Friday, January 29, 2016

Robbie Cavanagh's "Which Way to New York" New Single and Official Video is Full of Wanderlust and Beautiful Sadness

Robbie Cavanagh's latest track "Which Way to New York" is instantly captivating. The Manchester (U.K) singer songwriter possesses a tender folk style that erupts with movement and a vocal tone with a deep well of emotion. It feels like wanderlust and a soul that has seen it's share of heartache. As I listened intently to "Which Way to New York" certain artists came to mind like The Milk Carton Kids, Damien Rice, Paul Simon and even Kurt Vile.

The accompanying video (see below) directed by Jessica Fox and shot / edited by Tom Rout adds more emotional punch to the song. The single will be released by Great Beyond Records. Those of you lucky enough to be in Robbie's neck of the woods can see him (with full band) at the Castle Hotel in Manchester on February the 2nd.

Robb Donker

The Castle Hotel, Manchester.
Tuesday 2nd February.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Kirsten Izer - Ramps Up Amps Up The Emotional Weight In Her Latest Track - "UP"

The new bedroom recording by Kirsten Izer entitled "Up" is a bittersweet blend of guitars, synth and beats that is simply perfect in it's emotional execution. Izer not only wrote and produced the track but self filmed, directed and edited the video. I first featured Kirsten back in August (see here) and at that time I heard, felt the core of her talent and expected big things for her. After that she posted some material that in my humble opinion felt a little derivative and in the surfy indie framework. It still showed promise but I got the sense that this young artist was finding her way.

To be clear, in whatever style she expresses herself Izer does put her heart out there but on this latest track "Up" she digs deep. The strength of her writing and her exquisite self awareness and ability to emote vulnerability and youthful confusion and ennui is what makes this track really special. I love everything about it. Kirsten Izer has and will continue to have a myriad of wavelengths to her music but for me she hit the exact right spectrum on this track. When "Up" begins (from a sonic standpoint) I thought of classic Cyndi Lauper. Cherry Glazerr also popped in my mind a couple of times for whatever reason. It may be the abstract feel here and there but it is Izer solely who crafts the emotional weight. To call the song a love song would not be wrong but it certainly is not one in a traditional sense. As Izer paints pictures of tenderly bolstering her love and her love's struggle to find himself the lyrics create imagery in your mind, "we go dancing in our old shoes.... rusty rhinestones held together by some glue"  and  "I forgot my money and you forgot your job but it's ok honey" or "you see the man you want to be.... that's all that matters to me".  There are too many emotional gems like that to share but I would only ruin your listening experience.

Amazing track that I truly hope catches fire. I want to add that the guitar sounds and musical break (brief lead guitar) is awesome and perfectly matches the emotional wave of the song. Kirsten Izer you should be very proud of this one. One more thing Kirsten, if you are reading this: The song is so good that is feels short, I mean I can listen to it on replay a dozen times. While I would not encourage you to lengthen it I would hope that you explore building the musical break up live- I think the emotional crescendo made even bigger would be rad. Love this song.
Robb Donker

Album Review: Pattie Boyds- "Your Better Half" - Trippy Rock Theater from Tel Aviv

There is a particular kind of alternative rock that has the kind of theatricality that can, on one hand, feel kind of operatic and on the other is interestingly poised in a kind of glam meets cabaret sort of way. The elements to the sound are hard to describe or even put your finger on it. For me, it is the way the vocal performance sounds, the tendency for the lyrics to be dramatic and the guitar lines to be super rockish but also elegant in technique. The Beatles pushed that envelope from time to time, as did early Radiohead. You definitely here this element to Muse's sound a lot. Other bands that swim in this artistic dense pool are Wires On Fire, Mini Mansions, and Queens of the Stone Age especially on their "Like Clockwork" album.

Pattie Boyds are 4 very talented guys out of Tel Aviv, Israel who dive deep in this pool. Their current album "Your Better Half" feels like a blend of 90's rock with that semi glam / art rock tone of the aforementioned bands. Very cool stuff. The tracks shift from cagey and progressive rock to these amazing and trippy slower songs as well. I let the entire album play as I chilled out and as an album it feels cool and cohesive. Jesus is a thick staccato drenched rocker that plays like a kind of bitter "fuck off" song. Plastic Toys within the proggy rock has a punk / glam flair. Spider Web twists and turns with heavy guitar lines and the vocal performance kind of winks at you as well. Forward with it's varied time signatures evades description. It feels like a cool three act play really. Lottie kind of stalks in it's rock operatic tone. It is that kind of wide sweep of the hand arena rocker. Only When I'm Blue is lush and sexy.

While the boys can jam there are some very cool slow burners that pull you in instantly. Bugs is super trippy and then explodes in the end. Suburbia is a psychedelic slow waltz. Tuna Cans is a self obsessed slow chase of a song that has a Radiohead-esque feel. The longer the song plays you feel like you are falling further in a fable. Love this track. Cat Woman also meanders in the most lovely and lush way.

The more I listen to Pattie Boyds I get the sense that these guys need to open up for Muse. Now that would be a concert that would take you off to faraway futuristic places and rock your face off.
Robb Donker

Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Rebel Light's - Deep Groove Shiny Pop of "Strangers"

The Rebel Light, a trio from Los Angeles, has been crafting their sound since 2013 all the while infusing their indie rock with a sort of retro 60's pop sheen. Think the Shins with a heavy sunny dose of The Lovin Spoonful or even the Mamas and the Papas. Their latest track "Strangers" is sparkly dreamy pop with a deep groove supporting a lot of "ba ba baaa baaa baaa baaa ba's" but not in a tongue and cheek or self aware retro sort of way. The thing I love about the Rebel Light is that their shiny pop approach is truly earnest and down to earth. This particular track also happens to have an absolutely gorgeous bass line.

The video as directed by Spencer Hord cuts scattered remembrances via vintage styled shots and present day. The tone feels like relationships in different degrees of decay and or growth. The Rebel Light have always taken a DIY approach to their own promotion and all that work has paid off as "Strangers" has been added to the Sirius XM Alt Nation playlist. Cool.
Robb Donker

Friday, January 22, 2016

PRIMAVERA SOUND 2016 in Barcelona Might Just Have The Best Line Up Of All Time- EPIC Does Not Begin To Describe....

Primavera Sound 2016 (June 1 -5) in Barcelona is going to be EPIC. Primavera Sound is a music festival I have only attended in my dreams. For those of you who are fortunate to attend the 5 day event (of all events) you will have a lot of tough decisions to make. Scheduled are Radiohead, LCD Soundsystem, Sigor Ros, PJ Harvey, Tame Impala, The Last Shadow Puppets, Brian Wilson, Beach House, Suede, Beirut, Animal Collective, Pusha T, Action Bronson, Explosions In The Sky, Moderat, John Carpenter, Vince Staples, Drive Like Jehu, Deerhunter, Dinosaur Jr., Richard Hawley, Thee Oh Sees, Titus Andronicus, MudHoney and MORE MORE MORE.

OMG- What a stellar line up and when you dig deeper is just gets better and better.....

Robb Donker

Learn More Here:

Monday, January 18, 2016

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day - Hear and Read His "I Have a Dream Speech" in it's Entirety.

Black American civil rights leader Martin Luther King (1929 - 1968) addresses crowds during the March On Washington at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington DC, where he gave his 'I Have A Dream' speech.

NOTE: Often times when you hear the stirring "I have a Dream" speech you only hear a portion of it. Click the link down below and hear the entire speech as you read the words below.

I Have a Dream
delivered 28 August 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C.

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.
But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.
We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.
The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.

We cannot turn back.

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: "For Whites Only." We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."
I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest -- quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.
Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.
With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day -- this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning:
My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride,
From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.
And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.
Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.
Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.
Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that:
Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.
From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

                Free at last! Free at last!
                Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Bruce Springsteen's Heartfelt Tribute to David Bowie - "Rebel Rebel"

NOTE: I was really moved by Springsteen's brief words that served as a heartfelt tribute to David Bowie and, what the hell (?), his version of "Rebel Rebel" kicked ass. I heard about the video from Stereogum's Twitter feed so let's give credit where credit is due.

Reprinted from Stereogum:

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band kicked off their North American tour in support of the new The Ties That Bind: The River Collection box set last night. After running through the 1980 double album The River in its entirety, the band performed a few other songs, and they opened their encore with a cover of David Bowie’s “Rebel Rebel” in tribute to the late icon. “I wanna take a moment and just note the passing of our good friend David Bowie,” Springsteen said before the performance. “I don’t know if people know it, but he supported our music way, way back in the very very beginning. 1973, he rang me up and I visited him down in Philly while he was making the Young Americans record. And he covered some of my music, “It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City” and “Growin’ Up’,” and he was a big supporter of ours. Particularly when I took the Greyhound bus, that’s how early it was. Anyway, we’re thinking of him.” Watch below.

Father John Misty's - "Holy Sh+t" on Stephen Colbert Proves that Father John has to be Seen to be Heard.

Father John Misty has been making the rounds on late night TV to promote the album, "I Love You Honey Bear"and on Stephen Colbert performed Holy Sh+T. Now Father John is recycling his own melodies a bit but who really cares. His aesthetic of bitter social commentary via the indie folk ballad is captivating and the almost Church chorale meets anthem rock dramatics of Holy Sh+t feels right. I have not had the pleasure of seeing Father John Misty live but he is one of those artists who believe in the performance of his art and every time I see him perform live in the media it is clear that Father John Misty has to be seen to be heard.
Robb Donker

Monday, January 11, 2016

David Bowie - The Most Artful Musical Inspiration of Our Time is Gone- Rest In Peace

This past Saturday I started writing my review of David Bowie's latest release "Blackstar" and in so doing I went back to past albums like "Low" and "Aladdin Sane" (and more) hearing ghosts of those past albums in some of the tracks on "Blackstar". The writing process flowed into Sunday and the trip into the past included my first introduction to Bowie as well. I was an admittedly naive high school student both musically and in almost every other way when my friend Mark introduced me to the early Bowie stuff, to "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars" and to "Hunky Dory".

I remember how weird I thought Bowie was but also how incredibly captivating his songs were and how his difference in the musical landscape and my own emotional landscape was so incredibly interesting. It didn't take long for his influence to influence my creative process, my (attempt at) songwriting and more.

As David Bowie shape shifted I also noticed how his songs opened me up to other philosophies and to historical figures and more. He was one of the few songwriters I knew whose poetry would have references (or be inspired by) Nietzshe or Dadaism. The fact that he was well read, a true performance artist and this kind of facile human sponge who would soak up musical genre's and the hidden mores of the time and turn them into artful songs and performances was (and is) awe inspiring.

On Sunday morning having steeped myself in so much Bowie I mentioned to my wife that if there was one musician I would want to meet and talk with / interview that it would be David Bowie, that he might just be the single most influential musician / artist of our time that is living today. Little did I know that he was in his final hours. I posted the review "Blackstar", an amazing piece of work. I am so glad that David honored us with such artistry before he departed.

I went to bed at around 11:30 Eastern time and had a restless sleep. Waking up I saw an Instagram notice and it is at that time that I heard about David's passing. It came from a friend who was responding to my album review. At first I didn't believe it. I didn't know that Bowie was battling Cancer. I still am having trouble coming to the realization that the man is gone. In referring to the song Girl Loves Me (on Blackstar) I write about how Bowie once again stretches the creative envelope. He sings half the song in Nadsat, the language of "A Clockwork Orange" and half in Polari, the slang of Gay clubs in 70's London and how ONLY he would think of writing a song in this way. That was David Bowie, a totally one of a kind thinker and doer. He will be so incredibly missed.
Robb Donker

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Sunflower Bean- New Killer Album, Official Video for "Wall Watcher" New Cut "Easier Said" - New Tour and All Under 21....whew!

Sunflower Bean in all their glory is something any middle aged (wink) blogger would want to be. Under 21, from Brooklyn and part of a kick ass three piece indie rock outfit that kind of sounds like Ty Segall (and his other band Fuzz), the Breeders, Yuck and Avi Buffalo all rolled up into one. Their sonic presence is so engaging. They churn out sounds that are equally proggy and punk and polished and pretty. It appears that Nick Kivlen (Guitar / vocals) and Jacob Farber (drums) got together during their senior year in High School jamming with another bass player who headed off to college. Enter  Julia Cumming (bass / vocals) and, as they say, the rest is history. They are one of those young acts who seemingly gel so well together and just seem to have their shit together (musically speaking). And while I am sure that they doggedly practice like any band, on stage they make it look so effortless like they have been playing together forever.

Sunflower Bean (on Fat Possum Records) are currently touring, have a brand new album called Human Ceremony (12"Vinyl drops on Feb 5th, 2016 via their Bandcamp) and a cool video for Wall Watcher and dropped another song from their album called Easier Said.
Robb Donker

 Tour Dates (from the Sunflower Bean Bandcamp)

Saturday, January 9, 2016

AP Album Review: Bowie's "Black Star" Full of Sax and Violence Is An Astonishing Glorious Mindf*ck

David Bowie's seven song album "Black Star", simply put, is filled with so much mind blowing artistry. From a purely sonic perspective to say it is lush would be an understatement and at 69 years old, Bowie with long time friend and producer, Tony Visconti still is able to go places both aurally and thematically where no one else goes. Bowie with his art school aesthetic has always created more than just songs. In a way, his compositions feel like artistic impressions of songs as part of performance art. In this way, many of his songs, (at least his best songs) feel like gateways into other worlds and other stories. His best work have a cinematic quality. His best work feels like introductions to larger sonic novels.

The relatively short "Black Star" for the most part rises to this level. Bowie's songs feel like flickering images on a film reel full of alienation, falls into mental distress, World War 1, death, rebirth, violence and sax. Yes, a lot of sax. There is a subset of the population that hate the instrument. If you love saxophone / horn sounds then you must hear this album. If you detest those sounds then you must hear this album as well. Bowie, the multi-instrumentalist who (as you well know) also plays saxophone, has always used this sometimes misunderstood instrument with great effect. He played it early on and most notably in Soul Love from the 1972 "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars" and there is the David Sanborn sax work in Young Americans and the "sax version" of John I'm Only Dancing. And, let's not forget Bowie's 1977 hallucinatory trip-fest "Low" which is that album that his record company didn't want to release (those are often the best kind). Again, there is a lot of sax and horns on "Blackstar" but it is not the cheesy affair that deeply disturbs the sax haters out there.

Speaking of the "Low" album, I did think of that masterwork while listening to "Blackstar". Not only is Tony Visconti's hand felt on both but the ethereal beautifully strange tone, the Brian Eno influence or at least it's ghost is present here as well as so many interesting inspirations. That is the thing with Bowie, as much as he is this iconic artist who makes music that inspires others, he always takes from others too, influenced by sounds and musicians from all over the world. You can feel those world influences the most on the title track which shares the albums name.  The song Blackstar is bathed in Andalusian /Arabic tones propelled by drums that rush and slow down within their own beat become unhinged at times and then tightening back up. I thought of Phil Selway (is that you?). Bowie seems to harmonize with himself in a haunting almost chanting way while, horns, strings, keys and guitars take you to other places. The song deconstructs and shifts into an almost fable-esque sound in that kind of "Neverending Story" kind of way but not for very long. The low horn section and refrain "I'm a Blackstar" has that sweet Bowie funk laden 90's meets 50's sway. There are so much dense musical cues here. The music metamorphosis is so absolutely interesting, shifting your creative / emotional point of reference as the track shifts back to the Andalusian tones.  

Tis A Pity She Was A Whore is just flat out amazing. While it is the B-side from Bowie's "Sue (or in a Season of Crime)" 2014 single, it feels right placed on this album. With horns that spin out of control, disconnected piano and a savage bass line / drum beat, Bowie's ode to the raw violence of Word War 1 takes it's name from English playwright John Ford 's controversial 1633 play Tis Pity She's A Whore. While the music swirls with wild abandon (reminds me a bit of Radiohead's National Anthem) and Bowie coos lines like "She punched me like a dude" the twisted frame work feels so out of control. A beautiful chaotic affair. 

Lazarus is a stand out track and was written for Bowie's off Broadway production "Lazarus" based on Walter Tevis' novel The Man Who Fell To Earth follows the lead character Thomas Gerome Newton 30 years later as played by Dexter's Michael C. Hall. Bowie played the character in the 1976 screen adaptation (a weird movie worth seeing). This track despite it's spartan introduction wraps around your psyche almost instantly. It creeps up on you with dour horns, a zombie walk beat and an absolutely sultry bass line and by the time Bowie's vocals come in drenched in a somber, mesmerizing lilt (framed by cool as fuck guitars) you are fully strapped in for the ride. As the song progresses, it even gets cooler, the drums throw out cagey riffs, the horns swell more, the bass runs perfectly and gets heavier. The musical jam two thirds in is so lush and wonderfully erratic and then the song slows with high bass lines and that evocative guitar (reminded me in the end of the Cure's Forest a bit).

Sue (Or In A Season of Crime) feels like a Bowie spy caper song. Of all the songs on "Black Star" it is the most predictable, at least musically, and while the jammy nature is kind of fun, I must admit that I am not falling / crushing for this track. Maybe it is because, to me, it feels totally out of place with the other tracks even though it is thematically directly tied to Tis A Pity She Was A Whore

Girl Loves Me does feel unbelievably abstract and it is weird to hear Bowie repeatedly drop the F bomb. I thought of 1980 Scary Monsters for some reason. Maybe it is the vocal stance in Bowie's performance or the filtered sound to the backing vocals. It has been reported that Bowie has been listening to a lot of Kendrick Lamar and Girl Loves Me with it's cadence and tone feel like it may have some creative connection. It is weird but so hypnotic. Bowie sings half the song in Nadsat, the language used in "A Clockwork Orange" and half in Polari, the slang used in gay clubs in 70's London. The result is utterly surprising and only, ONLY, something Bowie would think of. This man at 69 can still sound deceptively dangerous. 

With all the abstractions, veiled historical references, death and despair so far on "Blackstar"- Dollar Days sounds like a lovely diversion, at least musically. When the dashes of lyrics soak in there are as much poisoned images as before, "I'm dying to... push their backs against the grain and fool them all again and again... I'm trying to ....We bitches tear our magazines... Those Oligarchs with foaming mouths phone now and then...." and the poetry begs to be deciphered. That might take a while but the song feels like a tortured ballad of sorts about another time.

The last track, I Can't Give Everything Away starts off with a harmonica in the background taken form "A Career In a New Town" from Bowie's 1977 "Low" album. The song swings more than the other tracks as Bowie harmonizes with himself, "I know something is very wrong, the pulse returns the prodigal sons, the black out hearts, the flowered news, with skull designs upon my shoes" there is something in the vocal phrasings that made me think of Aladin Sane a bit and of the track Seven from his 1999 "Hours" album. Awash in a sustained synth, I Can't Give Everything Away is a sad dance but a dance nonetheless with long sustaining guitar leads and a swaying performance by Bowie that is simply beautiful. 

"Blackstar" is an album that is as much about a creative re-birth as it is a creative death or giving up of things past. There is one thing that is without a doubt true. Every track on this album could not of been crafted by anyone other than David Bowie. This sounds obvious, but what I mean to say is that there is no artist that is as distinct and recognizable as Bowie. You can, for example, hear a Black Keys song that you might mistake for another artist or a Beck song that might sound like someone else etc. You will never (EVER) mistake Bowie for another artist. He also still challenges you as a listener and challenges himself as an artist. On "Blackstar", David Bowie, once again leads us down the rabbit hole where we can be something other than human and with beautiful abstractions and emotionally moving dangerous grooves he fucks with our hearts and minds in the best possible way.
"Blackstar" is one of those albums that will only get better over time.
Robb Donker 

Friday, January 8, 2016

DEATH VALLEY DREAMS Mines Emotional Anthems on Self-Titled Debut- Hear "Words Like Fire"

When I listened to the first track off of DEATH VALLEY DREAMS self titled debut EP called Words Like Fire I smiled broadly. There is a sonic emotion that you feel in bands as disparate as Springsteen, Wolf Parade, The Killers, Japandroids and Titus Andronicus that is under the big rock umbrella and strictly American. It is wistful, fueled with the right amount of drama, feels a bit bruised and battered, can feel cynical but in the end has that glimmer of hope, that feeling that there is light at the end of the tunnel if you keep fighting. I was happy to feel that kind of vibe in Words Like Fire. The refrain "All fucked up ... no where to go" amid the crescendos of sound hooked me in.

This artful tendency to go big but churn out emotion continues with the anthemic Darker Years. The vocal performance, to me, has that charge and long sustain of a Brandon Flowers with the grit of a Richard Butler and undertone of Paul Banks. It feels like arena indie rock tempered with almost baroque rock synth sounds. Turn Out Those Eyes has a deep indie rock groove with a almost late 80's Pop Rock tone. Another flavor, another song that feels more intimate and smaller than the previous songs but equally catchy and smile inducing.

The last two songs show other wonderful facets of DEATH VALLEY DREAMS. Take a Look at Yourself starts with trippy controlled feed back like tones and then settles into its groove. It has a wanderlust heart and feels so celebratory in it's post punk stance. Never Meant for Anyone is beautifully poignant, Nick Coyles voice mines deep undertones that feel Bowie-esque before he reaches his higher registers. This is such a fucking tortured indie / psych ballad with forlorn guitar strains and sounds that lift you up in it's sad embrace. It might just be the one song that I don't feel that glimmer of hope I started off this review with and maybe that is why it is so moving.

- Robb Donker

Press notes: Death Valley Dreams- debut EP drops worldwide (digitally) on January 15th.
The 4 piece indie rock / new wave / neo-psychedelic / post punk band from Pennysylvania consists of long time friend and band- mates Nick Coyle (The Drama Club, Stardog Campion) and Jon Nova (The Drama Club, An Albatross) who recently reunited Ryan Dougherty and Matt Rutkoski.

Track Listing:
1.  Words Like Fire
2.  The Darker Years
3.  Turn Out Those Eyes
4.  Take A Look At Yourself
5.  Never Meant For Anyone


Nick Coyle - Vox/Guitar/Keys
Jon Nova - Guitar/Keys/Vox
Ryan Dougherty - Bass/Vox
Matt Rutkoski - Drums/Samples/

Death Valley Dreams Online:


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Pics: Surf Curse, The Lovely Bad Things, Sad Girl and Jurassic Shark @ The Teragram Ballroom in LA on Jan 2nd.

Surf Curse, The Lovely Bad Things, Sad Girl and Jurassic Shark @ The Teragram Ballroom in L.A. on Jan 2nd.

When I posted up the Poster for this show put on by the guys at Penniback Records / Media several weeks ago I knew it was going to be pretty epic. I mean, how could it not be. The beloved Surf Curse from Reno, Nevada felt more like an LA punk band to me. I mean, I had caught their numerous shows at the Smell and their legions of adoring So Cal fans were definitely amped for this show. The OC's Lovely Bad Things have shared bills with Surf Curse at different venues in the past and definitely on the Smell stage as well. The formerly 4 piece is now 5 with a fuller sound blending punk and 90's post rock and they have been sporting new material as of late. Jurassic Shark out of Monrovia (CA) has also shared the Smell stage with The Lovely Bad Things and their style of punk feels both surfy and almost 90's Brit post rock at times. Sad Girl is the most LA band of the bunch and you can feel it in the brash sock hop punk that feels leather clad and a bit dangerous.

I can't think of 4 bands that fit together so well while being distinct. They share similar fan bases. The punk cross pollination is strong and soooo, yes... it pained me that a die hard California boy was going to miss this show as I was over 2000 miles away. From all the accounts and loving reflections on Social Media, this show was beyond stellar, sold out and is a huge feather in Penniback's cap. The Teragram Ballroom which seems to of been not that well known until the recent Queens of the Stone age and Eagles of Death Metal shows sounds like a great venue. Next time I am in LA I will try to catch a show there.

So as a transplant to the East Coast, eh South etc. I was pretty voraciously looking for clips and pics of this show and luckily found a photographer whose artfully shot pics absolutely kill. Her name is Joanna Bautista ( and her passion for capturing moments of pristine indie energy is the real deal. You can see it in the way she frames her shots and captures the interplay, the emotional connection between performers and their audience. Her shots are not static but alive. She has graciously allowed me to post up some pics. Each group of pics will have a link to her site where you can view more of them fully rendered in all their post punk glory.
Robb Donker

Surf Curse- more pics here

The Lovely Bad Things - see more pics here

Sad Girl - see more pics here

Jurassic Shark - see more pics here