Saturday, July 20, 2019

The Whalers' post punk / surf punk sound on "Keep It Quiet" jams

Keep It Quiet by Austin, Texas based The Whalers starts off with a swelling sound that for some reason has a Polaroid 60's vibe. When the choppy guitar, drums and bass explode around it, along with Gus Smalley's evocative vox the post punk meets surf punk tone is stamped firmly on the song... and then it happens. About 1 minute and 12 seconds in, and right after the chorus, the bottom drops out and you hear that swelling sound again this time with an incredibly infectious guitar hook. A hook that will stick to, wrap around your brain for days. The post punk / surfy sound makes me think of a blend of The Cosmonauts, Tijuana Panthers and The Buttertones (early versions). By the way, while I might think of surfing at Huntington Beach and ripping up rooster tails at Sunset as I listen to this song, lyrically Keep It Quiet is based loosely on one night when Smalley was invited to a house party only to be threatened with physical violence. Oh, not cool but the song is.

The Whalers are Gus Malley (vox), Dan Martin (guitar), Todd Horner (bass), Milos Bertram (drums) and Kyle Rother (guitar).

Robb Donker


Whalers has grown up in the ten years since its formation, but the group hasn’t forgotten the infectious, boyish vitality that helped carry them out of the rehearsal space and onto some of Austin’s most reputable stages. From a collection of towns around Texas, the five men of Whalers rallied together in Austin in 2009 and have released two EPs (2010's How the Ship Goes Down and 2011's Paddle Easy) and released their first full-length album, Submarine Sun, in 2014. 2015 saw the release of the Death Drive - EP, a collection of B-sides from the Submarine Sun sessions.
Though their recordings are packed with an untouchable energy, Whalers’ contagious vigor is best felt in their live performances. The group’s music is a striking blend of power-driven rock, complete with strong riffs from Dan Martin and Kyle Rother (guitars), and smooth, dreamy surf rock, reminiscent of bands like Real Estate and Wild Nothing. Gus Smalley (vocals) and Milos Bertram (drums) stitch the two sounds together seamlessly, and bold lines from Todd Horner (bass) drive the band’s collection of songs forward with every beat.

Bachelor Paradise's track "Clark, I'm Sorry" folk infused punk out of Sacramento

Bachelor Paradise emanates from Sacramento, California and their track Clark, I'm Sorry feels like folk infused punk rock, heavy on lyrics and on story. Billy Felix's chews on his words and the chunky, crunchy guitar and vibrant bass and drums moves the story, the song along at a nice clip. This kind of folkster vibe meets punk reminds me of The Babies (Kevin Morby / Cassie Ramone's devastatingly good band) and the raw rock, back alley sound that draws direct lineage from Lou Reed and John Cale. Rounding out the band are Phillip Wingett on drums and Lewis Beck on Bass.

Clark, I'm Sorry is from their album "I Made a List of Real People."

Robb Donker


Bachelor Paradise is a garage rock band from Sacramento, CA. Originally the solo project of Billy Felix, it now includes Phillip Wingett on drums and Lewis Beck on bass. They have drawn comparisons to 60's psych rock, 90's indie rock, and the guy who sings the songs in There's Something About Mary. They like to think they are nice guys. 

Single from the new album "I Made a List of Real People", out July 12th.

Brett Gleason's art rock-esque "The Strong and The Silent" shining through baroque pop filters

The Strong and The Silent peaked my interest instantly, or at least a nano-second, in due to the piercing Moog Synth line that feels at once kind of gothic baroque pop meets space art rock. Coupled with the pounding angular piano chord structure and the heavy down beat / off beat cadence and syncopated breaks all framing New York City's Brett Gleason's strident vocal performance. The song's cagey beats eventually take a breath shifting into a dreamy bridge. I love the tonal change and the melodies wrapped up in synth giving it a glam rock edge . 

The Press notes mention that Gleason's early life in Long Island he was hampered by a speech imdiment which lead to a somewhat isolated childhood and his immersion in the arts and eventually leading to a mastery of a multiple of instruments. Well he is not isloated or quiet anymore. Rock on.

Robb Donker



Brett Gleason is a piano-based alternative songwriter from New York. Both an outspoken bi-polar advocate and out gay artist, Gleason knows what it’s like to live a life of intensity outside the mainstream and his unique music reflects this. Brett' upcoming single 'The Strong & The Silent' is a call for radical vulnerability in the face of digital isolation - out June 7th. His first two albums debuted in the Top 100 of the iTunes Alternative Charts with videos reaching number #1 on MTV Logo’s ‘The Click List’.
From Brooklyn by way of Long Island – 

Brett's early life was hampered by a speech impediment, leading to a solitary childhood immersed in the arts. His struggle to communicate led to a mastery of muliple instruments and a composition degree from the New School. 

From Diesel Park West's ninth studio album "Let It Melt"- the rock and roll patina of "Scared Of Time"

I cannot imagine being in a band (full of artists) for 15 years straight, let alone 30. It must be a wonderful feeling despite all the obvious heartaches that any long relationship survives. If it is meant to be then it is. Diesel Park West (UK) were meant to be. They just released their ninth studio album, "Let It Melt" and as the lyrics in the track Scared Of Time express, "And my arms, my legs don't move like they used to.... and my hair, my skin doesn't shine like it used to..." their battle worn scars may show but it only adds an emotion and deeply engaging patina to singer, songwriter and guitarist John Butler's vocal presentation. It is wonderful and the track with it's emotional guitar lines, chasing beat, and vast organ way in the back is one of those songs that feel so comfortable and classic even the first time you hear it. You feel that nucleic acid of bands like The Stones, The Beatles, Mott the Hoople and more, yeah, that ilk and that is something to be reckoned with.

Speaking of sticktuitiveness and surviving the music industry, Butler says We’ve never lost the spark,” says singer, songwriter and guitarist John Butler. “We’ve never stopped writing, recording and gigging. We’ve never let the setbacks encroach on our creativity. We’ve only ever judged ourselves by the standard to which we are performing. And we’ve pushed on through.”

Diesel Park West is John Butler (lead vox, guitar), Rich Barton (guitar/vox) and Geoff Beavan (bass) and Rob Morris (drums), who joined 15 years ago.
"Let it Melt" is released on Palo Santo, an independent label located in Dallas, Texas.

Robb Donker


The first time most people may have heard of the band would have been around August 1987 when the indie single 'When the Hoodoo Comes' started to get played on night-time radio, leading to a full session later that year which really got tongues wagging.
By late 87 the band had become available hot property in London with the major record labels all forming a disorderly pack of signature chasers. Overnight sensations? Not really. There had been some formative years grimly holding on to principles while music in the UK was being led by some seriously transparent early-mid eighties "artistes". In fact, strange as it might seem now, the guitar's position as the pivotal popular instrument looked to be at an end.
There were guitar bands of course and the worldwide success of U2 ensured that record companies were constantly looking for something similar, but the influences of the previous decade (with a few exceptions) had largely been unhelpful. By early '88 however, things were starting to change a little and Food records were signed to EMI Records in order for the label to get its hands on the Indies latest band ... Diesel Park West. Now with major backing, the band started to record the debut album which was soon to have a considerable impact, Shakespeare Alabama. Although the album never delivered a huge breakthrough hit single, it did generate enough influence on the times and create such a buzz about the band to ensure them a special place in the bigger picture.
Three whole years, however, were to slip by until the second album Decency was to surface. In true major label style, there had been a lot of executive positioning ready for the inevitable massive breakthrough. Like all dead certs it never quite worked out the way it was meant, and despite an almost hit single 'Fall to Love' in early 92, the band were divorced by EMI and seemed set to follow the well-worn path of other major-label victims ... thank you and goodnight. Well no! Not at all, in fact for a variety of reasons the creative rivers were really starting to flow at this point.
The band had forged a strong musical identity onstage, drawing upon its own musical influences - Buffalo Springfield, Moby Grape, Big Star, the Brian Jones era Stones and Love - all considered outdated & largely irrelevant by the UK 'taste-makers' at the time. As rock has grown older with an unexpected dignity, these bands are now widely acknowledged as being seminal. Free to operate within its own taste, Diesel Park West have so far gone on to release six independent albums which have all maintained a high critique for the band.
The band entered the indie sector with The Corporate Waltz in 1993. The hugely (then) influential Q Magazine stated that 'when the marketing department at EMI hear "The Cats Still Scratching" it will have them eating the carpet.' And so it proved because that song remains the only Diesel Park West song ever to be play-listed on UK national radio (a vital ingredient for a UK hit single). Evidence that if the band been retained by EMI a breakthrough would have indeed followed? Maybe! The album swirls and delves directly into the heart of the band's subconscious vision with songs 'Where Will The Birds Sing', 'Good Times Liberation Blues', 'Old Mans Bluff', or the great pop swing of 'Vanity' leading the way.
It's a given in rock n roll lore that second albums can often be a bit awkward or difficult to get right because of various energies used by the writers being syphoned off for the actual process of promoting a debut record. This, a largely unacknowledged factor in the Diesels' camp, is what happened between late 89-90. It speaks well of the band that they nevertheless delivered tracks of quality such as 'While The World Cries Decency' and 'Fall To Love' for Decency, the "difficult second album".
It is, however, The Corporate Waltz which provides the clear white light of proof that this group from the English Midlands should have dominated rock for at least a good decade. Sonically it carries the perfect balance of pure spirit mixed with a deliberate and knowing rock edge, a combination often spoken of but rarely achieved by many bands. Food/EMI label-mates Blur broke through with their third album Parklife and so it could have been with Diesel Park West but fate, having decreed otherwise, decided they were to run through the jungle fully laden without maps or support. The band proved to be more than tough enough for the task!
Starting in 1995 the album Freakgene kicked off a run of three official releases up to the year 2000. It was followed by Hip Replacement (1998) and Thought For Food (2000). All these recordings were done at the band's own Barkby Road studio and all received the by now familiar Diesel Park West five star media critique. The 1998 release even had the Guardian describe Diesel Park West as "the most relevant band of that year" which considering their debut was by then nine years old was a remarkable comment.
In 2005 EMI re-released Shakespeare Alabama and a new 'best of' Left Hand Band - again both prompting very favourable retrospective reviews. Although live shows were not numerous the band always played two or three London shows every year, along with a handful of hometown and northern dates. People who saw these shows usually came away bewildered that such a high-quality live act was not enjoying a much higher live profile. Nevertheless, the Diesels returned to the studio in 2007 to record the outstanding Blood And Grace album which actually got some radio support based around the shining single 'There's A Grace'. The record confirmed the band's creative staying power and was followed in 2011 with the release of the beautifully named Do Come In Excuse The Mess.
Eight albums is a substantial body of work for any band but for one which has struggled to survive in an increasingly impossible environment, it is all the more remarkable. It would be foolish to regard the eighth as the final one.

Robin and The Modest with the guitar driven "Rakentenfaust" goes vroooom

Robin and the Modest, the musical alter ego of composer, multi-instrumentalist Tobi Vogel (Germany) create soundtracks and one such creation named Rakentenfaust is a guitar driven rocker that grinds out heavy metal affectations in a pretty much timeless way. I mean the rock progs here could exist from 1975 and on but then the shape changing starts. Elements of art rock tones and electronica come in from musical on ramps and I say that because the imagery of cars driving down futuristic roads is heavy on this one. I wonder if you are seeing the same thing. There is an alien, futuristic tone here happening. It is cool. Simple as that and I can't wait to listen to this in my car. 

Rakentenfaust is from the "Playground" album (2019).
Robb Donker


Ready, steady, get lost in music
It’s a soundtrack, it’s a soundtrack! It is obvious that the man behind Robin and the Modest brings home the bacon composing film music, which is a good thing in itself. It can only mean that he understands something of the trade. With Eftychia Tobi Vogel presents us with a truly exquisite instrumental album. Don’t be scared, it’s the good kind of instrumental. The kind from the 70ies, when music was able to take the time to tell a story. And by that, the debut from Robin and the Modest sneaks its complex and masterly way into our ear and subsequently into our hearts. Sounds grossly exaggerated? It should be. Albums like it are rare theses days. First-class craftsmanship and an aim for the sophisticated recipient. So if anyone thinks, there should be music, here it is. Typically North German without the babble. Truly the sound for every situation in life. With it, we can orchestrate our own history each and every day. Because, it’s a soundtrack, it’s a soundtrack. Namely our own, which we listen to in the car, when other people just go to work. It takes us away for a little time-out from our desk or keeps us in a good mood while jogging to Somewhere over the Rainbow. Committing Carl-Michael Grabinger as a drummer, who already has been fine-tuning the groove of Freundeskreis or the Henrik Fleischlader Trio, is further proof, how comprehensive the musical selection of the project is. The Russian orchestra musician Maria Grigoriyeva played the string part in the title track and ballad Little Bird. The saxophone was contributed by Tim K√∂hler, who, as part oft he Bigband hellway2high, was recently presented with the WDR Jazz price. And when a second guitar was needed, Johannes Bert, who is normally at home with The Fabolous P-Boiz, filled the void formidably. The whole rest derives from one extremely capable source. That way one can avoid the creative discords and the nervracking top dog behaviour typical for a band. Then something truly good can happen. For example something like Eftychia. This overflowing cornucopia of musical gems, with which the man behind Robin and the Modest builds an effective wall against the paralysing boredom from the consensus laboratories of the major labels. Many thanks for that by the way.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Von Bismark and the whirlwind that is "Moth"

Moth by Von Bismark is a whirlwind of sounds anchored to a deep groove, syncopated lush, lush bass cementing the vocal performance to your brain. Jonathan Smith's voice is self aware, internal, sultry and conflicted. The guitar riffs that almost feel more like radio blips out in space give the whole proggy rock affair a kind of trance like feel. A meditation oh high. 

Robb Donker


Von Bismark is new project out of Oakland, Calif. produced by Jeff Saltzman (The Killers, Green Day, Two Gallants) and headed by Jonathan Smith, formerly of indie dance outfit The Hundred Days. The band teased out a single, "Rocket Ship" in late 2018.
A recent east bay transplant from SF, Smith discusses how the move affected his sound: “After being in an indie dance rock band for years, touring nationally and overseas,, I decided to refocus on what made me happy as an artist: writing good songs. It was intimidating, but moving to the east bay has made me a better and more honest songwriter.”
The project is expected to start live production summer of 2019. 

The Titos and their unbridled road worn scarred story of "Leandra"

The track Leandra by The Titos who I think are based in (and maybe out of) Atlanta feels like a song / story that is lived in, road worn, scarred and fueled or impaired by swigs of Tequila and or Whiskey. The strain, galloping cadence, nicotine stained rhythm and blues cut rock, haphazard and loose and badass true sound propped up by a stellar vocal performance that is dripping with a beat up wise yet battered character is formidable. The story is inviting in a dark way but ends much too soon. I want to know more about her, Leandra that is. 

Robb Donker

Heaviness lives and dies in J Lind's worldly track "For What It's Worth"

J Lind's worldly track For What It's Worth feels like the cadence of life and death on a South African plain. Interwoven through the tom tom beats and teeming sounds, Lind's voice is folkish and Americana, stoic yet passionate. The song reminds me a bit of Phil Collins' Air Tonight both in it's emotional tone and cagey push and pull around the beats. I can't tell if there is an anti-hero in this life and death story or if the true meaning here is just the interconnectedness of all of us in the life and death drama that is life itself. 

This song is the title track of Lind's forthcoming record which draws inspiration from three years of experiencing the world of hospice care. 

"It is Lind’s hope that the project will serve to catalyze formative conversations on grief, loss, and acceptance."

Robb Donker


Born and raised in Phoenix, J Lind learned early on that inspiration can be found in unlikely spaces. Even so, Lind’s latest project—a record based on the reflections of hospice patients—is unconventional, to say the least.
Lind’s unusual approach to songwriting developed during his time as a student at Princeton. A frequent collaborator, Lind opened for the Grammy-nominated rapper, Big Sean, in the spring of 2015 and participated in songwriting seminars with artists ranging from Steve Martin to Rosanne Cash. Following the release of his debut EP in 2017, Lind studied philosophy at Oxford before continuing his work as a hospice volunteer in New Delhi, India.
J Lind’s forthcoming record, For What It’s Worth (2019), is a careful reflection on three years of experience in the world of hospice care. Supported by a Princeton fellowship, the record draws on the diverse soundscapes of artists such as Paul Simon and Peter Gabriel while invoking the direct, narrative lyric of acts like Passenger and Dawes. It is Lind’s hope that the project will serve to catalyze formative conversations on grief, loss, and acceptance.

Callum Pitt's "Slow My Heart Rate Down" does quite the opposite

Callum Pitt's track Slow My Heart Rate Down does quite the opposite. As you listen to the orchestrated mayhem woven around beautiful piano and vocal melodies, your heart races and you might even feel dashes of anxiety. The track builds in a cinematic way and after it ends you feel a little bit emotionally spent. Beautiful, moving stuff. 

Pitt who hails from Newcastle upon Tyne, has been building audiences since his bedroom produced creations received airplay from BBC 6 Music and Amazing Radio which landed him a gig at Evolution Emerging Festival 2016.

The "Poisoned Reveries" EP is out now.

Robb Donker

Thursday, July 18, 2019

The poetically drawn "Eyes To Monochrome" by Nova Peaks is so cool

The track Eyes to Monochrome is trippy and cool dressed up in a wave of synthetic full color palette of avant garde shapes and machine like grooves. It is at once wondrous and charming and build like a childhood dream.

Nova Peaks is the moniker of Dylan Jongbloed, a producer based in Utrecht, The Netherlands.

Robb Donker