Sunday, December 16, 2018

The somber "Castle Pines" by Castle Pines, a moving tear stained love letter

As you feel the somber tone of the track Castle Pines you can almost feel the acidic taste of death in the back of your mouth. The death of loved ones, of dreams, of neighborhoods, of friendships, of hope and of youth and all the mix of emotions that those tender years encapsulate. The cadence is straight forward, guitar slides become a mantric rhythm. The song slowly, every so slowly burns and quietly erupts into a cacophony of emotions. The song is from the "Por Vida" album, it feels like it's opus. It is based off the real street in Corona California where the band took their name from. It contains personal revelations and reflections on America, it's youth and tragedies like 911, the death of siblings, mothers' depression, poverty and as excerpted (and coalesced) from the band's statements "is about the existential dread and coming of age in the turbulence of modern America."

Castle Pines is a four piece alt rock band and a family of sorts. Members include Leandro Barrientos (vocalist, guitar) and Ricky Garvey (lead guitarist), Sterling Fairfield (percussionist) and Jesse Briseno (bassist). I have fallen in love with their passion and work ethic and their music since March of this year and have written about them 3 times prior, here, here and here, all the way moved by their story. I hope you can read those blogposts as it will reveal more about them and their recent struggles, near death experiences and unending love for each other. There are rumors (or more than such) that their latest last offering, the album "Por Vida" might be their swan song or, at least, that they are taking a step back to heal their wounds, count their many blessing, and just rest for awhile. They have stated for now that they will refrain from touring, playing and that says to me that they will not stop making music. A group of creatives like this need to create so I have a keen sense that they will be gracing the world with songs for years to come. 

Grab yourself a drink of your choice, turn off the lights and push play on the wistful Official Video of Castle Pines (by Castle Pines) Directed, Filmed and Edited by Cody Flores.


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Robb Donker






From the bands Facebook Page


Young Hunting feeling too much in the complex pop of "Every Living Thing" from the upcoming album "True Believers"

The song Every Living Thing from L.A. based Young Hunting disarms you right away, at least it did me. It, in fact, stunned me and gave me goosebumps. From the onset it sounds so goddamn beautiful and tender with an almost 60's kind of Western pop sound. The organ sounds grabbed me, as did the gentle vocal performance. It felt like a slow dance and then surprisingly the cadence and tone shift into this smart, charming kind of dreamy pop song, the words still smiling and the song still shining like bright eyed teenagers swaying back and forth and clapping along on a classic black and white American Bandstand. The lush switch up did feel a bit askew but in a good, complex sort of way. It suddenly made the song feel like an acidic view, like gazing through those vintage family photo albums with frayed edges. I could feel irony and sadness discoloring the technicolor of the song. The lyrics contain bittersweet passages that reveal somber inspiration.  Hari Rex shared: 

“Each morning I look in the mirror and tell myself 'You picked the wrong day to feel pain.' Death is coming, he’s bringing his friends. They’re taking a Carnival cruise, harvesting the oceans of all life, then on to the flooding coasts. Their suitcases are packed with pestilence and genocide. No time for your own personal heartache, no time to be selfish, just let it eat away at you while you watch the latest viral video of children starving. Dislike. The weight is overwhelming, and the silence is staggering. I walk around in a stupor, helpless in this nightmare. I was recently diagnosed with crippling empathy, [the] doctor said I need to mind my own business. What a wonderful world.”

I have often thought along the same lines. Maybe we all do. About the crushing disparity of peoples lives in the world. 

Young Hunting is a five piece band centered around the songwriting prowess of Hari Rex and IIya Mxx who first met in 2007 and shared a love of classic California 60's and 70's pop and Nick Cave, Jason Molina and Can. Some of their sounds might sparkle but the lush dream pop falls away to darker gothic folk strains too. Over the last few years, members of the band toured with other artists including The Pharcyde and soul legend Syl Johnson. In the mean time, in Los Angeles, Hari and Ilya wrote new songs, which were (over time) recorded with Patrick Taylor (bass) and Miles Senzaki (drums) and mixed at Grandma’s Dojo in Koreatown. These songs became the album "True Believers" described by the band as "A psych-soul dream for the lovelorn" and from this first peak, first listen it sounds like an apt description. 

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Robb Donker

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Alto Key's "Whisper In The Mist" feels like a movie about heartbreak yet to be made

Alto Key is the musical alter ego / musical project of British indie folk artist Keian Barton. Listening to his latest offering, Whisper In The Mist with it's exquisitely deep string arrangements amping up the drama and emotional weight, embracing Barton's intimate vocal performance that glides into falsettos. Barton composes at his home in London piecing together his songs with help from musicians from all over. In the end Whisper In The Mist feels like a film yet to be made. Alto Key's first EP, "Animals" is available on all digital platforms.

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Robb Donker


Mount Ehinger's monstrous blues rock hybrid sounds on "Incubator Jones"

Mount Ehinger, the musical project of one man musical mission Trey Smith based out of Atlanta, Georgia produces big panoramic rock sounds. On the track Incubator Jones, the groove and shifting progs suggest a kind of funkadelicious twist on classic big blues rock sounds. I could feel a bit of 70's Led Zep or Red Dirt in the bones of this song fleshed out with a kind of patina of more indie rock tones (a bit) from bands like Arctic Monkeys or even Queens Of The Stone Age. Besides the utterly sexy grooves here, Trey has a killer voice for this gritty, organic genre. The big sound that Trey achieves gets in your head and has that kind of filmic sound. Mr Smith get your stuff in front of someone who specializes in commercial vehicles, commercials for Levis and Range Rover or Jeep. Take a page from Hanni El Khatib. Cool stuff. 
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Robb Donker


"Altitude" by Dead Sullivan from one of my favorite albums released this year "Season"

Altitude by Dead Sullivan (the musical project / moniker of Boone Patrello) feels like a transformation of some sort. Emotionally drenched with sad textures in a dreamy shoe gazey way but always coming back to earth on guitar picking and a melodic bass line. The song is from Boone's latest offering, the 13 track album called "Season" and is perched between bendy Tropical punk folks songs with orchestral sweep like Kyle or the beautifully trippy Tire that shape shifts into psychedelic places or the avant garde (even by Dead Sullivan standards) or Due that almost has a Thom Yorke-ian daydreamy quality and, of course, the amazing track Drive (that I wrote about here). Boone continues to make awe inspiring dense beautifully odd songs that sit like askew shadow 

boxes of what is inside his head.  

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Robb Donker  

"Season" written & recorded in Denton, TX from April 2017-June 2018 
Mastered by Nathan Navarro & Boone Patrello


"Laugh Now, Cry Later" by Los Shadows an intoxicating party blend of surf punk, Chicano rock and more

The track Laugh Now, Cry Later by Los Shadows (who churns out melodic guitar driven rock / blending in Surf punk, funk, tropicalia, Chicano rock, post punk sounds) pulsates on Latin rhythms. The tight guitar lines move around a deep cut groove of bass and drums, guiro sounds, timbales breaks and psychedelic flavors too. It feels like an intoxicating party and dance of cultures. Band members Andy Saldana (El Sancho), Pepe (El Guapo), Mark Bullard and Xavier Prieto are based out of sunny San Diego, California. 
Rad.

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Robb Donker


Sunday, December 9, 2018

Kills Birds - feral punk / garage / grunge / psyche rock fury of "Worthy Girl"























Kills Birds is the musical project fronted by Bosnian-Canadian (L.A. based) film maker / director Nina Ljeti (Memoria) and the song Worthy Girl is a brain bursting bit of feral punk / garage / grunge / psyche rock exquisite in it's raw and brazen aesthetic. Vocally, Ljeti brings to mind a dizzy blend of Elena Tonra (Daughter), Sadie Dupuis (Speedy Ortiz), Karen O (Yeah Yeah Yeahs) and Deanna Petcoff  all stirred together with bath salts (insert rim shot). I feel bad not mentioning the rest of the band by name but, sadly, there is not a lot of info on the Kills Birds Facebook page. Sonically Worthy Girl has such a potent yet spartan big fucking rock sound- the aesthetic dangerous and possessed. I LOVE this song and cannot stop listening to it.

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Robb Donker

Loverman's wanderlust dreams catch fire on "Blue Blood Baby" from the "Wings Of Desire" album

Blue Blood Baby by the indie rock outfit Loverman instantly has a sense of unbridled urgency starting with guitar lines that feel like sparklers going off. When the drum beat, bass and subdued keys drop in seconds later and Sasha Papadin's blue collar vocals, husky and serious command attention there is a heavy dense fog of wanderlust in the air. The sense of movement both physically and emotionally is felt in spades. The song is so cinematic that you feel the story hard here. The track is from the debut album "Wings Of Desire", the title paying homage to Wim Wender's 1987 film about an angel who give us his wings in order to experience life and love as a human being accepting mortality as the price. 

Loverman's center is Sasha Papadin (keys, vocals) and his long time collaborators Jake Studer (guitar) and Kieran Maloney (drums). They hail from Sonoma, California and the musical stories they tell is the hard stuff of life full of love, heartbreak. Papadin, a songwriter and singer for a number of bands including 1955 who alongside The Raveonettes and Blonde Redhead were part of the iconic Northern California rock scene. Life can, of course, knock you down and after the sudden death of his father in 2016 Papadin left the stage and retreated to the recording studio in the back of his furniture workshop and struggled to write. Steeping himself and finding some solace in albums by Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits and Damon Albarn he traded his guitar for piano exploring themes of mortality and love. 

Being a songwriter like many creative, personal matters can be a lonely endeavor. It can also, especially at the darkest of times, be an utterly healing, life saving embrace. The kind of embrace that can rip your heart out at the same time pulling you from the clutches of despair. "Wings Of Desire" may be described as music for fans of dreamy, uptempo indie rock in the vein of War on Drugs and features production from Grammy winner Mark Lawson (Arcade Fire, Timber Timbre).

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Robb Donker 


"Restoration" by Cote - counterpoised spartan sounds and a revealing voice

Restoration by Cote, the musical moniker / musical project of Brooklyn based singer-songwriter Taryn Randall is a track that boldly places her voice front and center free of electronic affectations. The presentation simple and framed with a spartan array of guitars, some picking and some flourishing in lovely counterpoised notes that (while building to lush crescendos) are blended in elegantly and stay back. The aesthetic hearkens back to the kind of dreamy pop you might associate with the 60's folk pop. Beautiful and intimate Randall's melodies push forward and ease back like conflicted remembrances. 

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Robb Donker



Spooky Cigarette's blendo / ska / two tone / post punk "In Due Time" as free as spring reverb

In Due Time by Spooky Cigarette fills my brain with so many images and my heart with so many feelings. It is as free and happy as a vintage Silvertone spring reverb and the vocal performance and overall aesthetic that blends 80's new wave / ska / two tone sounds is lush, cool and pretty dreamy. These guys hail from San Diego, California and make me want to put on tapered slacks and creepers. I would love to see them live. 

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Robb Donker



Saturday, December 8, 2018

Wwoman pushes all the right Polaroid buttons on the psyche dance vibe of "You Will Fill My Head"

Wwoman is the musical, experimental musings of Pittsburgh based artist Gi Smee and the track You Will Fill My Head creates such a curious vibe. It is not only dreamy and cuts a cool dance groove and almost instantly made my mouth curl up into a smile but it also sounds utterly outer worldly in a kind of Alice in Wonderland on drugs sort of way. I think part of this is the sonic tapestry Smee is able to paint in with his bedroom pop, the retro tones that push those Polaroid buttons in your brain. I love his sound and aesthetic. It is on my emotional playlist.
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Robb Donker


Friday, December 7, 2018

Pete Shelley Rest In Peace. So utterly sad to hear of this man's passing

































So sad to hear of Pete Shelley's passing at only 63 from an apparent heart attack. The Buzzcocks are such a stellar band in every way imaginable. I remember the first song I ever heard by them so many years ago "Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn't've) and how the sound and structure, the feral Brit Punk nature and especially Shelley's vocals absolutely floored me. It was love at first hear, sight and everything and it led me into other Brit Punk and Mod bands like Gang Of Four and The Jam. The Buzzcocks almost instant success was destined. No band sounding this good would not, could not make a huge, huge impact on the musical landscape as a whole.

There are too many words, too many songs, too many recollections to coalesce here. I am not that great a writer. There are so many wonderful well written tributes on NPR and elsewhere that will educate, enlighten you if you are somehow not a Buzzcocks / Pete Shelley fan. So I will just leave by sharing a video of some young unknown band playing a little gig somewhere, playing their hearts out covering "Ever Fallen In Love". This for me is a lovely tribute because Shelley and the Buzzcocks have left an unimaginable large impression on music, art and an untold amount of young people's hearts and minds as a point of focus and inspiration. Rest In Peace Mr. Pete Shelley. My condolences to all your loved ones, friends and family. Rock on. 

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Robb Donker


Thursday, December 6, 2018

Girl As Wave sleep walking dreams on "Another Life" from the EP "Poison Vines and Nectar"

When you hear Another Life from Girl As Wave (the project of New York based singer-songwriter Marci Elizabeth) you get the sense of a wide eyed walk through dreamy colorful places, buzzing, being high either on intoxicants or something else. The "wave" in Girl As Wave is a good descriptor as there is a decidedly 80's-esque new wave feel here along with an almost 60's Warhol aesthetic attributable to producer / multi-instrumentalist Jimmy Deer who she collaborates with shifting from years of solo minimalist indie folk. Another Life is from the recently released debut EP, "Poison Vines and Nectar."

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Robb Donker



Wednesday, December 5, 2018

No, Drens is NOT a So Cal surf punk band- hear the breakadelicious "Yellow Teeth"

Drens is a 4 piece surf punk band from Dortmund / Cologne, Germany but they should be a Burger Records band in Southern California. I mean that is where they belong. Not to compare the two but their infectious, raucous punk sound reminds me (a bit) of Together Pangea or should I say Pangea (early Together Pangea). Drens' latest offering Yellow Teeth conjures up crowded house parties and small sweaty clubs full of crowd surfing and moshing galore. I like. I like it a lot. 
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Robb Donker


Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Sad Adults' musical project "How To Be Afraid" spans from Brooklyn to Galway, Ireland - hear "Soft Approach"

Soft Approach by Sad Adults, the musical project of Steve Hunt (based out of Galway, Ireland by way of Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn- NYC) is a musical shadow box peering into possible ghosts or self reflections of what has been or is about to be. Fictional, real or both these thoughts set to music, demons shown the light of day are all personal and feel like cathartic sonic exercises or exposes. 

Soft Approach stands next to other such personal expressions on the album "How To Be Afraid" and as Hunt reveals: (the album was) "Inspired by status anxiety, substance abuse (mine and others), depression (mine and others), heartbreak, body dysmorphia, geographical antidotes to psychic trauma, friendship, Bob Mould's Workbook and Ryan Adams' Love is Hell."

The aesthetic on Soft Approach feels the kind of late night story you would hear on late night radio with Hunt talking, his voice transistorized as the music escalates and erupts with aggro lyrics and kind of grunge rock tones. Hunt conceived many of the albums songs in Brooklyn eventually going back to Ireland to fully realize the song with two of his oldest friends adding their musical talents. 

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Robb Donker



Monday, December 3, 2018

The genre bending alternative rock of Frog and their infectious diatribe "American"

























(photo courtesy of Andrew Piccone)

The track American from NYC (Astoria, Queens) alternative rock band Frog immediately grabs your attention. By the way, I start off with the generic descriptor "alternative rock band" because their sound casts so many genres that in the end saying one or two might negate the others. The jangly guitars, spartan garage rock / porch punk tones, kind of countrified vocal performance and proto punk intensity blended in my brain with all synapses firing and in the end alternative rock just has to do for now. For some reason my reaction on first listen to this song made me think of Buddy Holly's full tilt shift from Country and Western to Rock and Roll and how his early fan base might of reacted to that shift. Infinitely interested in Frog and their Americana alt rock sound (with weird tendencies) and I am in "search mode" for all they have done. Their press notes mention the term "broken pop" and it's seems apt in a way but just not enough to describe their feral nature. 

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Robb Donker


PRESS NOTES:
Hailing from ‘The Swamp’ in Queens, NYC, acclaimed cult guitar band Frog return with Whatever We Probably Already Had It, the follow up to their lauded 2015 sleeper hit Kind of Blah. A frantic collection of emotional garage rock, wyrd Americana and broken power pop. Their music has previously found support at Gold Flake Paint, DIY Mag, Drowned in Sound, CLASH Music, TLOBF, The Skinny, London in Stereo, The Grey Estates, Various Small Flames, the BBC and many more. Their 2018 Kings of Blah tour documentary film is out now



Sunday, December 2, 2018

Simon D. James' dark orchestral pop of "My Everything"

My Everything by UK pop / rock auteur Simon D. James feels like dark orchestral rock with darkly equal part drama and an almost kind of avant garde psychedelia. While it has a deeply produced pop tones there are nuanced (and not so nuanced) departures into dissonant rings of sound that break off right before they become to harsh. Cinematic and richly drawn, My Everything is heavy on atmosphere and makes you want to hear more from James. 

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Robb Donker

PRESS NOTES:

Recorded on 2” tape at Greenmount Studios, one of Leeds’ best kept secrets located in the catacombs of a church, My Everything is a spectral, hymn-like track which remains overwhelmingly powerful, even after repeated listens.
Born from musical stock (his dad, Brendon, recorded 70s hit, Gimme Some), Simon D. James has sought inspiration for his music whilst travelling the world.
Likened to The National and Broken Social Scene, Simon D. James’ individual interpretation of what the term “indie singer-songwriter” can mean, re-invents it as a powerful force which transcends scenes and trends and reinforces his claims as one of the most alluring musicians around.
In the Summer of 2018 Simon released his debut EP ‘Dream From a Long forgotten Dream’, which includes the singles ‘Dearest Lovely World’ and 'In The Fileds'


Chives Viria's "Fragment Peach" a beautiful sonic narcotic to stir up your dreams

The trancy track Fragment Peach by Oakland based singer songwriter / multi-instrumentalist Chives Viria is built on a triad of notes E, C#, G# eventually diverting but always coming back and the spartan, heavy dreaminess is brilliant in it's sonic execution. Guitar lines bend with multi-textures, big back in the warehouse drums, and ambient ghosts float about. Add Viria's cool reflective vocal performance and you have a beautiful sonic narcotic to stir up your dreams.

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Robb Donker


"Confirmation Bias" by Brooklyn rockers Sleeping Tongues is a song for today's divisive times

Confirmation Bias by Brooklyn rockers Sleeping Tongues is a big bold rocker played with garage rock abandon, psyche rock flavors pushed through proto punk rock filters. Singer-songwriter / multi-instrumentalist Craig Kepen's vocal performance jack hammers the opening line "I am offended by the words that you are saying. You must not say them because they are offending me!" in an audacious kind of art punk way which only adds to the almost feral proto punk feel. While the meaning of the song is relevant at any given time in American (and world) history there may not be a more relevant time than now when political lines are drawn sometimes spilling blood and the divisions between us seem to be growing at an alarming rate. 

Of the song, the band says: 

"The track is in regards to political/ideological tribalism we're seeing in the United States. People surrounding themselves in an echo chamber of like minded thinkers and information outlets that cater to their beliefs. It's not taking any sides, but just commenting on the polarization and rise of tribalism we're seeing. I think it's dangerous, because your average person who may have a less "all or nothing" view of controversial subjects, are too afraid to to speak for fear of being demonized / bullied by one side or the other. There's historical precedents to what we're currently seeing in the United States, and they usually don't end well. There's a lot of shouting, name calling, and shaming rather than intelligent civil discourse. I think a lot of this is caused by confirmation bias."

Sleeping Tongues is: Craig Kepen (Songwriting, Vocals, Guitar/Bass/Instruments), Alex Chung (Drums/Percussion), Chris Castellano (Guitar) and Evan Ignatz (Keyboards, Bass).

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Robb Donker