Friday, July 31, 2015

Happy Friday: Check out "I Want More" and "My Mind" by Old Soul

Happy Friday. Check out this cool inspired folk track I Want More from Old Soul's sophomore album entitled "Omnipresent"- which they recorded last winter in an old sheep barn in southern Maine. More on the entire album later but for now enjoy this track and a live performance of the last track on "Omnipresent" called My Mind.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

I hope that "Young Jesus" never Grows Up - NEW Album "Grow / Decompose" Burns Out Personal Stories

Young Jesus is back on my radar screen. I reviewed the album "Home" way back in 2012 (see here) and kind of lost track of these guys. Their latest album, "Grow Decompose" dropped back in May. I would say that to 20 somethings it might feel like an old stoner friend that you will always love and to those younger might feel like a new discovery.

The tone still feels very organic in that 90's post rock sort of way. Like in the beautifully transient Brothers, John Rossiter and the boys let the rock and stories breathe / air out and float around your senses. The thoroughly catchy G churns while it tells personal stories. It feels as big as the biggest Weezer song in spots but also has an almost down home backyard porch rock feel too. Dynamically rich, it darts around, get's lost and then runs down dark city streets like youth run amok at a break neck pace. I guess it is not surprising that Oranges reminds me a bit of Peaches by the Presidents of the United States but Young Jesus is less cheeky and their songs adeptly mix the 90's post rock with a deep well of current indie sound and, more importantly, feeling.

The tendency to veer into that cool bendy guitar dissonance makes me love them even more. Young Jesus shares some of that musical DNA that swims around bands like Speedy Ortiz, Porches, Pavement, Ovlov, Paws and the aforementioned Weezer just to name a few. Listen to Slug and the dreamy fuzzy embrace of Dirt and you will know what I mean. One of my favorite songs on the album is Blood and Guts. It plays like a wierd movie, it's got this amazing indie rock arc. Mixed in the quirky progressive fun punk tone is a shape shifting ballad of sorts with a musical break that sounds like a triumphant march. It is all over the fucking place but it all works.

Young Jesus is indeed back on my radar screen and I hope on yours as well. "Grow / Decompose" is an album that should be in your record collection (whatever form your collection is in).

Robb Donker

Sunday, July 26, 2015

"Space Waste" Video - The Lovely Bad Things - 7" Single with "Always Lazy"

Southern Californian Punk pop rockers The Lovely Bad Things premiered the video for "Space Waste" via Impose Magazine recently. The track is the A side of their artfully rendered 7" single offered up to the public at their release show at the Smell on June 26th with the remaining supply available through the merch section of their website:

Shot by the band's friends at the iconic Pappy & Harriet's Pioneer Town honkytonk near Joshua Tree in California (while opening up for Best Coast) it is an unpretentious fun home movie. Controlled feedback guitar fuzziness ride a bottom heavy bass bounce and a mid-tempo drum beat as emotional melodies add to the punch. The production is thick and powerful but not overproduced which I think their fans will appreciate. Hearing the produced studio versions of any band's songs that you love and have heard live can be a dicey thing especially with genres like proto-punk and garage rock which is inherently at it's core has a raw sound even if the songs are well crafted. The Lovely Bad Things and their production team have managed to capture and amp up their live sound on these recordings by bringing out the detail (nuances and hard edges) without over producing. Kudos to the band and Jonny Bell's (of Jazz Cats studio) production who also engineered with Sonny Diperri (who also mixed), Carl Saff's mastering and John Youngman as executive producer.

I truly hope the band are able to release a video for the B side as well (Always Lazy).  Both songs are streaming now (see links below from The Lovely Bad Things Twitter Feed). Awesome!
Robb Donker

Saturday, July 25, 2015

B Miles- Shines Darkly in "Nine Matches" and "Shaking Hands"

The imagery on B Miles' "Nine Matches" is artsy, strange, random and nostalgic. Shot in that kind of 70's ish "It Follows" meets Abercrombie and Fitch- it looks cool and feels cold. The song is a bit dark and sad really as if the emotions are at arms length but on purpose. For whatever reason I thought of Lorde and Sia.

In the quieter spots, Miles vocal performance doesn't feel like one and that is what is so captivating. She sings in an inward, introspective way as if she is dealing with her stuff, her baggage aloud and we just happen to be listening. I keep pushing play again and again. Now, on her Soundcloud page, the song "Shaking Hands" does feel more performancey (is that a word?). She positions her self in R and B / light jazz styles / indie pop flavors. I thought of Adele and even the Neighbourhood. Between the two, songs I suppose if I had to pick then "Nine Matches" appeals to me more. In any event, I am intrigued and look forward to more B Miles and her beautiful voice.

- Robb Donker

Thursday, July 23, 2015

American Pancake: MAIL BAG - Keeping My Head Above Water (Barely) - Valet - The Rubs - Connecting Stars

If there is one thing that we can count on is time marching on. Somehow almost a year has gone by since I moved to Georgia (from California) and while I vowed to grow this blog I must admit it has been tough to do so. I have been working harder than ever at my day job. I have had to put in more hours in a day / week / month than I can have imagined and never seem to get caught up. The result has been less time for the blog.

Still, I want to be in grow mode and have also posted up track reviews and me babbling about other things on the Youtube channel which I truly hope you check out. I am hoping to do this on a more regular basis. I know nothing worth anything comes overnight so it will be a slow but steady process. I thought this morning I would do some brief mentions of some things that have popped up in my email recently.

There is a band out of Minneapolis, Minnesota named "Valet" who have recently got back together after a ten year absence. Apparently, they naturally kind of stopped the band thing as life happened. Some of them (or maybe all) got married, had babies (11 of them), things like that and music took a back seat. I can relate to this story and the pull that making music can have on you. A quick listen and they sound pretty good, poetic stories in their songs that makes me want to hear more. By the way, to all you bands and publicists out there who email me each and every day. That is all I am really looking for.... something that catches my ear via my heart. Hey we are all looking for that. So I will be looking, checking out these guys. Below is one song that intrigued me:

Another band that kind of caught my ear recently is out of Chicago named "The Rubs" who are in the punk /garage vein in that Ramones / Iggy Pop-ish sort of way and not only because one of the guys goes by the moniker Joey Rubbish. Liking the low fi sound and loving the attitude. I also am feeling pulled in because of the lead singer's voice. I will be posting up more about them in the future (I'm sure).

180 big degrees from "The Rubs" are a husband and wife duo from South Africa named "Connecting Stars". Not the kind of music I tend to feature. Just too sweet for my bittersweet taste I guess (inject sad self deprecating laugh) but Martin and Cheryl Engel are currently touring in an RV with their two kids spreading their songs to those who are not so jaded as I. What a wonderful thing to do. Material off their self titled 2014 release has been charting on BillBoard (no small feat). I do wish them the best of luck.

Well boys and girls it is time to head off to work. Whatever you do today, do it to the fullest as time does march on. Take care sweet people

- Robb

Monday, July 20, 2015

"Star Wars" Is a Stunning Foray into Wilco's Proto Punk Psyche and It Kills.

The brand new Wilco album "Star Wars" feels more like a successor to the Tweedy's "Sukierae" than Wilco's indie folk / alt country fare but the transition feels so right and utterly inspired. A bulk of the songs might just have the same musical DNA of artists like T-Rex, Bowie, Television, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, The (psychedelic) Beatles and contemporary artist's like Ty Segall, White Fence, Foxygen and Unknown Mortal Orchestra. The sounds feel more proto punk, a sound that Wilco has ventured into before but not to this degree. "Star Wars" also feels very cohesive. The songs feel like they are meant to be together and while they delve into some experimentation, in a way, "Star Wars" feels like a solid actually quite mainstream indie / garage rock album. It doesn't come out of left field (as much) or feel as darkly introspective as let's say Wilco's 2002 "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" or feel as pop expansive as 2004's "A Ghost is Born" or feel as crazily (musically) vast as 2011's time traveling "The Whole Love". What "Star Wars" does so very well is pull you in immediately into the tone of the album and keep you marvelously surprised.

From the onset, the opening track EKG has a jagged progressive mania in that Primus meets Zappa sort of way signalling that Wilco might be walking a sonic tightrope. More is dreamy x5 with a garage rock feel. Random Name Generator has a thick, lusty glam feel and might be the best T-Rex song they never wrote. The Joke Explained has got the sardonic rock edge of Iggy Pop meets Lou Reed. You Satellite feels like two musical parallel universes out of sync. A powerful battle of wills between walls of guitars and a plodding drum beat and pounding bass as Tweedy muses over those who orbit in and out of his emotional life. It is the broken Wilco at it's best. Tormented. I thought of Built To Spill as I listened to the drawn out musical passion play.

So far the album feels pretty garage glammy. Sounds colliding and songs shape shifting. Taste The Ceiling brings Wilco back down to earth. The song bounds in a Mersey beat sort of way. It has a sense of wanderlust and is just plain lovely. Pickled Ginger is a trip of a song. A boogie woogie deconstructed glam rocker that falls in on itself. Total fun with delicious guitar screams. It feels like a mid tempo mosh pit that is as thick as the biggest Thee Oh sees song.

At this point I can imagine some of the more alternative country / indie folk early Wilco fans standing in stunned silence. Some might feel betrayed and others get it and have big dumb grins on their faces. Where Do I Begin strips away some of the glam and proto punk as Tweedy prettily exorcises the ghosts of Lennon, Elliot Smith and Harry Nielsen. It is down to earth, orchestral but does succumb to a kind of acid trip-ish musical break that is pretty damn awesome. Cold Slope continues the kind of multi-colored almost Yellow Submarine tones as does King Of You. The dramatic downbeats leave a big impression. It cuts a deep groove. Amazing sounds.

The very last track, the everso dreamy Magnetized has a groovy Lennon-esque meets Harry Nielsen chill that truly induces goosebumps. I also thought of Foxygen a bit. I love it's lilting orchestral quality and the perfect final track. It is a wonderful and lovely counterpoint to the opening track EKG that feels so schizophrenic. In the end, "Star Wars" is a fresh, completely inspired work of art. It is also another musical departure for Wilco and one that some of his more indie folk / alt country fans might not like. On social media I did see one random post saying "easily one of the worst Wilco albums"- I couldn't disagree more. "Star Wars" is easily up there as one of Wilco's best work.

The degree that "Star Wars" will go over with Wilco's long legion of indie folk/ alternative country fans is equal to the degree of open mindedness they have.  It, of course, helps if you have eclectic taste in music and if you embraced the "Sukierae" album and thought that "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" was a rad musical adventure. I think most of their true fans will eat it up but I do think that there is a percentage of indie folk folk who don't stray too far from their genre of choice. And I wonder if this is why Wilco released this album the way they did serving it up free so they could cast a wide net and catch many who have heard some of their stuff but not dived deeply into their sound. I can tell you that from the many years I have been on this earth I get a sense that people into garage / punk music seem to have very eclectic tastes in music whereas some of the indie folk fans do not in almost an elitist way.

This is the end of my review of Wilco's "Star Wars". It is the point in which I describe the album in a brief sentence so here we go.  "Star Wars" is a stunning foray into Wilco's proto punk psyche and it kills.
Robb Donker

GET YOUR FREE COPY HERE for a Limited Time:

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Bi Polar X5 - "Deep River" by Sleepy Hahas (Official Video)

When Deep River starts off with it's screaming sounds and pounding, sultry bass line I thought of a punkified Depeche Mode and then the syncopated vocal harmonies made me want to vogue (yes, as in boxy dance moves)... and yet it transforms once more. It is full of dramatic turns. It sounds weird. It sounds bad ass. It cuts a cool groove. Then it has a "what the fuck moment" when the bridge playfully turns your mood ring another shade and the catchy falsetto refrain begins: "I could be your cutie pie.... I could take away the pain and make it mine oh mine..."

The crazy thing is that all these mixed flavors and musical emotions work. Deep River is the new single off the forthcoming LP "From the Bottom of a Warm Lake" by electronic psych rock band Sleepy Hahas our of Buffalo, NY. Check out the artfully trippy video below directed by Jason Harvey ( as well as their Bandcamp page.

Robb Donker

Monday, July 13, 2015

Album Review: "Big People" by Max Gowan - Songs From His Bedroom

Max Gowan makes bedroom recordings literally from his bedroom. When you listen to the thick intimate sweep of the first track Rare Thing it is a little hard to believe. Max who is only 18 years old also plays all the instruments. The push on Rare Thing is gentle. There is an understated sadness, emotions that feel a bit muted which is always even more sad. There is also a utterly measured quality to the song, maybe almost too much. This may be just a function of having to play all the instruments and making it all work cohesively.

The musicality is solid. Window is beautifully sad. I have to admit I thought of Elliot Smith, even saw his face as I listened. This song is full of tears.  Other artists that I flashed on were Kurt Vile and especially Ben Kweller. Yes, there is a Kweller-esque niceness to the songs and that kind of tenderness too. My tastes stray to darker places a bit and I can't help but think that Max's songs might soar even more if they were less perfectly rendered. One such song is Bend, there is a rush, harried quality. Not every note is spot on time, it is like life, busy, varied and sometimes feels like a mess but such a lovely one. Once of my favorite songs on the album, I think the off kilter sense and occasional off kilter notes give the song a heart and pulse.

The title track, Big People is a kind of slow waltz of a song. It has a very cool framework with (again) a muted emotional sound. It hits and misses a bit. I think it would benefit from a more intimate vocal sound to pull the listener in. The trippy ending was surprising and appreciated. Max's songs are folk songs at heart but the almost upside down sound of The Stumble is really cool as is the track Everything Is Cool which is one of my favorite songs on the album. I mentioned Kurt Vile before and this one has that kind of run down the street feel. Max's voice shines on this although I wanted to hear him push his voice a bit more (even strain a bit).

In the end "Big People" is an album full of heartfelt songs. I do think that there are light and dark aspects of playing all the instruments. On one hand, you can realize your total solitary vision. On the other hand you lose those human walls to bounce ideas off of and the wonderful contributions of sound and inspiration from other musicians, other muses. "Big People" in all it's glory feel like it is standing behind a curtain. There is something (what I don't know) beckoning Max to step though into the light, a brilliant light. He is almost there and I am eager to watch and listen to his journey.

My favorite songs on this album are Rare Thing, Bend, The Stumble and Everything Is Cool. I hope you listen intently to Big People and find your favorites.

Robb Donker

AP Song Of The Day: "Offer" by Together Pangea

Happy Monday everyone! Don't you just hate people who say that?? Today's Song of the Day is "Offer" by Together Pangea (I still like just calling them Pangea!) from 2014's very awesome Badillac Album.

Please check out the video. While I still am nervous in front of the camera, I am liking the challenge of shooting these little videos and I hope that in doing so, the channel will grow. So far, eh, each track review is not garnering the views I would hope for but I am a patient person. If you like what I am doing, please tell your friends and reach out to me with bands / songs you think might be worth featuring. If you don't like what I am doing, please offer up some opinions on why?? I am, afterall, wanting to learn from this experience.

I also couldn't help but do an impromptu cover of Offer as well. I think I actually left a chord out on the chorus (!!) but it is my version. I have been playing guitar more lately after a long absence. It must mean that I am in a bumming zone because I usually pick up that lovely guitar when things just don't feel right. That guitar is my therapist.

Robb Donker

Official Video:

My slightly lame cover / therapy:

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Best Coast share Video for "Feeling Ok"

Best Coast's video for "Feeling OK" from this year's California Nights as directed by Mathy and Fran is at once beautiful and pristine as it is subdued in it's slow motion chill. As glossy and lush as the song's big wonderful chorus all the prettiness that veers into some subtle comedy (via Bob's and Bethany's contrasting work out styles) is easy to swallow and tastes so good. Like many Best Coast songs, "Feeling Ok" amid the pop shine has a patina of sadness too and I love that. Click on the pic below and check out the video courtesy of Apple Music's Connect feature:

- Robb Donker

Friday, July 3, 2015

I'm Sorry Radiohead. How We Listen To Music. What Album Has Gotten You Through Tough Times?

Another AP Vloggy Thingy complete with my normal semi coherent babbling and a surprise performance. Lately, I have been posting track / Song of The Day videos on my You Tube channel. I hope you will check it out, get involved and subscribe as well. By the way, I haven't picked up a guitar really since I relocated to Georgia about a year ago and now my fingers are a bit sore. Besides that little discomfort, I really love playing and even started writing a bit. Just the muscle memory of playing and singing made me want to start being creative in this way all over again. Maybe it will happen.... maybe.

- Robb

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Video Live Performance: Melted - "Pepper and Milk" at The Smell (Los Angeles)

Several days ago I saw this very cool clip of Melted playing at the Smell. It got my hyped up for a number of reasons 1) Love Melted  2) the footage was well shot, had a "filmic" look  3) made me homesick for California and the Smell. So this morning on Melted's Facebook they posted:

"Johnny Ramos put this video together for MAT Magazine from our show on Friday. Thanks dude, it came out really cool. We had such a great time and we can't wait to be back at the Smell July 19th!!"
So Johnny Ramos is the cinematographer (and I suppose the editor and all)- I plan on finding out more about him and his work and Melted seems to be on the rise which is a great thing! Check out the video below and Mat Magazine who I follow on Instagram. They are doing great stuff.