Saturday, February 27, 2016

First Listen: Nightgown - "Pretty (fucked up)" - Is Just That -- Artful Punk Prose Out Of L.A.


"Pretty (fucked up)" by Nightgown is instantly incredibly captivating. The huge drum sound signaled in my brain that some heavy post rock thing was about to happen with a bottom less pit bass line and rock guitars but then that didn't happen. Instead the guitar sound and rhythm feels more like the indie vagabond punk of The Babies but much dirtier. The surprise is refreshing. I am loving this.

Then another twist. While the aforementioned The Babies or more specifically, Kevin Morby's lyrical aesthetic leans heavy toward the wanderlust side of things, Nightgown and more specifically, Laurel Noone, lyrically leans more toward the lusty side of things (at least on this track). And when I say lust, not in a sexual sort of way but a lust for retribution, for perverse satisfaction and maybe for self destructive desires.

When Laurel starts singing (in double) about finding a dead animal in a yard that was killed by a dog and then "they" proceed to take a stick and poke it's eyes out it is disturbing. The double singing conjures up two misanthropic if not psychotic twins as the totally celebratory chorus "We fucked it up.... We fucked it up" twists in the wind. I also thought of the "we" being the two voices in her head. The song goes on as Laurel sings about school girl bullies when she was 10, exacting revenge on one of them and fucking up a relationship too. Embedded in all of this is an absolutely killer lead guitar that kind of mirrors the chorus melody and strays off into other very cool sounds. Near the end of the song Laurel sings that "this could of been a pretty song" and while this track has all the hallmarks of a anti-social punk anthem, it is pretty in it's own right too.

As an introduction to Nightgown, "Pretty (fucked up)"is a kind of mind bending stunning little song. Like any kind of art that seeks to challenge (and it does that) it is very smart in how it pulls of it's own passion play. The stories contained in the song while stewing in their own morale vacuum of reacting the wrong way at every turn still makes you feel gleeful as the chorus wraps around you. It's like you want to partake in the revenge Kool-aid or, at least, the idea of it. Even when you fuck something up, a relationship, a potential job, whatever.... there is a high associated with it. It is about lack of control or the the decision to lose control, to abandon control and give into the chaos that can feel so freeing. Like any kind of fiction, whether it be literature or cinema or a punk song it can be healthy to (within that realm) fuck things up and Nightgown does just that on this track. Kudos to Laurel for her vocal performance that feels like a truly inspired acting role. She throws herself into the fray so well.

Now as this is my first listen to Nightgown, my sense is that this artful disturbia they present is just that and in this way this song reminds me of The Pixies. The poetry meets literature meets social commentary stuffed into songs that Black Francis so creatively mined became his own kind of punk prose. I look forward to finding out if this is the case with Laurel and Nightgown and am excited to hear more from this Los Angeles band.

I truly love this song.
Robb Donker

Friday, February 26, 2016

Friday in Pomona Cali- Lovely Bad Things, Naive Thieve and Criminal Hygiene at the Flyway at the Fox

You still have time to run over to see The Lovely Bad Things, Naive Thieves and Criminal Hygiene at Flyway at the Fox in Pomona, Cali. Show starts at 8 PM!!  $10 at the Door.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Noam Weinstein's Deeply Personal "On Waves" Is The Stuff Life Is Made Of

The upcoming album by Noam Weinstein entitled "On Waves" is so utterly personal that at times while listening you can feel like an interloper in the corner of room where life's hardest and most joyous of times are played out right in front of you. I avoided any press notes before diving in and the intimacy on some of the tracks dealing with the death of Weinstein's mother and the birth of his son and the myriad of life's emotions in between are tear inducing.

This is not a maudlin record though, and in fact, there is an almost kind of bi-polar thing happening here. Tracks like Last Reincarnation, a clever, whimsical spiritual twist of a song, Intelligent Design with is horns as back up singers, Future Therapy Fund with it's weirdly fun kind of "Cotton Club-esque" stalking tone, the funky squared Over and Hey Girl, an angular lush and avante garde sock hop make out love song are a dazzling blend of blues rock, rhythm and blues and honky tonk / do wop flavors. The tone of these songs are celebratory and mix smart social commentary with comical (dark and light) metaphors and a lot of dynamic musicality.

And then, on the other hand,  there are those songs that make you think about the heavy stuff in the universe. The heart crushing In The Time We Have with it's almost country meets 50's rock shuffle is as beautiful as a wedding slow dance. The guitars are so pristine and the feeling is as pure as the light we hope we all see during our last moments on earth. The stellar lead guitar of If I Had Feelings feels like it is bathed in shards of light from a disco ball. This unrequited love song is sweet. He Will Be is a chill and deeply sweet track as Weinstein ruminates on the loving potential of his newborn son and Mother is the mother of all love songs. This tribute to the passing of one special mother (and maybe all mothers) is about family and the consistency of maternal love.

Some of the other memorable tracks (like all good songs) are clearly open to interpretation but the universality of life's trials are a keystone to Weinstein's writing style. His ability to share those intimate details that serve as touchstones and tough questions all wrapped up in bundles of wit and poetry make you think hard in between embracing the engaging melodies. The Nightmare of Life Is A Dream with it's sense of ambient sounds feels like a dream itself. Some of the barbed lyrics ("God is doing a shitty job") are things most of us have likely uttered and in the end this track plays off like a dark, dark joke but with meaning.... aww, such is life.

While listening to "On Waves", musically, tonally and aesthetically I thought of artists like Jeff Tweety, Leon Russell, Harry Nilsson and John Lennon. Like these artists, Noam Weinstein crafts artful songs with clever word play and pop prose intact but he never strays far from the deeply tender side of things. He obviously feels things in life deeply and takes a thoughtful approach to his music. The last track It Comes In Waves is a stunner, an absolute stunner. As you listen to the arc of the lyrics and the lovely orchestration it feels like a compendium of emotions from loss to love to joy to hope. It is the highs and lows, the euphoria and really bittersweet. The stuff of  life and death and like life it ends way too soon.
Robb Donker

NOAM WEINSTEIN releases new album
ON WAVES on Leap Day (February 29, 2016)
Itunes Link: Here

NYC Record Release show:
February 26, 2016
9:30 p.m.
NOAM WEINSTEIN On Waves CD Release Show
Noam (guitar, vocals) accompanied by Tyler Wood (piano)
Rockwood Stage 3
196 Allen Street 
NYC 10002

21 & over (Photo ID Required)
One drink minimum

Saturday, February 20, 2016

APPLE Versus The FBI: Why Apple is right. You Don't Give a Loaded Gun To A Child.


Unless you have been living under the proverbial rock, you know that the FBI is in a heated battle with Apple. In an effort to gleam data from a dead terrorist's cell phone, the FBI is asking the tech giant to create a work around to their own security system. On the Iphone if you punch in the wrong security password over 10 times the content on the phone will be erased. The FBI wants apple to provide new code to shut down that security feature so they can break into the phone by so called "brute force" software that in essence generates an infinite number of combinations until the correct password is found.

Just days ago, Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym declared that Apple must create this type of software that would bypass the security features on the specific Iphone used by that dead terrorist, Syed Rizwan Farook enabling the FBI to retrieve data like pictures, messages etc. This is the thing, Apple does not want to comply. CEO Timothy Cook says that creating this bypass software would create a dangerous precedent and could undermine the security of it's devices. Cook's stated concern is that while the FBI says this bypass software will only be used on this one phone, the software itself, the keys to their privacy kingdom could be potentially used in other cases or this new software could itself be hacked / stolen and thus make all Iphones porous to all sorts of attacks. In any event, this battle is going to court.

There are so many levels to this issue. Can and should our Government be able to legally force a company, any company to hand over any kind of proprietary information or products under the guise of our nations security needs?  Now I am not the smartest tool in the shed so rather than recite all the arguments made by learned legal experts let's look at this simply. Let's take a common sense approach.

Simply put, Apple should not in any terms succumb to the government's pressure and hand over bypass software to the FBI or any other government agency for the simple fact that government agencies when compared to the private sector are lame. Anyone who has visited the DMV already knows this fact to be true. Now keep in mind that the government who is asking for this bypass software is that same government who did not properly vet the visa application of Tashfeen Makil, the "other" shooter in the San Bernardino California rampage. House Judiciary Committee Chariman Bob Goodlatte found that there was insufficient evidence to prove that Malik and U.S. Citizen Farook actually met in person which is a primary requirement for a foreign national seeking a K-1 fiancee visa. Apparently, foreign nationals of all sorts are being rubber stamped in and / or over staying their legal visas with no repercussions.

Apple contends that if they supply this software to the government someone else might be able to access it. The FBI says it is safe in the government's hand. Now keep in mind that this is the same government that admitted last year that there was a huge government security breach that exposed 21.5 million Americans to potential access to their social security numbers and even some fingerprint data. The hackers stole "sensitive material" including addresses, health information and more. This breach was apart from an earlier hack that included 4.2 federal employees. Both attacks emanated from China. These are known hacks. It is chilling to think what hackers are doing that we don't even know about.

Another thing that bothers me about the government legally forcing Apple to give up proprietary software or even create proprietary software is the reason for it. By this I mean, is there truly enough important, life saving information to be gleamed from this particular cell phone in question? Again, let's think of this from a common sense approach. From all that has been reported and while Isis declared Farook and Malik as martyrs, there seems to be no evidence that suggest that the San Bernardino shooters were part of a larger terrorist cell or had any logistic support or support of any kind from Isis. Now if this is the case, what information is the FBI thinking they will find? For a government agency to order a private company to give up potentially sensitive proprietary information up then the payoff better be great. It seems it is not or is the government merely using this tragedy to make a precedent to force Apple to comply again and again in the future? Is the government again holding up the terrorist trump card to make us give up our rights?

In the final analysis it would be utterly INSANE for Apple to create this bypass software and hand it to the FBI. Doing so would be like giving a gaggle of A.D.D rattled 12 year old kids off their meds and hopped up on copious amounts of Mountain Dew loaded guns and keys to your classic Ford Fairlane. The government has not exhibited the resolve, focus or expertise to handle such sensitive and potentially dangerous software. It is also mind blowing to think that their are not security experts within the government who could find a work around themselves. I guess I have been watching too much TV.

Now, if Apple were allowed to take possession of the phone in question they could, after all, retrieve all the data and give that data to the FBI. This would be a nice compromise without the heavy thumb of the government on their back. That would be a nice work around but I doubt this will happen. It makes too much common sense.
Robb Donker

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Lady Gaga Grammys "Bowie Tribute" was Just Plain Horrible and Sad.

As a person who admittedly likes to wade into energetic and artistic indie waters I usually don't watch the Grammys. Quite frankly the whole rarefied atmosphere can make me sick to my stomach and usually all that stuff has little to do with the kind of music that turns me on or music at all. It has to do with networking and being seen and showing off that fancy outfit but not really music. I care not to waste my time in this world and if there is a stellar performance I figure I can always view it on You Tube.

I had a tough day at work but a productive one and looked forward to heading home when good ole Kyle had to peak my interest, "Hey man, did you see Lady Gaga do that tribute to Bowie (knowing I am a huge Bowie fan)?? It was pretty rad man."  "Naaaa" I replied, "I don't really care for the Grammys. I mean who can respect an organization that in 1992 awarded Eric Clapton "Best Rock Song" for an acoustic version of "Layla" over Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit." I have this startling Grammy faux-pas at the ready because it stops people in their tracks scratching their heads anytime the Grammys is brought up and while it did have that effect on Kyle, the man did plant this seed and so while eating dinner I found Lady Gaga's performance on You Tube and summarily lost my appetite.

Lady Gaga's tribute to David Bowie is just horrible, just fucking horrible. Somehow she managed to reduce a portion of this amazing man's art into some tacky vapid Las Vegas act. Bowie transformed himself and us by feeling whichever song he was performing but Gaga doesn't look like she is feeling anything. She is too busy hamming it up. Not only that, her vocal performance itself lacks anything that is remotely engaging. After watching it, I just felt bad and sad. Not only was it horrible it was framed as a marketing tool for Intel and that just twisted the knife. And don't try to convince me that this performance was not bad because Nile Rodgers participated in it because it was bad, real bad.

Oh well, the Grammys is always consistent at disappointing me.
Robb Donker

Sunday, February 14, 2016

The Fright's New Album "You Are Going To Hate This" Produced by Fidlar's Zac Carper Get's Weird

The Frights new album "You Are Going To Hate This" produced by Fidlar's Zac Carper runs deceptively deep the longer you listen to it. On one hand there are a few songs that you would expect from this three piece punk pop band from San Diego (if you have had the chance to see them live) that fall into that do wop / surf punk (kinda) lane and, in fact, one song in particular entitled "Kids" made me think of Fidlar instantly. The other tracks are All I Need and You or Me and while they are ok in their own right it is the other songs (that veer into a more abstract art pop sound) that provide all the fireworks.

Take Afraid of the Dark with it playful production and rapid bass lines. Mikey Carnevale's vocal performance is wide eyed and pulls you in. It has a carnival at night quality. Tungs is like funky tropical punk with emo tenancies. Haunted starts off slow but hang with it. It has such a weird aesthetic and full of veiled imagery. During the more detached sounds, I thought a bit of the Buttertones in a cavernous horror movie. It vacillates between that sound and a David Lynch dream sequence. Growing Up is cool pop pushed through a kind of art punk filter, It engages but I wanted it to go to some unexpected place but it did not. The title track You Are Going To Hate This chaotic punk sounds that touch the fringes of early Pangea terrain and I like that.

The most "We're not in Kansas anymore" track is Puppy Knuckles. With it's weird seemingly ramping down cadence and heavy synth sound it gets real lush and then real spartan with weird touches. I love the production and Carnevale's vocal presentation feels somewhere between The Killers' Brandon Flowers and Twenty One Pilot's Tyler Joseph, in fact I felt that Joseph tone on the last track Of Age as well which might be the sleeper on this album. Clearly the most pop smart track on "You Are Going To Hate This"- Of Age has some truly beautiful production that is more befitting of Kishi Bashi than a scrappy punk pop band from San Diego.

In the end, if I had my druthers and in my humble opinion, The Frights' "You Are Going To Hate This" would feel like a more cohesive album if you left out the 3 tracks I mentioned at the beginning of this review. That being said, Zac Carper (as producer) and the boys Mikey Carnevale (guitar /vox), Richard Dotson (bass) and Marc Finn (drums) have artfully crafted a very cool piece of work that dares to be different.

Robb Donker

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Glass Spells- "Rebellion" Is Angular, Leather Slick and Wearing Tight Peg Legged Pants.

I remember back in 2012 when Anthony and Suz as the crux of Therapist (AZ) used to blow my mind with a potent blend of dance punk birthed from only a bed of hyper bass and drums (provided by Luis) for Suz's vocal cries. The sound was unique and felt dangerously alive. At a certain point they became Glass Spells (LA) and filled their sound out more with Synths (Michael) and a new drummer (Mallory). In one post I referred to their sound as electronic punk and hybrid disco that feels like a dream from the future. I think that description still fits. Their latest track, Rebellion is such a fun trip. Again there is something that feels retro and futuristic / spacey at the same time. The aesthetic feels as fresh as late 70's proto art punk was at that amazingly flourishing time. The synth lines, thumping bass and fervent drums push the right buttons as Suz's punk prosey vocal performance is gritty but crazy fun as well. Everything feels angular, leather slick and wearing tight peg legged pants. Awesome.
Robb Donker

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Winter - "All The Things You Do" (Official Video) is to die for.

I shot Winter performing in Pomona, California back in 2014 and while I watched Samira describe the impetus for the song "Alligator" it was immediately clear that she was one of those rays of sunlight, of positive vibes in the world. You know, there are rays of light and rays of darkness and a million gradations in between. Samira has a presence that feels down to earth and positive. She puts her heartfelt emotions and experiences into her music. At that time she had only been living in Los Angeles for (I believe) a little over a year. She moved from Boston to LA (instead of New York) in 2013 and "Alligator" is about that move, about friendships, love and the journey that is life.

Rays of light tend to attract and Winter soon became part of the LA scene and released their first full length "Supreme Blue Dream" on Lolipop Records early last year. Winter's "All The Things You Do" released late last year (digitally via Burger Records) is a dreamy shoegazey slow dance of a song with a chorus that peppers goose bumps on your skin. If the evocative verses that have a tinge of minor chord Demarconess (yes that is an adjective I just made up) is the beach at sunset slow dance then the big lush chorus is the midnight kiss. The atmosphere of this track is so beautiful and the sounds are so well rendered. Just a bit past the 2 and a half minute mark there is a little musical break and the bass lines are to die for. Actually everything single second of "All the Things You Do" is to die for. Great song. Check out the video on Burger TV below.
Robb Donker

Winter is:
Samira Winter (guitar, vocals) 
Matt Hogan (guitar) 
David Yorr (bass)
Garren Orr (drums)

Monday, February 1, 2016

East L.A.'s The Pocket Rockets - New Single "The End" Feels Like Only The Beginning

The Pocket Rockets out of East L.A. just dropped their latest single "The End" off their upcoming album tentatively scheduled for a May /June release date. The song was produced and recorded by Jon Siebels and mastered by Brian Lucey (The Black Keys and Arctic Monkeys).

"The End" explodes from the very beginning with a heavy bass / drum groove as Ralph Blanco's vocals evoke a cool edge. The vocal performance and musical breaks feel like a kind of The Doors meets the Drums meets early Strokes and is that a punkified homage to "Black Magic Woman"???. The energy and dynamics of this track kill and beg for repeated listens. In the end, "The End" feels like only the beginning.  I am so looking forward to hearing the new album.

The Pocket Rockets are:
Ralph Blanco - Bass Guitar & Vocals
Lyndon Miller - Guitar
Christepher Magallon - Drumset & Percussion
Robb Donker