Saturday, August 30, 2014

Late to the Party but I found Cristina Black- "Summer's Over" - A pretty and painful affair

Cristina Black is an accomplished singer songwriter, musician and journalist. Besides having a beautiful voice that lays a thick patina of sardonic wit and sadness over her more than candid lyrics she plays the baritone ukulele, harp and piano.

Her Twitter tag says: Pretty songs about difficult things and that description is pretty right on. If you are like me, one of the unfortunate ones who were not familiar with this special artist, then take a listen. The single "Summer's Over" (released on August of 2013) is such a stark and candid track. It is not often that you hear something so easy to relate to, so truthful about all those "shitty affairs" of life. Whether based on actual events or not it is certainly full of truth and (as such) is filled with both pain, hope and a sad sense of humor.

After "Summer's Over" I let a bunch of Cristina's songs play on and lost myself in their lovely embrace. She is a special find indeed. Yes, I am often late to the party but I am glad I showed up this time.
Robb Donker

Cristina Black Twitter

Friday, August 29, 2014

Album Review: KILLER by Phoebe Bridgers Takes You to Unexpected Places

Pre-Review NOTES:

It is funny how you can find treasures that you weren't even looking for. I have had the Pixies and the Smell (a well loved LA indie venue) in my brain lately. The Pixies because I just penned a review of their new record Indie Cindy and the Smell because I have been going over video of bands I have recently shot there. Then the omni-present "Powerful" IPhone 5S commercial reared up and kind of cemented them both together. It features the Pixies iconic Gigantic and (if I am not mistaken) the Smell is featured as well. While trying to verify if that location is the Smell I found out about Phoebe Bridgers as she is in the commercial singing and playing Gigantic at the Smell within the shadows of the old mural adorned brick walls and that back stage door I am so familiar with. This internet ping ponging lead me to Killer which is Phoebe's latest EP which was release on March 31st.

ALBUM REVIEW:  KILLER by Phoebe Bridgers

The best indie folk weaves together stories and music that take you to unexpected places. Los Angeles based singer / songwriter Phoebe Bridgers does exactly this by combining a truly earnest singing style, a blendo style of music that combines folk, indie, roots, alt-country, even dream pop and lyrical content that is emotionally wrought and surprisingly gritty, even dark. Her songs are peppered with words and passages like "deathbed", "spit the blood back", "needle on a tray", "beautiful bones", "I dreamt that he drowned", "inside black as coal" and she even references a particularly nasty serial killer in the song Killer.  This isn't to suggest that her songs reside in some kind of dark folk dungeon. They do not but the way in which she tells her stories, her poetry are evocative of artists who dare to share their pain whether figuratively, actually or a combination of both. Elliot Smith immediately comes to mind even though his musical style is so different.
The instrument in which she graces us with these stories, her voice, is so full of character as she fully carries the emotional weight of her words. She has a great voice and sings passionately. I thought of Jen Wasner of Wye Oak not necessarily in some shared tones but in both their abilities to make us, the listener, fully feel the emotion of their vocal performance.

The first track, Chelsea with a sweeping indie folk sound and bright soaring lead guitar work is a beautiful vista of a song. Phoebe's doesn't hold back anything with her vocals. Georgia edges more towards an alt-folk ballad with some beautiful musical breaks and backing vocals. The percussive drum sticks coming in midway is a lovely touch. The production touches shine. The namesake song, Killer is a spartan, mind blowing alt-folk song with a twisted wit. The abject dark intimacy dressed in such hooky melodies reminded me a bit of the wonderful Tyler Lyle. Amidst the dark poetry the song is utterly beautiful. Phoebe's tender performance mildly freaks you out and breaks your heart at the same time. Conversely, Turned Around is a full on indie folk / alt-country rocker but with tortured lyrics in tow. If there is a let down on this amazing EP it is the last track Whatever. It feels to me like a departure from the 4 songs that came before. It has an indie pop heart with alt rock muscles. It is catchy but it doesn't grab me emotionally like the other songs. It almost feels like Paramore light and while there is nothing wrong with that it didn't surprise me musically or lyrically like the other truly engaging songs.

Phoebe Bridger's KILLER EP is a treasure to find and take hold of. Like Lorde, the breadth and scope of her lyrics and the stories contain therein feel more mature than her young years. It will be wonderful to witness her evolution as an artist.

Robb Donker

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Sometimes I like to watch The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and sometimes I like to watch Stuff Like This: "Your Daily Hour With Me" featuring The Grinning Ghosts

Why do we zone out in front of the TV for an hour? Maybe to recharge the batteries, to learn something informative, to be entertained, to simply kill time and think about things. All those reasons apply when I typically will watch The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon or Conan. What you don't see enough of is those weird public access television shows that used to be more prevalent years ago and inspired Wayne's World. Because of The Grinning Ghosts (a rad band that you should check out), who posted this link, I found out about "Your Daily Hour With Me" that broadcasts out of Thurston County, Washington. They stopped by the show while on tour.

For an hour the band and various people who seem to wander in talk about McDonald's "empty lies" concerning their sauces inspiring the "No Hot Mustard- No Peace" slogan. A long diatribe about pseudo science and all manner of random speak all peppered with off the cuff funny shit. Check it out and check out The Grinning Ghosts.
Robb Donker

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Tomorrows Tulips - Official Video for "Baby" and "Glued To You"- In the "Creepy Box" along with "Blurred Lines" and “Blonde SuperFreak Steals the Magic Brain."??

Tomorrows Tulips latest video interestingly fuses together two songs, "Baby" and "Glued To You" from their upcoming Burger Records full-length album WHEN. "Baby" is a little indie punk juggernaut, instantly intoxicating and "Glued To You" with Tomorrows Tulips signature steady but slow burn feel hangs on you like a teary eyed friends hug who needs your love. I absolutely love both these tracks and they portend a killer album. Then why after watching this video am I so bummed out?

The video as directed by Dominic Santos, Tomorrows Tulips' Alex Knost and Taylor Bonin with it's staid almost catatonic look fueled by a washed Polaroid color scheme does look beautiful. What confuses me is the unnecessary almost standard female only nudity that simply feels out of place. Let me say emphatically that I am not a prude. I also appreciate the use of shock value if used in a creative way in art but when I see what I perceive as women used as your standard "rock and roll" sex objects or as simple titillation I call it out.

The thing is this. I have always considered the indie world and the overall Burger Records esthetic as a respite from the pop / hip hop world that is a feminist's worst nightmare in terms of how women and their roles are portrayed. More so than a lot of other genre's, indie and punk has always provided such a different view of women. Three weeks ago Burger Records' outstanding "punk rock Lilith Fair" Burger A-Go Go celebrated female fronted indie rock. Another thing that is clear is that the Burger Records / indie umbrella skews young. Just go to any Burger records venue and it will be all ages with kids as young as 10 years old. Tumors Tulips is part of that world. Is it their role to think about how their videos, their imagery shapes young boys and girl's minds. No, it is not but it would be nice.

That's it. That is my two cents. The official video for "Baby" and "Glued To You" (in my humble opinion) might just belong in the creepy box that also contain the videos for Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" and Flaming Lips' “Blonde SuperFreak Steals the Magic Brain.”

Robb Donker

Friday, August 22, 2014

"Scamu Scau" by Meenk will subtly blow your mind.

Have you ever been out and about, out in nature and come upon a strange little creature that you were not familiar with? Some bug or amphibious thingy that you could not identify except to say that it is kind of like a this or that. At times like this the world becomes a little bit more exciting and wonderful and childlike. This is exactly how I felt when I first listened to "Scamu Scau" by Meenk.

Meenk is a project by May Rio who seems to be from Brooklyn and may also have ties to Austin, Texas. At least, that is what I can gather from poking around online. Where she is from may be not as important as where she is going and going by this demurely quirky, subversively charming and smart debut she is surely going places as they say. The songs on "Scamu Scau" have both a super simple indie pop quality to them but also feel a bit askew and kinda drenched in a sticky gollup of ennui. In some ways they remind me of early Weezer and in other ways there are tiny, tiny dashes of an adolescent PJ Harvey. May's vocal delivery and the sound of her voice can be endearingly sweet, no more so than in "Up" where she does a perfect self harmony that is soooo pretty. Behind the prettiness there can also be a barbed sting twisted around a sardonic almost Fuck you tone in the standout track "19" that will undoubtedly be on my list of top 100 songs this year. In 2 minutes and 38 seconds you feel the uneasy queasy pallor of being young (and different). "Reasons" feels like youthful freedom and wide eyed wonder of life before cynicism and "Happiness Forgets" is wonderfully whimsical in it's brevity.

Meenk is an intriguing mystery to me. The seemingly simple songs have an emotional complexity to them which, to me, is tied to May's evocative vocals. There is a wink and a crooked smile to them, a sense that while she is telling her stories to you she might be (all the while) crossing her fingers behind her back. In short, "Scamu Scau" subtly blows your mind. This all to short set of 4 songs will leave their mark on you.

Robb Donker

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Tijuana Panthers Official Video for "Nobo" is Inspired, sexy, stupid fun.

The Official video for Tijuana Panthers' evocative track "Nobo" perfectly lampoons your 60's Bond movies. You've got your villains, sexy girls, psychedelic silhouetted bodies and a surprise ending more shocking then "The Crying Game" resulting in one of the most entertaining music videos I have seen in a long time. Funny, sexy and inspired plus a killer track that truly (no joke) should be the theme song for the next actual Bond flick.
Robb Donker

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Def Manic - "Welcome To The Jungle" (Official Video) - This Will Get Under Your Skin

The video for Def Manic's "Welcome To The Jungle" which is the first single from the album "D.R.A.W.- Do Right And Win" features Adamz Estrella as a boy living and existing in the woods. Is he indigenous or feral? I don't know but when some well meaning folks decide they know what is best for him things turn into a mini- Rambo- First Blood. Whether this is a message about being true to yourself or on a larger scale a statement about colonization of "other people" and the basic immorality of it, it is well produced. More importantly it is a nice backdrop for a truly killer track. The melodious refrain, "They stand before me but they can't control me so I'm gonna keep it real now take a walk on my ground" implants in your brain right away and the bass mirroring the vocal line is icing on the cake. There is so much to like about this track. I suggest you check it out.
Robb Donker

Pre-Order "D.R.A.W. - Do Right And Win" on Itunes -

First single from Def Manic's album "D.R.A.W. - Do Right And Win"

Produced by J Gramm.

Directed by Bryce Hooper/Til The Casket Drops

Jungle Boy - Adamz Estrella
DOCS Worker - Michael O'Grady
Ranger - Amandeep Perhar

Monday, August 18, 2014

TRACK DEBUT: "Let's Get High and Fuck" Love Cop ft. Emotional of Melted Toys

"Let's Get High and Fuck" by Portland's (NYC transplants) stoner romantics Love Cop kind of feel like the 80's teen romance movie "Pretty In Pink" if it was directed by Rob Zombie. Now who wouldn't want to see that? Beneath the static, the drug haze like fog of noise beats some languid sweet melodies. The chilled out slow beat adds to the atmosphere enhanced by the lead lines and production of Brian Wakefield, aka Emotional, of San Francisco's dream pop band Melted Toys.

Will "Let's Get High and Fuck" ever be the first dance song at a wedding? That remains to be seen but when you are under "the spell" chemically induced or otherwise it is pretty dreamy.

Listen to it and decide for yourself. "Let's Get High and Fuck" is the first single from Love Cop's upcoming album "Dark Ones" due out in late December on Gnar Tapes and you can find previous (and current) Love Cop works on Burger Records, Gnar Tapes and Lolipop Records.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Album Review: The Finks - "At The Royal Witherspoon" - Indie Sweetness

 At The Royal Witherspoon by The Finks (on the independent Aussie Label Milk! Records) is full of chill songs that lull you into a dream state. The music and temperament exists somewhere between The Kinks and Tomorrow's Tulips albeit with Aussie accents. The songs are deceptively addictive. Skinny White Girl shuffle beats into your brain and then slides down into your heart making you smile. A Minor Inconvenience also shuffles although at a bit speedier clip at least by The Finks standard. It seems that the overall tone on this record is somewhere between bittersweet and small town bored but the songs are not boring in the least because at their core they are very sweet and intimate really. Twenty-Too sways as a straight story about looking for love. Three Piece Suit with it's almost child like organ line has lovely melodies with the inclusion of Sarah Farquharson who also lends her sweet vocals on Twenty-Too. A total surprise is Alternate Histories that clues us in on the meaning of the Royal Witherspoon. Whether actually or fictionally, it seems to be the name of a movie theater. There is no singing in this song, instead it is a really a cool spoken word piece. A bit of engaging story telling about the authors experience making choc tops at the Royal Witherspoon. The spoken wordsmith is credited as Sam "The Fridge" Cooper and he paints charming pictures in your head. One of my favorite songs is the last one, Daddy Long Legs. The slow languid tempo and sparkly guitars makes me see slow motion waves. It is day dreamy and tucked deep inside are your own lovely memories that materialize while you listen.
Robb Donker

Monday, August 11, 2014


Hello to All that Frequent this Blog:

I have moved out of the lovely state of California (more on that later) and the move has taken a lot of free time away from my already harried schedule. This is why I have not posted in a while. Posts will resume very soon.