Burger family.

I love this and while Governments are pulling strings and pulling us apart music is the one medium that transcends all cultures, all languages, all religions and political differences.

Maybe musical melting pots is the start.  I know that when I started streaming the 11 Tracks on "NACSOO1 // NOAR AVUD 1" I lost myself in the cool tracks and the sound of the lyrical melodies spoke to me even though I don't necessarily speak the language.

Noar Avud is a new cassette labely by Vaadat Charigim Frontman Juval Haring out of Tel Aviv, Israel. Haring as a promoter, publicist, touring musician and festival organizer has the ideal background to form a label with it's intent on bringing potent new music from Israel's indie scene to a wider audience.

Upcoming compilations in the Burger World series will focus on amazing sounds and scenes happening in Mexico, France, Brazil, The Netherlands and beyond!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Chainsmokers "Paris" on SNL-- Emily Warren Stole The Performance

The Chainsmokers performance of Paris was most notable for two things- one being Andrew Taggart's white jacket adorned with what appeared to be images from the Sex Pistols "God Save The Queen" record and, first and foremost, Emily Warren's performance as main back up singer. Emily literally stole the performance. Her alluring performance had a gravitational pull that outweighed everyone else on the SNLstage. She elevated the song and in the end it was a cool performance with Andrew resembling a skinny puppet at times his outstretched arms held up by invisible strings.

Now admittedly I am not a big fan of The Chainsmokers and while their music is chill and catchy and all, for me it makes better background fare at Applebees than substantive pop music.
Robb Curtius

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Peg Leg Love / The Pocket Rockets SPLIT 12 Inch Vinyl "Hail To The Outsiders" - Potent, Raw and Oh So GOOD

There is something about a live recording that I absolutely love and gravitate towards. For one thing you are hearing the band in their element unencumbered by the studio vices of click tracks and second takes. You are hearing the immediacy, rawness and ping ponging energy of musicians bouncing sounds off one another.

This month Deathwave Records has released a Spit 12 Inch Vinyl called "Hail To The Outsiders" featuring PEG LEG LOVE and THE POCKET ROCKETS. Each band supplied six songs and artwork.The Limited Edition Vinyl (ONLY 500 Available) was recorded 100% Live at Space Gallery in Claremont, California by local East L.A. legend recording engineer Manny Nieto  (Side 2 Mix) and Mastered by Ulysses Noriega - Laundry Room Recording (Side 1 Mix),  The Album also includes unlimited streaming of Hail To The Outsiders via the free Bandcamp App and high quality MP3, FLAC and more downloads.

PEG LEG LOVE'S vocalist / guitarist / organist Ilir Zeneli's punk caterwaul reminds me a bit of Justin Warfield (She Wants Revenge) and Jello Biafra (The Dead Kennedys) pureed in a blender.
The for the most part stripped down guitar, bass (Christina Ownby), drums (Rocio Galindo) is at once inner city alley punkish rock with elements of Surf punk tones. Some of the sound / songs have a kind of cold drama to them like 50's pulp detective dime store novels. and others feel like rabid dog explosive punk.


THE POCKET ROCKETS track "Somewhere We Can Be Alone" has the cagey sultry black leather pure rock tone that could very well grace a slew of commercials hipster and not. Hanni El Khatib watch out. Ralph Blanco's vocals and punch (but mournful) bass is equal parts cool guy and broken hearted loner. Lyndon Miller's Guitar work is direct with sticcatto licks and sustained chords and Christopher Magallon's drum work tightly holds it all together. I can say that I love these live sounds as much as the tracked recordings available on their Bandcamp page (if not more).

This is a great Split 12 Inch-- while The Pocket Rockets is streaming 3 of the 6 tracks. Peg Leg Love have yet to post up streams. Hopefully that will happen sooner than later. Two strong Los Angeles 3 piece bands on one piece of grooved plastic. Available on both band's Bandcamp pages and below:

Now you can Buy #HailToTheOutsiders (Our Live New Vinyl Split) with #PegLegLove & #ThePocketRockets @DoctorStrangeRecords in Rancho, and #GlasshouseRecords & #ZoinksRecords in #Pomona So Yay!!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Burnt Pixels Debut "The Hollow Down By The Flare" Is A Dreamy Stylistically Diverse Bit Of Soul Searching

The Hollow Down By The Flare is the debut album by London based dynamic duo Burnt Pixels. It is a remarkable piece of work hand crafted over a year's time by Ian Brzozowski and Ben Hooper friends for 15 years whose paths have musically crossed in various bands the most notable being 23 Frames. You could call these songs bedroom recordings but you wouldn't know it listening to the 13 tracks that stylistically feels cohesive despite displaying a wide array of flavors. All of them are art pieces painted with layers of guitar sounds over solid bass and drum foundations. Whether it be sustained sounds or staccato licks or pearly rhythm embellishments it is Ian's and Ben's ability to strike the right balance that makes this album so damn captivating. The songs overall feel like a blend of noise and art rock pushed through various filters resulting in a rich tapestry of sounds.

Home recording and producing can be a daunting task. The ability to realize your own vision without a studio clock ticking or producer over your shoulder can be a blessing or a curse depending on your work ethic and ability to render the creative details that you want. Ian who penned all the songs, sang lead, played all the lead lines and 50% of the bass parts and Ben who played drums (the only instrument not played in the proverbial bedroom) 50% of the bass parts and added guitar and backing vocals managed to not lose sight of the end game. I take special pleasure in a project like this that has so much of the artists in the tracks. I have heard all too often true creative bright lights dulled by record producers. Now, onto some of the songs.

Joy Is Sinister is darkly cool with a running beat. The edgy guitar lines makes me think of a spy caper or a government gone bad. The title track The Hollow Down By The Flare is searingly wistful with sparkling guitar and sustain lifting you up on a mournful plane. Between The Devil and A Rock with an upfront sand paper-ish effect and proggy rock pattern has a touch of funk indie rock. Polite Fiction is cagey with a shimmery tropical punk gate and beautiful guitar work and vocal melodies. Nina Kulagina feels like post rock 80's pushed through a 60's Mersey Beat Mod filter and then pushed through a 70's psych rock filter. Interestingly New Colour with it's sense of wanderlust of train hopping and country sides (at least in my brain) had me thinking, oddly enough, of Van Morrison not in sound but emotional tone. Such a cool chill track.

Another surprisingly chill track is Vertical Achipelagos that has that same sense of movement propelled by acoustic guitars and dancing sounds with sweet melodies and (in my mind) I was cutting up small waves in the fog. As I mentioned before all these songs are Ian and Ben. One beautiful exception is Jane Ritchie's backing vocal performance on A Lie To Tell The Truth a dreamy affair that made me think of the band Ride although this veers a bit more abstract. Burnt Pixels display another side on The London Medicine which to me somewhere in the tones feels like Southern Goth meets 90's grunge in that drug laden Stone Temple Pilots way. Psychoplasmics is very cool art rock with swelling majesty in the vocal melodies that suggested a dramatic theatricality to the band. It could be the opening to an art rock opera.

Between A Hard Place and The Deep Blue Sea opens with what I think is a well known vintage broadcast TV key note and then transitions into Ian's vocals through a tinny filter like a radio transmission or old style phone. All the while there is dreamy guitar playing and evocative smooth bass runs and sustain notes. It is all dreamy and a bit surreal. It is Burnt Pixels falling down the rabbit hole. I will gladly follow them on the unique personal journeys they create.

Ian Brzozowski says that the title "The Hollow Down By The Flare" comes from Charles Dickens' last novel Our Mutual Friend (1864-65) referencing the characters Charley and Lizzie Hexam who cannot read so they stare into the fireplace for inspiration to inject into their stories. Ian expands:

"In the album and song, it's a metaphor for the creative spark, the source and nature of creative inspiration and expression. The album has a general theme of finding your way back to art and inspiration after becoming jaded by a lack of success, and realizing that it doesn't matter, that you need to do it for your own soul instead - that you thrive on it."

It sounds like Ian and Burnt Pixels are making music for the right reasons and we get to revel and benefit from them crafting such amazing songs. 
Robb Donker

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Lovely Bad Things - "Homebodies" EP Stream Via Flood Mag Premiere

photo by Caroline Baker: clockwise starting at 11 o'clock: Camron Ward (guitar/vocals), Wesley Baxter (bass), Brayden Ward (drums, vocals), Lauren Curtius (guitar/vocals) and Tim Hatch (guitar).

Flood Magazine just premiered Lovely Bad Things' EP "Homebodies" ( out this Friday via Burger Records) and you can see their cool coverage and stream the songs over there so please check it out. This insanely tasty appetizer will make fans of the 5 piece So Cal band extremely happy and hold them over before the release of LBTS full length "Teenage Grown-up" due to drop (via Burger Records) in August.

Lovely Bad Things' sound is a post rock and proto punk blend that has (over the years) drawn comparisons to bands like Pavement, Dinosaur Jr, the Pixies, Weezer and Redd Kross and while band comps always have more to do with the listener than the band there is one thing for sure, Lovely Bad Things craft sounds that are one of a kind. Stream "Homebodies" below and hear for yourself. Yowza!

Cruz B.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

"Where Is The LIght In Terminia" by Roland Greco Feels Like A Fantasy Trip

It is not often that I post up about an artist that I know absolutely nothing about but when I pushed play on "Where Is The Light In Terminia" by LA producer / songwriter it pulled me into it's world. That world felt pretty dreamy even fantastical (yes that is a word). It turns out that Greco grew up in Scranton, Pennsylvania. He became in in demand drummer in the local scene eventually moving to Boston to study music production and engineering at the iconic Berklee College of music.  Since graduating, Roland has worked with major producers such as The Elev3n (Meghan Trainor), David “DQ” Quinones (Beyoncé), and Yellowclaw. Now he is focusing on his solo work. I like this track a lot and look forward to hearing more.

Robb Donker

Monday, March 20, 2017

Chuck Berry Was Pure Rock and Roll - Rest In Peace

I remember seeing Chuck Berry on TV when I was a kid and being instantly mesmerized by his wide eyed smile, exuberant personality and his incredible sound and through the years that incredible spark and zest for life and rock and roll never stopped. He was pure rock and roll like no one else and he seemed immortal. Unfortunately none of us are immortal but his impact on pop culture, on rock and roll, on music of all sorts is immortal. This past Saturday Chuck Berry died in his home in Wentzville, Missouri at the age of 90. Rest in peace Rock n Roll legacy.
Robb Donker

Night Talks Latest Video for "Jungle" is Killer

The official video for Night Talks' cagey track "Jungle" plays like a mini movie and as front woman Soraya Sebghati gazes out over the ocean and then sits to write "Jungle" on her vintage royal typewriter, in the end, you can only wonder if  her novel is what happened or what is about to happen or if it is just all a fantasy about being a solo act. Directed with an inspired touch by Michael V. Greene each band member is featured. The track itself feels big and expansive and kind of like a theme song for a spy caper with surf beat flourishes, delicious vocals and a sultry bass line drenched in a mysterious tone. It is all so good and gets in your head right away.

Robb Donker


Sunday, March 12, 2017

Jacob Bank's Official Video for "Unholy War" Is As Captivating As the Track Itself

Singer / songwriter Jacob Banks fills his creative projects with so much passion that you can't help but get pulled into his story telling. Born in Nigeria, he moved to Birmingham, England at age 13 and began playing guitar and writing songs at the age 20. He just released a cinematic video which he wrote and directed for his debut single "Unholy War" which just about instantly shot to number one on Hype Machine upon it's release. The track is a captivating blend of blues, post rock pushed through an indie filter with garage rock and gospel over tones. The feel and lyrics suggest a myriad of themes both personal and wide reaching but the song works on multiple levels as both an anthem and a sultry piece of ear candy that could grace and equally sultry Levis commercial. Amazing track.

The video for "Unholy War" suggests the fight against oppression as Banks plays a father who sends his son away while he prepares to battle with a mysterious rider who is after them. There is a suggestion of slavery too as both the father and son are marked on their skin. Very cool haunting video with an open ending cliff hanger ready for part 2.

LOVE, LOVE the sound of this track which is off the upcoming EP "The Boy Who Cried Freedom"-

Push play on the video and get lost in Jacob Banks musical majesty.

Robb Donker

Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Molochs - "You And Me" Official Video takes You Back to a Time Before Smart Phones and the Internet

The Molochs - "You And Me" Official Video- transports you to a time before smart phones and the internet even. Director Laura Lynn Patrick shot the evocative video drenched in nostalgia and romance inspired by the 50's Marilyn Monroe film "Niagara"and these feel like they could be home movies of the movie. The bouncy bottom heavy track feels a bit like Kevin Morby which in my book is high praise indeed. The song is from the band's America's Velvet Glory album release back in January via Innovative Leisure.

Enjoy the sights and sounds -

Robb Donker

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Best Coast Rallies The Troops - Planned Parenthood Benefit Show at The El Rey - March 4th

After President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence squarely put Planned Parenthood in their cross hairs it was inevitable that Bethany Cosentino from Best Coast would be doing something about it. On social media Bethany has not been shy in commenting on a host of social / political matters and fighting the good fight.

She has rallied the musical troops and put together a benefit with all proceeds going to Planned Parenthood. The show is aptly and cleverly named "Don't Sit Down - A Benefit Standing With Planned Parenthood.

Raising money is a good thing but raising awareness is a great thing and both will be done in heavy doses during a killer show featuring the likes of GroupLove, Lovely Bad Things, The Side Eyes, Muna, Nina and Louise of Veruca Salt, Wavves DJ Set, Lili Hayes DJ Set, Jimmy Tamborello DJ Set and a special appearance by Liz Phair.

Stand up indeed. Of all the progressive programs that are under assault under the new administration, Planned Parenthood may be the one that can and needs to survive. As Cecile Richards who has headed the organization for the last decade points out (in a recent Rolling Stone article) there are many people who voted for Trump who disagree with any de-funding of Planned Parenthood. This is not a left versus right argument. This is a what's right and what's wrong argument.

Rock on Bethany and thanks for fighting the good fight.
Robb Donker

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Braving Impending Storms and Even a Tornado Watch I Am Performing Live For The First Time in Decades- Come On Out!

Somehow posting videos on Youtube and sending out an original song to a radio contest as a lark has lead to me playing live which I haven't done in decades. So amidst news of impending storms and even tornadoes I am heading out tonight to entertain. It may be epic fail or an epic new beginning but whatever it ends up being I hope you can come out. I go on at 8pm sharp at The Foundry.
Robb Donker

Monday, February 20, 2017

Altar Eagles (Erick Alcock) - "What Are You Coming To" - A Dreamy Spring Reverb Laden Carnival Ride

Altar Eagles ( Erick Alcock) newest offering is called "What Are You Coming To" and it infects your musical brain quickly. It is chunky and oh so dreamy like being stuck in a huge spring reverb laden carnival ride. While it possesses it's own sound it had me thinking of MGMT's incredible debut Oracular Spectacular and that is always a good (great) thing.

About the song Alcock says:

"'What Are You Coming To?' is a song about hindsight. Basically about looking back on a relationship and trying to own up to your own mistakes while realizing you don’t even recognize the person that you thought you knew so well. Kinda like that line about listening when people tell you who they are, but in this case you didn’t. All past tense."

"What Are You Coming To" is indie pop perfect really. Love the vocals, the in the room sound of the drums and that ever so hooky bass / synth line. Alcock as a member of  The New Royales have had his talented hands in songs for Eminem, Kanye West, Pink and more leading to several Grammy wins as well as the theme for Mission Impossible 4, the Call of Duty video game and Jake Gyllenhall's movie Southpaw.

Check it out below- and when will the Altar Eagles album come out. I am waiting-

Robb Donker

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Lunch Ladies- "Love Is Overrated" -- Sweeping and Sad and so easy to relate to-- LOVE this track

Wow, what can I say about the Lunch Ladies track "Love Is Overrated" except that it came to me just in time. Navigating through my email box some of the music was just not doing it for me and then this band and this song pulled me out of the musical funk I was in. Yes, a rather weird name for a band but this outfit out of New Jersey that consists of Matt Whitley (vocals, guitar), Cynthia Rittenbach (vocals, bass), Matt Ramiz (vocals, guitar) and Peter Gargano (drums) gleefully takes you to other places. I suggest you play this track at your desk at work at the end of a hard day.

"Love Is Overrated" a single off their forthcoming album Down On Sunset Strip is a dynamic dreamy sweeping song. It has an emotional arc as it kind of ambles then takes off then sways again. The sound is a glitter ball of lights at a high school dance, broken hearts and the one that got away or you never even got. So eager to hear the entire album which drops officially March 10th via Good Eye Records.

"Love is overrated, love is overrated and I'm happy in my room" - who cannot relate to this.
Robb Donker


Lunch Ladies links:

Lunch Ladies tour dates:

2/15 - Shea Stadium - Brooklyn, NY
3/9 - The Footlight - Ridgewood, NY
3/10 - The J House - New Brunswick, NJ (release show)
3/11 - Falafull House - Philadelphia, PA
3/26 - The Saint - Asbury Park, NJ
4/14 - Brighton Bar - Long Branch, NJ

Down on Sunset Strip tracklist:

01: Sunshine
02: You’re Not There
03: Love Is Overrated
04: Sad Jeans
05: Lazy
06: Bumming Too Much
07: Pick Yourself Up

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Review: Mercy EP- by Mercy - Post Modern Soaked in Absinthe and the "Evil Baby" Video Playfully Skewers Trump

The presidency of Donald Trump has heralded a new age of political activism on all fronts. Activism and protests have always spilled over into all forms of media from protest songs to razor sharp barbs on SNL.

There is a provocatively fun song on the Mercy EP  (a stellar collaboration between Brooklyn singer songwriters Mercy Weiss and Christopher Pelnat) that serves as Trump protest commentary but before I get to that, let's talk about the EP.

The 5 song EP is a mixture of post modern dare I say hipster nostalgia sometimes pushed through a kind of baroque pop filter. Mercy's voice is coarsely sultry and transports you an alternative universe somewhere between a 1940's speakeasy and 1970's Studio 54. The track  Ice Cream could be a song made in the Warhol factory in the 60's. It is a sticky sweet sexy come on song. Love Dust feels more in that aforementioned baroque pop tone sprinkled with trippy sounds. It is a song soaked in Absinthe. It is kind of haunting too. It could of been in the soundtrack in Anna Biller's era bending "The Love Witch".  Lioness appropriately stalks. It is Cotton Club stuff and fully embraces that era and tone. A Torrent is a duet with Pelnat and feels like a fable. It's kind of majestic military march cadence also has a slight Spaghetti Western tone and I love that. The last song on the EP takes us back to the beginning of this review.

The track Evil Baby is coy and playful with  totally wah wahhed out guitar lines. It moves quickly and it's refrain- "I know what you are get out of the house. You're Evil Baby" works perfectly adapted to it's video that skewers Trump with a fair amount of levity. I mean trade house with White House and it is perfect social commentary.

This 5 track EP is a trippy wash of styles embracing the post modern vintage sensibility that has been embraced by a lot of people especially millennials. The songs are smart and cheeky and that absolutely coquettish vocal performance will have you screaming for Mercy. Did I really just write that? My silly comments aside go purchase this EP. It is a one of a kind.
Robb Donker

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Matthew Squires "Tambaleo" Is His Most Ambition Album Yet- A Masterwork To Be Treasured In This Life Or After

Matthew Squires popped up on my radar screen back in 2011 and I have been reporting on him ever since. At that time he was "Matthew Squires and the Learning Disorders" and while he is now just Matthew Squires his penchant for writing lyrics that twist social conventions and ask big spiritual questions is still a large part of his allure along with the sardonic words that spill from his lips like ice cubes from a pitcher of ice tea on a hot day. His words are many. While a singer like Thom Yorke may uncomfortably stretch out a sentence, a word or a syllable, Matthew packs them in with the artistic deft of a beat poet or rapper framing his questions in a very diverse bed of music.

He crafted his current album "Tambaleo" over a two year period with a host of talented musicians splitting his time between a Buddhist monastic community in East Texas and creating the material for the album. While I do not know Squires influences to me his songs inhabit this space between progressive indie with an alternative folk tone. I thought of a psych rock Dr. Dog but on some of his more jammy rock tracks like Grace's Drum and Dead or Dying I thought of Neil Young, not folk Neil but rock Neil. These songs still ask important questions but the rock guitar flourishes are head banging and infections (especially on Dead or Dying).

On the track Shining which feels like ambling through a psychedelic forest. the musical break down at one point (like the band is rolling down a flight of stairs) is brilliant. The song swells and then gets chill as Squires sings, "the voice of God comes muffled through a beat up radio, it sounds a bit like Elvis... Presley not Costello".  Hosanna is a beautiful swaying folk orchestral piece in a Kishi Bashi sort of way. Squires lyrics spin in many directions. He sings of meth heads, deep roots of time and "only one path for our world" as the mantra-ish chorus "Hosanna" embraces you it asks questions about the material world and that other world. He says the song is bout "pretending  you have something to say" and at one point says "if you be my Jesus I'll be your Crucifixion". It is heady evocative stuff and taken out of context can stir so many questions. Is he skewing "other" religions or all of them?

Debt Song for me is the most indie post rock track and in fact the bouncy tone, pretty guitar work battling the edgy guitar work, and somewhat silly meets serious feels so 1985.  I thought of Miracle Legion for whatever reason. Squires mentions Manhattan and sings, "and I saw the hole that those fuckers put in our sky" an obvious 911 reference. The song is cagey and will take me days to decipher lyrically. The music is almost always surprising like the startling and quite amazing tempo change that happens during Shape Of Your Heart. When the shift happens from a very upbeat jagged psych rocking tone it is so goddamn beautiful and trippy. Squires hooks you with perfectly placed drums and touches of glam and Beatle-esque watercolors as it almost veers into Mott The Hoople ballad-ish emotional tones. So so good.

Speaking of ballads. There is a great ballad on this record that feels classic but earnest. Forget about a manipulative pop ballad like Lady Gaga's Million Reasons. If you want one for the ages listen to Bird Song. In fact, Lady Gaga should record this song. In the track Silent Worlds there is the concept of the space between notes, "some will call it God... others will call it boring" and I find it so intriguing even for someone like me who early on classified myself as an agnostic and now consider myself an atheist. Despite my inclinations all the spiritual questions and talk of life, an after life and maybe even a before life is a philosophical pool I like to float in.

"Tambaleo" is Matthew Squires 7th studio album and his most cohesive work yet. It should be listened to all at once, all 15 songs because the album very much feels like one solid masterwork. The poetry and dynamic sounds from song to song connect up like chapters from the same glorious book. The lyrical content can be baffling but is always interesting, word puzzles to be put together over time. As someone who write songs I understand that some lyrics just happen from the pull of the music and may not mean anything at all to the one who writes them but all lyrics do mean something to those who yearn to listen to them. In this way lyrics have a thousand meaning to a thousand people and that might be at play here. Whatever is the case, Tambaleo is an album to be treasured in this life or after.

Robb Donker

You can stream Tambaleo on Spotify or download for any price you'd like from Matthew Squires Bandcamp Page.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

New Single "Light" from Hite's Upcoming Debut Album "Light Of A Strange Day"

The new single "Light" from Hite's (Julia Easterlin) upcoming debut alum "Light Of A Strange Day" dropping this March is as dreamy as it is commanding. Easterlin voices her storytelling with a measure of strong wisdom, wistfulness and sensual allure. The wash of sounds swell and pull back and swell again. It has a beautiful strength. In the upcoming weeks I will experience the album's other diversionary tales.  
Robb Donker

march 2017, six degrees records) hite, along with producer shahzad Ismaily (lou reed, marc ribot, sam amidon, etc.), brings to light a collection of new work john schaefer of npr/wnyc  calls, "at once lovely and unsettling... a striking debut.”

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

NPR Tiny Desk Concert Contest Vids - Big and Small and Some Not Behind Desks Highlights Dream Seekers

I have loved and listened to NPR for decades and so submitting a video to this years NPR Tiny Desk Contest feels both exciting and preposterous. My submission involved a simple set up, a camera on a tripod and a heartfelt song. In sampling a small slew of submissions yesterday I was stunned at not only the amount of talent but the level of professionalism not only in the performance but in the videos themselves and all of the sudden I felt rather small. I was also a bit perplexed and mildly stunned that some of the videos didn't really involve standing behind a desk as prescribed by the rules and while most actual Tiny Desk Performances on NPR involve artists who strip their music down to basic elements (and that is the charm and fun of the Tiny Desk shows) some of the submissions are full blown electric performances in a rather large space. For me, that does somewhat dull the spirit of what the Tiny Desk concert is and is meant to be. For gosh sakes the word "tiny" is there for a reason.

I am so utterly stoked to have submitted a video and all along the reason for submitting was simply getting in the fray itself and being a teeny tiny part of the institution that is NPR itself. How bloody brilliant is that, at least in my mind. So to those of you who are situated under rocks and may not have heard of all that NPR has to offer (socially, politically, musically) or are not familiar with the Tiny Desk shows or contests I hope you go to You Tube and search Tiny Desk Concert. You will find so many incredible performances in the most intimate of settings. AND thank you Bob Boilon for creating the Tiny Desk concept in the first place. I bow to you.

Below are some of the recent contest entries including mine (I am the one wearing the striped shirt) showing just a drop of the pool of performances. Today I will go to work with South Hill Banks charming harmonies and bouncy cadence in my soul. Enjoy.
Robb Donker

Sunday, January 29, 2017

From the Journey Files: The Mysterious Liberating Green Jacket

It is interesting how an intimate object can change you, change you in a deep creative way. As someone who has written about indie music for the last seven years and recently decided to dip my toe (x that) dive head first into the singer songwriter persona after having left that way of being an entire life time ago I can attest, no, confess to the power of such an object. For me it is a vintage Sears Roebuck green sports coat.

Several weeks ago I was looking for some sort of funky jacket that I could throw on for a submission video I was shooting for the NPR Tiny Desk Concert Contest. It was not a hard look, a dedicated search. I was not going to drive to a dozen thrift shops, just one. It was all or nothing for that day. My wife and I visited a local Goodwill in my area and after quickly navigating through the mostly horrible selection of suits and jackets I felt this one. It felt formidable and while it is some sort of poly blend it feels strong and resilient. It feels like you could pull someone up from a cliff or lower them down from a second story window if your house is on fire.

As I held it up with a Spock like raised eyebrow it definitely looked old but sharp and, quite frankly, too small for me. I put it on anyway and while I had to suck it in a bit to button it closed it felt good. Like a second skin really and I have to lose weight anyway. The 3/4 shiny lining looked kitschy but interesting and it was “The Classic Condition” and if there is one thing I am in constant need of it is some class. When on, the shoulders kind of stand out military straight and the gold medal buttons may look corny now but in some other world or time they probably provided someone with that extra bling they needed even before that word was in fashion. In some real way this green jacket was speaking to me and at $5.96 it was a steal.

The NPR contest stated that all performers must do so behind a desk. So I fashioned a fold out table like one in my basement and threw some vintage things on it. A vintage Corona typewriter, a 1950's Astatic harp microphone and a funky Halloween piece with clackity teeth rounded out my motif. Other nice features are always there like the iconic black and white framed photo of a sleeveless John Lennon taken by Bob Gruen (circa 1974).

All that window dressing was fine but it was the green jacket hanging on my wooden chair that clearly made the most difference in my ability to perform. When I slipped it on, pulling and tugging at it to conform to my body it felt like a hug of confidence. I jaunted upstairs, out the front door and pulled some flowers with purple hues from my wife’s hanging planter. Sock hat on my head and one glove to cover a band aid on my left had and I was ready. Not only did the vintage green jacket make me feel like a performer it also beautifully matched my old 72 Jumbo Guild guitar. They seemed destined to perform together.

Over the next several weeks I dawned that jacket again and again for a series of videos to choose from for the contest and now it has become the thing I have to put on to perform. It is like my cape. Like David Dunn in Unbreakable reaching for his green security pancho that is like a shroud and cape that old, old jacket for brief moments in time make me feel unbreakable too. Then I look at the video performance and thing I suck but for those few minutes that damn jacket works magic on me. I eventually Googled this coat and while I could not find it exactly my research has made me believe that it was made in the 60’s so it is a survivor. That much is true.

My rebirth as a writer of songs will involve doing some live performances in front of actual people and I cannot fathom doing so without this magical jacket. I know this is the absolutely corniest thing to say or write but I like to think this jacket found me. This notion appeals to my Disney like sense that there are magical moments from time to time and besides it is an Irish green just like Tinkerbell’s outfit.