Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Goddamn Beautiful Bullshit of Father John Misty - The Memo

When you listen to the gospel of Father John Misty you want to jump up for joy one minute and drop down to your knees and cry the next. There is something deeply sad in his sardonic art folk. As provocateur, as social commentator Joshua Tillman may of (for me) hit his epic moment on David Letterman were his performance of Bored In The U.S.A absolutely floored me. The song skewers and questions our over medicated dull headed single focused desire for the American dream, organized religion and more. The embedded laugh track twisted the knife.

As much as I adore Tillman's aesthetic and the questions he asks, his latest upload "The Memo" cuts me both ways. As he seems to deride "boy bands" or fabricated bands / art I got the same feeling I got when I watched the Banksy directed film "Exit Through The Gift Shop" which explored similar themes questioning the concept of art itself, whether it be an earnest creation or simply a hoax.

By the end of that totally engaging documentary (or mockumentary) I was not entirely sure if Banksy had pulled the wool over my eyes. Does Banksy consider his art as a hoax? Is he even one person? The movie hinges on Banksy unintentionally creating a monster who becomes an artist while basically winging it. Copying others art, riffing ideas and having an small army of other creative types helping him create his art. By pretending to be a so called artist he has become one and his "fake" art is eaten up by those ravenous art buyers who are eager to buy the newest thing.

It seems to me that in The Memo, Tillman is asking similar questions. He also fully and deeply skewers our narcissistic internet age, our obsession with ourselves via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Ultimately it feels to me that he is always asking the collective us to look inward at our moral core as opposed to our materialistic (out) side. Soul searching is all well and good. It truly is but sometimes I cannot tell if Tillman desire to comment on society at large is becoming a bit stale as to feel disingenuous.  After all, if art is subjective then a Rembrandt has no more value than a Banksy or even your average kindergarten crayoned drawing of a house and family. And while Tillman throws barbs at our own narcissism no one seems more self aware of his image and how he markets it. Not that there is anything wrong with that and I am sure Father John Misty is perfectly happy deriding his own art.

In any event, I love what the man does. The Memo is snarky and thought provoking and depressing as hell. I love it, love Father John Misty and also love when he creates artful songs that don't necessarily comment on society at large. In the end maybe it's all bullshit anyway and if art and entertainment are the opiates of the masses, Father John Misty is one of our most interesting drug dealers.

Robb Donker

The Pristine Pop of The Corner Laughers - "Matilda Effect"

When you hear The Corner Laughers' Karla Kane's pristine vocals on the track The Girl, America it feels very much like 60's Brit Pop. She imbues each syllable with a kind of wide eyed innocence. Like a lot of the songs on their latest album "Matilda Effect" the production is big and sweeping and the musicality is top notch. Sophie In The Streets of Stockholm with its jammy bass heavy beat and almost proto punk polka feel could almost be a Blondie meets Abba song. I actually felt an Abba thing going on in tracks like Midsommar and Go Fly Your Kite and, well even Lammas Land.

The Corner Laughers' sound is so polished, so nice, so non offensive that at times it can feel like you are listening to music composed for a Disney cartoon soundtrack or as in Martha (Cincinnati 1914) geared for the dinner crowds at some show in Branson, Missouri. I hope this is not coming across as a dig. It is not. Anytime an artist stays true to themselves I applaud them.

In Fairytale Tourist the amount of whimsy is amped up ten fold as to feel like it might be geared toward ten year olds. There is, of course, absolutely nothing wrong with this kind of all inclusive ultra mainstream pop and The Corner Laughers do it well. I think the ABBA comparison is a kind of good one and quite frankly, ABBA did pretty well for themselves. While The Corner Laughers' "Matilda Effect" doesn't appeal to me overall as an album, the aforementioned tracks The Girl, America and Sophie In The Streets Of Stockholm do. All this being said, I hope you check this album out and decide for yourself. It just might be your cup of tea. I suppose I just enjoy my tea a bit stronger.

Robb Donker

Saturday, September 26, 2015

V1BE's "Dream Out Loud" Building Musical Bridges

V1BE based out of San Diego are Singer / producer Rossy and rapper C.Young and their latest effort Dream Out Loud is a kind of big anthemic feel good track with a Gary Glitter beat and an inspirational tone in that FUN vein except it may swing for a wider audience.

Truth be told, it is not the sort of track that I usually feature, usually my tastes run more raw but there is something totally good natured and positive in V1BE's sound. It is a sound that brings people together and that is a good thing.

Check out V1BE-

Robb Donker

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Seldom Family's Two Track Cassette Casts Some Beautiful Yet Dark Shadows

As Patrick Norris croons with a kind of wounded passion on the track The Dogs, the bass with a plodding cadence almost seems to be following behind, hiding in the shadows as a sad jangling guitar contain the rhythm amidst muted drums that subtlety explode from time to time. The whole torrid affair feels both emotionally sad and conflicted, some times lashing out and sometimes comatose. It saunters along like a slow dance but for one not two. It is as dark as it is sad and as sad as it is passionate. It is part of a two track cassette basically called Cassette #1. As an opening track it feels heavy warning that this band may dwell in those dour places.

The second track, Mine Forever, Mine Alone feels a little lighter (only a little) with sounds that show flourishes of hope in the melodies but it still has an awfully beautifully sad tone.  Both tracks might feel less like songs than emotional soundtracks or soundscapes. Both would lend themselves perfectly to cinema to fortify some emotional scene. This is my first introduction to this talented duo (Patrick Norris: vocals, guitar and Chris Caulder: drums, bass, guitar, lap steel) who are based out of Philadelphia. I look forward to delving deeper into their music.

(review notes: When I first listened to the Dogs, I was feeling an Interpol vibe. I also thought of a darker sadder version of the Buttertones but then the more I listened the emotional edge didn't feel as stylistically "posed" as Paul Banks etc.)

Robb Donker

Heyward Howkins - Forecasting / Midway 7" Single Limited Edition - Elegant Indie

Heyward Howkins has always created music that seems to exist in its own alternate universe. In his universe the stars shine a bit brighter, pop melodies fall elegantly into articulate frames that don't possess any right angles. Instead they sit beautifully askew projecting images not set in any particular time.

His latest musical offering is the Forecasting / Midway single that you can download via his Bandcamp page at a "name your own price" price. It is also available as a one if a kind clear vinly lathe cut 7 inch single but hurry as there are only 5 remaining. Experience Howkin's elegant universe below (a musical interlude in Forecasting made me think of Burt Bacharach and how awesome is that?). Also check out my 2013 interview with the man himself.
Robb Donker

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Bomb... Not A Bomb. Bomb... Not A Bomb. The Strange Case of Ahmed Mohamed and Paranoid Dominos

By now the entire world has heard about Ahmed Mohamed, the 14 year old high school student who brought a clock configured in a Vaultz Pencil box to MacArthur High School in Irving, Texas and all hell broke loose. The facts are sketchy but apparently Ahmed who aspires to be an engineer wanted to share his clock with his teacher.

According to the Dallas Morning News: "He showed it to his engineering teacher first thing Monday morning and didn't get quite the reaction he'd hoped for. Ahmed said, "He was like, "That's really nice. I would advise you not to show any other teachers."

Through the course of the day, the pencil box sat in his school bag until the alarm beeped in the middle of his English class. After the lesson Ahmed brought his contraption up to show his English teacher and she told him that "It looks like a bomb." Ahmed replied, "It doesn't look like a bomb to me." The teacher kept the clock and by sixth period Ahmed was summarily pulled out of class by the school's Principal and a Police Officer. And then, somehow this happened: (see pic)

How and why was Ahmed handcuffed and detained and how in the world did seemingly bright adult professionals throw logic and reason out the door. After the rash of school shootings and the recent Boston bombing you would of thought that all governmental agencies would be educated on what and what doesn't constitute a real concern.

A simple cursory view of Ahmed's clock doesn't look at all like a bomb. In the simplest of terms there is nothing inside the pencil case, no vessel at all to contain any type of explosive material. Nothing to go boom. Typically a terrorist's home-made bomb utilizes pipes to contain explosives (gun powder or match-heads). The pipe itself becomes the shrapnel.

Clearly, Ahmed's clock did not look like a bomb and, in reality, no one thought it looked like a bomb. Think about it. The Engineering Teacher knew it wasn't a bomb but seemed to think other teachers might not be as smart as he or she and mistake it for something sinister. Why did he not at that time bring the clock to the Principal and explain the situation? Now, consider the English teacher, she obviously did not think it was a bomb either or she wouldn't of confiscated it.  Clearly, the police, the principal, no one, absolutely not one person who viewed the clock and thought it looked like a bomb. The school was not evacuated, the bomb squad was not called. Was this the pompous case of each adult thinking that they were smart enough to not know it was a bomb but treating the rest of the staff like idiots?

At any point did one adult think to simply call Ahmed's parents as opposed to the Police?  If no one thought it was a bomb then who thought it was a bomb hoax. The devise was not presented in that way. If, for example, it was left by itself at the end of a hallway with empty pipes attached then, YES, it would look scary and would warrant calling the police. And, if that would of happened, I can assure you that the school would of been evacuated and the bomb squad called. From all reports I have read, it appears that no one even remotely thought that Ahmed was involved in any hoax at all.

So if none of these adult professionals thought it looked like a bomb and no one thought that a hoax was being perpetrated then why did it go down like it did. Maybe, someone or all of them thought Ahmed was creepy. Maybe he fit the prescribed stereotype for a bomber or hoaxer. Quite frankly, to me, he looks like who he is.... an aspiring engineer, a bookworm, a bit of a nerd.

I hope this is not what we have become. I hope this is simply a case of adult professionals over (and under) reacting and that (after much reflection) they will learn from their mistakes. Now, before you even ask the question: Was it wise for Ahmed to bring his contraption to his class?? Maybe, maybe not but remember, he innocently showed it to his Engineering Teacher and it was that teacher who pushed the first paranoid domino over.

Robb Donker

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Lovely Bad Things Engage In 7 SUBJECTS- Bitcoins for Pizza and the Buffest Viking

For a band like The Lovely Bad Things life on the road means being stuck in a van for 9 or 12 hour stretches at a time, existing on little sleep and killing time mining obscure and not so obscure albums on Spotify, each Lovely Bad Thing scoring accordingly. They gave me high praise on some 80's Jermaine Stewart record.

Currently touring in support of Best Coast, I saw them perform at the iconic 40 Watt Club in Athens, Georgia. They churned out fan favorites like Darth Lauren, Honey Comb Cocoon, Fried Eyes, I Just Want You To Go Away and Hear or Anywhere and their latest single Space Waste but also offered up brand new songs like Teenage Grown Ups, Noon Babies and You Don't Hang Around plus their version of Pavement's You Are A Light which absolutely stunned me.

Now I could of spoken to them about their batch of new songs or their seemingly mad crush on Stephen Malkmus  but, instead, chose to throw some random topics at them. Check it out below as well as some vids I shot at the 40 Watt.

Robb Donker

Currently on TOUR with best coast- DATES:

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Official Video for Clone of Clones "Somebody Else" from upcoming Debut Album "Monster Heart"

Clone of Clones based out of Washington D.C. is set to release their debut album "Monster Heart" this October. The title of the album is apropos. They churn out a big emotional sound that for me possesses some of that 80's post punk / new wave vibe. In fact, their track Somebody Else (off the new album) feels comfortable nested in between New Order and Psychedelic Furs. I love the cadence, the rad bass line and the big lush chorus drenched in it's own sad romance. Where are you when we need you Miss Molly Ringwald?
Robb Donker

Monday, September 7, 2015

Henry Sugar - "I Woke Up In A Body" - Dreams the Body Electric

Henry Sugar's evocative track I Woke Up In A Body has streams of sound that sometimes seem to exist on different musical planes wrapped up in their own interplanetary spin (and sometimes cadence) only to intertwine and form a whole. This unity happens when the drums kick in (sounding like they are being played) in a cavernous space. Then the streams of sound unwind, unravel.

The video as directed by Paul Plastic (Paul Rojas) is a trippy affair and suits the track. This song made me think of so many things, kind of made me want to hear a vocal track even if only way back in the distance. It is very cool and I look forward to hearing more from Henry Sugar.
Robb Donker

Bio Notes:
Henry Sugar is a musician/producer from originally from Cincinnati, OH where he got his start DJing which is the gateway drug to producing. Now residing in Los Angeles, Henry Sugar is one half of the synth punk electronic outfit Pelts with Jim Swill (Ex-Realicide) and one half of the production duo HideThenSeek with ClockworkDJ (Most Dope)

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Badlnds Self Titled EP is a Little Indie / Surf Rock Juggernaut

The self titled album by Huntington Beach based band Badlnds is a little juggernaut of an EP. The indie / surf rock genre is a big wave and it can be easy to get kind of swallowed up but Badlnds pulls you in with deceptively catchy musical flourishes and inspired vocals by Thomas Waale. I like the fact that he pushes his voice to it's own edge. Listen to the big sound of Can't Stay Here. There is a big scope, epic feel to it. It's got a beachy fire pit thrashiness and youthful passion.

Badlnds also possess a pop influenced sound like in the first track Distraction. Well crafted with a kind of mass appeal sound it balances precariously between indie, 90's post rock and tween sounds. No, it expertly balances that line. It has verve, passion and a big sweep. For some reason I thought of the Drums a bit during this song. White Noise veers headlong in to sock hop punk sounds. The bass is sultry, drums solid and guitar leads are delicious as hell with a section that dances on dissonance so very well. Waale's vocals shine too. The track Money ties in nicely with White Noise and I love the grit on the vox and stacked guitar sound. Somewhere New has that driven big sound like Can't Stay Here and equally full of passion and guitar hooks.

I mentioned the Drums. While listening other bands popped in my head. Dante Elephante, The Buttertones, Froth, Audacity and the Cosmonauts. I also thought of some old school 80's bands. I have to really give kudos to not only Badlnds approach to their music but the songwriting. In the end, the songs, the writing is what hooks you into the band's story, their musical experience that becomes your emotional experience and these songs make you feel something. The music bolsters the lyrics as it should. It looks like the music is penned by Waale and Noah Kurtz and the lyrics are penned by Waale. Truly good stuff guys.

I implore you to check out Badlnds. Oh, by the way, I gotta share my thoughts on the name of this band. Simply put. I hate it. Just my opinion but when I listen to them, the name of the band doesn't match. On top of that, if you google it- you are lead to other bands named Badlands or all manner of other topics, movies etc with that name. The phrase / name is too common for a band as uncommon as (eh) Badlnds.

Man, I am really loving these songs.
Robb Donker