Monday, June 29, 2015

REVIEW: Self Titled EP by The Pocket Rockets - Deceptively Deep

As I listened to the Pocket Rockets self titled EP three things became abundantly clear. 1) Hate the name. 2) Each song became progressively better. 3) I am smiling.

This three piece outfit hail from East Los Angeles. While most people would put their sound under that general indie umbrella, to me, their is a lot more that is happening under the surface. The sound leans more power pop than punk but not so much as to sound too shiny. The music has soul and a live feel as well. They possess that hard to define quality that leans to that early 80s new wave / rock /  post punk sound of bands like Dramarama and The Dead Milkmen or the more contemporary The Drums. Some songs like "Somewhere We Can Be Alone" have an R & B heart. In this respect, Pocket Rockets also kind of remind me of The So So Glos although they have a decidedly different sound. Maybe The So So Glos stuck in a blender with Echo and the Bunnymen. Yeah, like I said a lot going on.

The Pocket Rockets are Ralph Blanco (vocals / bass) - Lyndon Miller (Guitar) and Chris Magallon (Drums). Rumor has it that it was recorded in Chris's bedroom. It was produced by Jon Siebels of Eve 6, Monsters Are Waiting, and Flybys. All the tracks shine but none more than the shimmy shaking MDNGHT. The boys weave together a dynamic track with a deep Motown groove with post punk guitar and bouncy melodies. Who Are We is sultry post punk with a touch of 80's Brit pop. Love it. If there is a "drive down Whittier Blvd in LA during the heat of summer" song it is Somewhere We Can Be Alone.

Cool songs with classic bones. I only wish I knew about the Pocket Rockets when I lived in the LA area. I am looking forward to hearing more and you should be too.
Robb Donker

Friday, June 26, 2015

Hear Tijuana Panthers - Introspective "Front Window Down" from the Upcoming "Poster" Album due out August 28th

When I listen to the Tijuana Panthers I usually break out in a smile. Hearing Front Window Down, the new single from their upcoming album "Poster" (on Innovative Leisure) due to drop on August 28th is no exception. My eyes opened widely at the dirty bass immediately followed by an incredibly hooky clean guitar line and infectious beat. It is Daniel, Chad and Phil doing their thing. This thing they do so damn well. The big smile happened at the chorus especially when Daniel hits the high note on "night". At that point I am fully invested in this track. It is so damn great and a little different for Tijuana Panthers. Yeah, it has a lot of those elements that has almost become a TP addictive formula like dirty and clean mixing together but this one feels more, I don't know, cagey. The groove is standoffishly cool and the vocal melody and performance feels a bit more introspective like Daniel is deep in thought recalling past emotional events. His voice has a faraway feel, even an ever so slight tinge of sadness (dare I say).  Absolutely love this track. Can't wait to hear the entire album.

Robb Donker

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

OPEN PLEA to Sir Paul McCartney Playing In South Carolina On Thursday June 25th / Flag of Hate At The Cornerstone

This coming August I will have lived in Georgia for one year since relocating from California. It has not been as much of a culture shock (overall) as I thought it would be but every now and then I have encountered some things that made my jaw hit the floor. In the town that I live in I have seen one Confederate Battle flag predominately displayed on the front of a house. Even more disconcerting is that there is a street not far from my house named Jim Crow Road. Seeing it actually made me feel numb for a moment and made me look for pointy hooded people nearby. I asked some locals about it and they didn't seem to really seem all that concerned or understand my concern. It was not until I met a transplant from Michigan who moved to Georgia about 15 years ago who expressed the same disgust I was feeling. We commiserated over our disdain and confusion over this strange throw back to immoral days gone by.

It was not until the recent horrific South Carolina Church killings by 21 year old Dylann Roof who gunned down 9 people at a Bible Study at the Emanuel African Methodist Church in Charleston that I was even aware that the Confederate Flag hangs on the grounds of the South Carolina State Capital (technically) as part of a Civil War Monument. As far as I know South Carolina is the only state where the Confederate battle flag flies on capital grounds although Mississippi's state flag bares the same Confederate Battle Flag saltire as part of it's design. Georgia's state flag design also paid homage to the Confederate Battle Flag from 1955 to 2001. Political pressure to change the flag came to a head during the early 1990's because of the then upcoming Olympic games that were to be held in Atlanta in 1996. Over time and most likely because business interests and leaders felt that not changing the state flag would negatively impact Georgia's economy a new design was adopted.

As is almost always the case, change seems to happen when dollars are at stake as opposed to doing what is right on moral grounds. I, myself, was utterly shocked to find out that the Confederate Battle Flag flies high in the South Caroline sky. I mean, it could easily be part of the civil war monument encased in acrylic or inside the walls of a museum but to fly the flag sends a mixed message. Flying a flag is associated with adoration of that symbol and it's meaning. Supporters of flying the flag say that it represents heritage not hate. Now I may have a different definition of hate than these supporters but the Confederacy at it's core was all about the subjugation of a people and declaring the "white" race superior to the "black" race. In fact, the Cornerstone Speech by Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens at the Athenaeum in Savannah, Georgia on March 21, 1861, emphatically belittled the Constitutions assertion that all men were created equal stating:

"Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong, They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the idea of a Government built upon it when the storm can and the wind blew, it fell."

In another passage he fortifies the prime moral imperative at the Confederacy's core:

"Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man, that slavery, subordination to the superior race is his natural and moral condition."

The Confederates like the Confederate flag itself has no morality whatsoever because to use Mr. Stephen's own analogy it's foundation is itself on shaky ground. Hell, it is on moral quicksand. Make no mistake about it, the Confederate flag is so drenched in hate that it is no wonder that Dylann Roof kept the icon close and it is no wonder that the Ku Klux Klan displays the "Southern Cross" as their flag of choice.

Supporters of allowing the flag to remain in it's present state over the Civil war memorial and those of us who feel it is a moral blight on the American landscape may never be able to reach a point of compromise and politicians will undoubtedly sit on their collective hands as to not offend anyone who may cast a vote their way. It looks like the horrific church shooting might turn the political tide and the SC state legislature may actually vote to remove the flag but why did it take so long, why did it take such a mind numbing incident to slap our collective consciousness.

Photo Mark Makela

American Pancake is an indie music blog and our voice is a small one. This coming Thursday, June 25th Rock Legend Sir Paul McCartney is going to play at the Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, South Carolina's capital city. He dedicated songs to the victims of the Charleston Church killings at his recent show in at the Firely Music Festival in Dover, Delaware.

To you Sir Paul McCartney, I extend this plea: 

Please use your magnificent voice to make a strong statement about Confederate Flag in South Carolina. The Confederate Battle Flag flies on the grounds of the state capitol and needs to come down. It is a symbol that at it's core is woven by the same threads of white supremacy as the Nazi manifesto and the doctrines of the Ku Klux Klan. While the symbols of our immoral past should never be forgotten, the Confederate flag flying at the South Carolina Capital grounds is a hateful blight on the American skyline. 

Mr. McCartney, I am not asking you to cancel the concert in protest (although that thought crossed my mind) but to strongly make a statement and to resolve to not play a concert in South Carolina until the flag is removed. I would hope you would also not play in Mississippi whose state flag also bears homage to the Confederacy. Please, please say, do something.

American Pancake

So, it is done. Will one of my favorite Beatles even read this, even care (?) I hope so AND to all you out there, all those other performers and especially the indie bands that this blog writes about PLEASE boycott South Carolina. Please weigh in on the issue and resolve to not play any SC venues. I know this will be difficult for local artists but other venues in North Carolina or Georgia are not that far away.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Vicky and The Vengent's sound Burns True - "You Used To Be My Baby" Sock Hop Punk

The first time I heard Vicky and The Vengent's "You Used To Be My Baby" I thought of early Blondie and actually got a chill running up my spine. Vicky Tafoya's vocal performance has both bite and a slight tremble of vulnerability that burns true. While the inspiration for the sound may derive from 50's Do Wop / The Shangri- Las / Ronettes, the sound edges more toward 79 / early 80's new wave / alternative rock. The guitar lines made me think of The Smithereens meets the Ramones.

Their 3 song EP is the real deal. Rounding out the record is Forever and Why. While Tafoya and the boys sound might be classified as Malt Shop or Sock Hop Punk, their flavor is more straight and true to the source material than, let's say, Shannon and The Clams whose brand of 50's flavored punk feels more quirky like their sound is strained through a John Water's filter. I can tell you that I love both sounds. I am a huge Shannon and The Clams (Northern Cali) fan and Vicky and the Vengents (So Cal) might just be long lost cousins. They should play some gigs together.

Vicky and The Vengents material will be available through Burger Record's sub Weiner Records soon (if it is not already). Listen to the track below, turn it up super loud. Be warned! You may find yourself falling hard for Vicky.
Robb Donker

Video / EP Review: Lade - "The Flood"

Lade's (the musical incarnation of Ethan Edenburg) latest EP, "The Flood" is the sort of down tempo electronic indie pop that is awash with swishes of sound and percussive flourishes that seem to be transmitted from space but it is the organic sounds: acoustic / electric guitars, piano and Ethan's up front intimate vocal performance that gives the songs their emotional edge. The orchestral sweep of Open Water is lush but cuts a cool groove as well. My Ghost has a vagabond heart stirring up an almost garden folk rock vibe with pedal steel sounds. The both spartan and bottom heavy Asleep with it's synth attacks and sultry cadence is almost inviting a rap break (I would love to hear that kind of collab- Wiz Khalifa are you listening?).

My favorite song on this dreamy EP is The Maze. Produced in a subtle way, it begins with only guitar and Ethan's intimate vocals. The melodies contained in the music and vocals have a patina of R and B, even jazz flavors in the cadence and phrasings. The namesake song The Flood might have the most cinematic sound to it and Lade just released an official video that matches the slowly swelling sounds and emotions that pour in around you. In the end, these songs are easy to get lost in. You can hear the EP here: Lade Bandcamp and see the video for The Flood below.

Robb Donker

The Flood - Lade from Lade on Vimeo.

Monday, June 15, 2015

"Attention Deficit Fever Dream" by Roosterhead is a Psychedelic Garage Art Rock 3 Year Labor of Love

Last year, LA based Roosterhead, a psychedelic art rock duo, released the ambitious "Attention Deficit Fever Dream" - a 22 song trippy walk into and through fun house mirrors. When you listen to the noise art rock of A Taste of Chokecherry, buried in the dystopian toned sound there is the stare into the sun confluence of Pet Sounds meets the Flaming Lips (circa March of the Rotten Vegetables). Delving into the deep well of abstract art pulls you into many directions and I wouldn't try to decode the poetry amidst the noises that seem to becoming from space or radio waves but instead focus on the emotional tug that lie in the melodies. There is a deep sad streak that runs through Zero Aces (A Cross Section of a Human Brain on a Tuesday Afternoon - Can You Show Me How) as it seems to flirt with loneliness and being overwhelmed by too much internal dialog. There is a touch of folk / garden rock in the spring reverby Crow Flies and lovely hope laden melodies. Even though Budha's Palm has its feet set in a kind of glammy psychedelic rock thing it deconstructs slowly and turns into an almost sock hop punk thing. My Daydream Time Machine is mostly stripped down to a dirty bass and drums and builds it's groove slowly but formidably. Then it starts jamming, love it. 

Time and time again you can feel the tinges of The Flaming Lips but not oppressively so. In Radio Infinity a spacy ode that made me think of Wayne Coyne and David Bowie as the song transformed from novel themes to truly heartfelt ones. The Quadrennial Armored Truck Drag Race feels so inspired. It has proto punk sensibilities in it's free form sound. That proto punk heart beats strongly in Even the Audiophiles Danced. The transient guitar sounds made me think of Wide Streets (R.I.P). The song feels like a fairy tale. 

Inside any massive dreamy album there will be at least one nightmare and the poisoned fruit here is Bad Vibes from the Underground which sounds like one of those ruffled trench coated weirdos spouting commentary though a megaphone. We Must Hate The Future is a fun listen and it rocks. It has a late 70's vibe really, like the Who meets Be Bop Deluxe meets J. Macis (if he was a robot). Neon Tobaggan is a whimsy and lush waltz with lovely melodies. 

Recorded over 3 years, "Attention Deficit Fever Dream" is a big psychedelic bag of marbles. Some are bigger and more shiny than others but they all sparkle. Some experimental albums get so wrapped up in the abstract that the songs lack heart. This isn't the case here as Roosterhead injects a lot of emotional tugs in the melodies that run through the musical hodgepodge. Maybe the most "mainstream" song on the album is The Intergalactic Journey of The Spaceship Eros. It feels like a three act play of love and life. Dynamically rich and catchy it plays like a 90's post rock that shifts and slowly turns into an endearing stroll with your dream boy or girl at sunset.

Roosterhead is: Shawn Her Many Horses (guitar, bass, synth, vocals) and Luke Johnson (drums, bass, synth, vocals) and say that the songs on Attention Deficit Fever Dream are heavily inspired by omnipresent technology and the future of humanity in the age of the Internet. They have been kind enough to offer this entire compelling album for digital download here (how nice is that?):

Friday, June 12, 2015

American Pancake Vloggy Thingy 2: Marc Ribot's Open Letter to Steve Albini: Copyright has Expired- Whaaaaat???

The second installment of the American Pancake Vloggy Thingy includes bad clapping sound effects and some thoughts on the recent supposed "angry" open letter by Marc Ribot in response to Steve Albini's thoughts on the obsolescence  of copyright law visa vie intellectual property rights on one's music / art / creations. I think at this point Albini is waxing poetic on the subject and just throwing it all out there. I personally cannot imagine any time when artist's will not "own" their creations (musical or otherwise). Whether they make money from their art or are able to keep others from freely distributing their creations for profit is another matter entirely. One thing is for sure, there is no other time in history where is is more important for musicians / bands etc to foster and nurture their relationship with their audience because if they do, that audience will gladly support them by purchasing their art and other ancillary merchandise. I also touch on vinyl as a significant and smart way to distribute their art because, well, people certainly cannot distribute hard copies like music files.

Marc Ribot's open letter to Steve Albini (originally posted on the Content Creators Coalition Facebook Page):

I’m writing as a recording artist, musician, and activist with c3, the Content Creators Coalition, a working-artist-run organization dedicated to economic justice in the digital domain.
In a recent Billboard article, you referred to copyright as an “expired concept”.
You further stated that:
“… the intellectual construct of copyright and intellectual property ownership is not realistic…That old copyright model of the person who wrote something down owns it and anyone else who wants to use it or see it has to pay him, I think that model has expired.”
If you truly believe that “Ideas, once expressed, become part of the common mentality. And music, once expressed, becomes part of the common environment…”, are you willing to sign a Creative Commons license placing your entire catalogue in the public domain?
Or are you just another lousy hypocrite shilling for Google and other huge tech corporations who have made billions in ad-based profits while using our work, often without paying us or asking our permission, as click bait to increase their advertising rates?
Working artists and musicians, at least those of us who can’t afford to make another record unless the last one paid its production costs, await your response.
Sincerely, Marc Ribot

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Post War Glamour Girls track - "Southpaw Stance" is so Bloody Fantastic

The proverbial rock, it is where I reside most of the time, laying prone underneath and missing a whole lot of interesting music. How did I miss the track "Southpaw Stance" by Post War Glamour Girls?? The guitar sounds in this song alone make it too good to be true. Add the punch perfect vocal delivery and jagged dynamics and this sultry song stalks and stuns you. There is a decidedly art rock / proto punk thing happening within the musical DNA of Post War Glamour Girls. When I listen to them I think of a new wavish blend of Echo and the Bunnymen, the Cult, Psychedelic Furs, She Wants Revenge, Joy Division, Los Campesinos and that slightly belligerent drunk Brit at the bar. Love it.
Robb Donker

Monday, June 8, 2015

The First Ever American Pancake Vloggy Thingy- track review: "Orouboros" by Rare Diagram

Hey sweet people, I have always wanted to have a youtube channel where I do a vloggy thingy and am able to do album and track reviews, commentary on all aspects of the music industry, current events and more. Basically a verbal free for all and build a relationship with all of you who have been kind enough to support this blog (and you are many).

This first go round was, well, pretty rough. I didn't realize that talking to a static camera could be so difficult. At times my mind went blank and I said "so" way too much. It is kind of easy to sound measured and articulate when you write a review but speaking off the cuff and from the heart to a camera is such a different thing. Yes, I am clearly not as slick as Anthony Fantano but I hope this channel will grow an audience. I also want to promise to you all that I will make a concerted effort to not only grow this channel but make it better. As you can tell I am just using the mic on the camera and you can actually hear my super doggie Lucy running around upstairs. In the upcoming weeks my gear will improve as well as my on air "performance" for lack of a better term. I just want to be myself but not be as nervous as I was tonight.

Please share and if you like what you are seeing subscribe.
Take care people!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Tiger Face is now Rare Diagram and their single "Ouroboros" is a stunning head trip.

Last January a kind of mysterious "project" by Tigerface came across my electronic desk. This is an excerpt from my review:

"Tiger Face is a mystery. All I know is that this "project" is out of Portland, Oregon and their debut EP "On The Beach" instantly tapped into my inner child (if he was a little high on too much cough syrup) and my endearing love of the shiny sounds of Elliot Smith, the Beatles (circa Abbey Road), Nielsen, Bright Eyes, The Flaming Lips, Ray Davies and cats scurrying across metal trash can lids at midnight. It is not that Tiger Face sounds like any one of these sounds / artists in particular but the songs on this EP brought them to mind in an endearing way."

As you might be able to tell I liked, even loved, the songs and one in particular Leaving (For A While) was on my best of 2014 list. It turns out that Tiger Face and the On The Beach EP itself was a side project of Justin Chase who wrote all the songs and played all the instruments. The EP's creation itself spawned a band to perform the songs live. 

Now Justin (vocals, guitar, keys and more) and his band is back as Rare Diagram. The talents of Cory West (drums and more), Chris Marshall (bass) and Emma Browne (Guitar, keys, vocals) has brought a more expansive sound and the first peak at a new album. The outstanding track Ouroboros is a pop heavy head trip of a song that stirs in a cascade of sounds and musical genres in such a lush and adventurous way that you hear new aspects of the song upon each listen. You can hear some of the Beatles inspiration in some of the askew psychedelia. The jazz pop phrasings that made me think of the eclectic spirit of 70's artists like Supertramp, Badfinger, Nielsen, Todd Rundgren or the current flavors of Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Mac DeMarco or Porches. If Ouroboros is any indication of what is to come on Rare Diagram's debut LP it portends to be a stellar piece of work. I absolutely love the production on this track. The dynamic twists and turns are so musically compelling and with additional support by Anthony Meade (Trombone), Laurel Thurman and Cheryl Chase (Strings) and Phoebe Spier and Rachel Bow (additional vocals) the sounds dress up the strange lyrics to create this wonderfully weird yet gleeful musical arc culminating in a big crazily happy ending.
Robb Donker