Tag Archives: music review

Slonk So Hard

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Slonk Donkerson, Mercury Lounge, New York, NY  2.26.16 Photo by Jeff Yerger

I have no idea what the name Slonk Donkerson means. It could be a sandwich, a disease, or the name of an alien from a galaxy far away. Frankly, I don’t care what it means, but it feels like it’s been around forever.

Slonk Donkerson, a Brooklyn-based band of long time friends Dylan Vandenhoeck (bass/lead vocals), Zack O’Brien (formerly drums, now guitar/backup vocals), and Parker W. Silzer IV (guitar/vocals), absolutely rocked the Mercury Lounge in New York City Friday, February 26. They’re everything you could possibly want in a band: poise, attitude, rawness, and slick rock and roll that pays homage to The Replacements, Husker Du, and even the bands those groups stood against like Van Halen, 80’s Genesis, and Rush. Plus, Vandenhoeck is a mullet-clad frontman who plays a fretless, five-string bass…  I mean, come on, how cool is that?

On paper, this concept sounds so insincere and perhaps a little cheesy, but man, Slonk Donkerson is the exact opposite. It’s not just enough to sound like bits and pieces of these bands, you have to evoke the feeling and energy that comes along with the sound. Slonk brought that kind of musical excitement to the Mercury Lounge Friday. It was a kind of excitement that I haven’t felt since I saw The Replacements for the first time at Forrest Hills in 2014. Plus, they’re crowd-pleasers. I have the utmost respect for a band that’s not too proud to play a song or two that the crowd wants the hear. I’m not even sure “Watching Every Channel at Once” and “Build Something / Break Even” (my two immediate favorites) were on the setlist, but when the crowd shouted out for them, they played them.

Their new album, The Lunar Martini Motorbike Club and Their Respective Destinies is…well… weirdly named but wildly fun. Slonk has a unique talent for combining a million different sounds and different ideas into one 3:00 song. While it’s evoking familiar sounds, Slonk Donkerson is so different than anything coming out of Brooklyn. It’s refreshing. I highly recommend seeing this band at one of their many shows in the New York City area (here’s hoping they travel down to Philly where I am now). They’re a great band with a bright future and a killer live show. It’s as Slonk as that!

Go listen to their album on Soundcloud or better yet, buy it on iTunes.

 

The (Frustrating) Life of Pablo

“Name one genius that ain’t crazy.”

It’s finally happened. Kanye West has actually gone insane. His mind has always been in a perpetual state of motion, constantly redirecting his attention from music to art to fashion to Twitter and to God-knows what else. On his latest The Life of Pablo, Kanye’s ego has finally the better of him. The rollout for TLOP was an absolute shit show of empty promises and false starts (it still is). The album itself is an absolute mess. I’m not even confident it’s finished. In fact, I hope it really isn’t finished. If TLOP actually turns out to be an experiment on how the music media will seemingly eat up anything he shits out on both Tidal and Twitter, then I will certainly tip my “Yeezus” cap to him. Until then, I cannot sit here and defend this record.

Not that he needs me to. For all the shit Kanye West gets for is actions outside the studio (some of it deserved, most of it not), people tend to forget that he is a truly gifted musician. Kanye West is a man with a unique gift of musical knowledge and a golden touch for sampling and producing. He is a smart person brimming with ideas and enthusiasm, who can be as articulate as a professor when he wants to be. That’s why it’s frustrating that Kanye West would release such a deliberately half-hassed product, but I like to think he knows what he’s doing. It’s like Kanye knows that even if he farts in a microphone, critics will love it anyway. After listening to some of these lyrics, he did exactly that. He spewed a lot of that sort of crap on Yeezus, but at least on that record, the music had purpose and razor-sharp focus. Every word he spoke came across like an exorcising of demons, and we all bought it. On TLOP, the lyrics are cringe-worthy just for the sake of being cringe-worthy, and now I find myself wondering if everything that was said on Yeezus was just as cheap and insincere. As attention-getters, the X-rated lyrics work, but in the end, many of the songs suffer for the ignorance.

But it’s not just the lyrics that are way sub-par. The music, 90% of it not even produced by West himself, is consistently inconsistent and relentlessly frustrating. You keep waiting for songs like “FML” and “Highlights”, which have SO much potential, to become fully realized. Instead, they feel tossed aside from a man bored with his own creation.

Take the track “30 Hours” for example. Initially, it’s one of the best songs on the album, as Kanye raps like he’s still wearing pink polos over a beat that would fit right in on The College Dropout. It’s hard-hitting, direct, and damn good. That is, until it isn’t. Like a NJ Transit train headed to Penn Station, Kanye inexplicably stops. He just gives up on the song, turning a potential show-stopper into a glorified demo. Instead of finishing the song out, he blabbers on about bonus tracks, mumbles a barely conceived verse idea, and even answers his damn cell phone. He just leaves all of that in there! Critics will tell you this is art – the sound of a scatterbrained man at work – but I’m here to tell you this is bullshit. Any track that features Andre 3000 but doesn’t actually have Andre 3000 rapping (or doing anything, really) on the song is bullshit. The two rappers had a chance at a banger, but instead settled for an under-cooked piece of meat. It’s the story of this album, really. Kanye settles; he never attacks. And he wants Tidal users to pay $20 for this? Come on, man. Would you buy a car with no wheels for $50,000?

Now, that’s not to say that TLOP doesn’t have its moments of clarity. Like I said, it’s easy to forget that Kanye West is a gifted producer. The skeletal “Ultralight Beam” delivers on Kanye’s Twitter promise of this album being a “gospel album.” Ever the curator, Kanye lets the young Chance the Rapper steal the spotlight with the most captivating verse on a Kanye West album since Nicki Minaj’s ferocious debut on “Monsters”. The first true taste of TLOP back in January, “Real Friends,” is another understated but beautiful gem, with a moody, haunting piano setting the scene for Kanye to once again play the bad friend and even worse family member. It’s one of those songs that reminds you why you root for Kanye in the first place. The best song on TLOP by far is “No More Parties in LA,” and it’s one of the best songs of the year so far. It’s a perfect example of what makes Kanye West so great, and also what makes this album so frustration because of how it could’ve been so much more. Kanye, along with Kendrick Lamar(!), just let loose on this track. The three samples on here, including Junie Morrison’s “Suzie Thundertussy,” have no right being on the same track together, yet it sounds so seamless and captivating. It’s the most fully realized this album gets, and I can guarantee you’re going to be hearing a lot more of it blaring out of car stereos this summer.

I want to sit down with Kanye West. I want to tell him that he’s capable of so much more. We all know this, and I think he knows it too. So, why is he settling for this? I want to know why he isn’t pushing himself to be better, like all the greats. Or maybe he’s pushing to hard… no one man should have all that power, right? I’m not looking for the old Kanye; I’m just looking for a sign that the man is still willing to continue to push himself musically, and not merely settle. Give me a chance to interview him, to buy him a beer he desperately seems to need. I want to ask him all these things and more. He’d probably tell me to fuck off, and if he did, I’d be happy because at least that would mean the fire isn’t out.

Who the F is Bleeding Rainbow?

by Jeff Yerger

There are some things I just don’t understand, like why is the sky blue, how come 7-Elevens have locks on their doors, who are all you people gabbing to on your cell phones at 7 in the morning on my way to work, and why in God’s name is Bleeding Rainbow not more popular than they are?

Yeah, I know, there are plenty of bands out there that are pretty talented  but don’t seem to gather enough ears to hear them, so they get labeled as “the greatest band you’re not listening to,” or something like that. But seriously people, why are we sleeping on Bleeding Rainbow? Is it because they’re from Philadelphia? I mean, I know they have some questionable sports teams (I’m looking at you, Flyers), but Philly’s not all that bad. Plus, Bleeding Rainbow abhors sports (except for basketball, but I mean, come on, does anybody really care about the NBA?), so you can breathe, New Yorkers.

Those two guys from Nirvana… what are their names again?… Kris Novoselic and, uh, Dave F’n Grohl LOVE Bleeding Rainbow! Not enough for ya? Well, how about just listening to the band’s newest album Interrupt, their second release in a little over a year. It’s a damn good record, and one of the most enjoyable of 2014.

Bleeding Rainbow’s brand of straightforward 90s indie rock is loud and grinding but never dull. While 2013’s Yeah Right was more about the band exploring the nuances of their sound a bit, Interrupt doesn’t fuck around, attacking you right from the get-go with “Time and Place.” It makes sense that Grohl and Novoselic dig Bleeding Rainbows, because songs like “Tell Me,” “Out of Line,” and “Images” borrow grungy choruses and guitar tones right from Nirvana’s playbook. The band also owes a lot to My Bloody Valentine (see: “Phrase”), but they know that and it’s totally cool; there is no shame whatsoever.

So, why haven’t more people listened to Bleeding Rainbow yet? I can’t seem to figure it out. Is it because everybody’s too busy crying to that other Philadephia band’s new record? One thing I DO know is that Bleeding Rainbow is truly a hidden gem in the Philly underground, but they deserve (and sound) more than that. I’m thinking Interrupt will finally get the people’s attention, because it should. If not, at least they’ll be our little secret.

The Real St. Vincent

St. Vincent

That stare. It’s a stare of pure confidence. It’s otherworldly, yet right in the moment. No longer is she staring aimlessly into the distance. No longer is she a quirky juxtaposition of a cute girl who plays a mean guitar that belies her image. Annie Clark, a.k.a. St. Vincent, sits regally on the cover of her excellent self-titled fourth album with a poised stature and a sharp stare that is as demanding and as fierce as the music inside.

This album is St. Vincent’s Heisenberg to Annie Clark’s Walter White. It is the realization of everything St. Vincent has been capable of and more. This album is Clark’s strongest of her career thus far. This time around, Clark has finally been able to organize and sharpen her ideas and eccentricities. The album marks a transformation of sorts, visually and musically, away from Annie Clark and into St. Vincent.

People will try to tell you they hear a Talking Heads influence on each song, but I don’t buy it. I’m not sure anybody would make this connection if Clark didn’t work with David Byrne in 2012. If anything, I hear more Peter Gabriel than Byrne, especially in the vocals and synth-horns of “Digital Witnesses.” Like Gabriel, Clark finds a way to mold art-pop to her liking, creating the perfect blend of artistic experimentation and pop sensibility. Up until now, Clark has always been an artist whose mind seems to move at 1,000 miles per hour, but on St. Vincent, she displays great poise and focus, knowing sometimes less is more.

On songs like “Rattlesnake,” “Bring Me Your Loves,” and “Birth in Reverse,” Clark uses her guitar like an electric weapon, with each outburst like a lightning bolt with no direction. Even on “Regret,” which is about as close to Led Zeppelin as a St. Vincent song can get, Clark still manages to startle you with a zapping layered-guitar riff. The best songs on St. Vincent, however, aren’t necessarily embodied by prog-rock freak outs. The slower jams on here resonate louder and are just as powerful as anything from a fuzz pedal. “Prince Johnny” provides a haunting piece of balladry, and Clark’s vocal melody on it is absolutely beautiful. On “I Prefer Your Love,” Clark treats love like a religion. I really like how this song takes its time, making you feel every bit of emotion in each word from Clark. Again, this is a testament to the easy confidence from Clark that surrounds this album.

Annie Clark recently appeared on The Colbert Report, and in an interview, Stephen Colbert jokingly asked her, “You’re something of an art rocker — can I enjoy your music or do I have to get it?” No need to dig deep, Stephen. This fittingly self-titled album is St. Vincent in her true form, out in the open with nothing to hide.

Listen: St. Vincent – “Prince Johnny”