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coverpic flag US - California - Full Moon 181 - 06/15/11

The Donkeys
Born with Stripes
Dead Oceans Records

The Donkeys is said to be: '...simply four California beach bums who love to surf, drink cheap beer and jam as the sun sets over the Pacific.' Or, at least their label would love to say so. The quartet - long time friends from San Diego, in Southern California; Timothy DeNardo, Jessie Gulati, Anthony Lukens and Sam Sprague - holds on to and blends inspiration from the legacy of music hailing from California. From the mid-to-late-1950s Bakersfield country music sound to the Beach Boys, The Byrds' Sweetheart of the Rodeo to Pavement's through Slanted and Enchanted. California's reputation is that everything and everyone "out west" is laid-back, comfortable and cool. In fact, these three keywords sums up quite good the music of the Donkeys. They've got this most comfortable, relaxed style, not being too slack.

"Don't Know Who We Are" opens the ball, and it sets the laidback atmosphere right away. But, not without putting the right beat and drive to it. Next one, "I Like The Way You Walk" is even more comfy and cool (Ray Davies style). The title track is quite 1960s sounding, almost like an early The Kinks-meets-Yardbirds song. The Donkeys somehow perform cosmic folk-rock leaning towards Americana, or more straight-forward guitar based indie rock. Songs like "Kaleidoscope", "West Coast Raga" and "East Coast Raga" are the most spiritual ones (with a touch of flower power?). Both ragas are of course instrumentals. Other songs are a bit 'bluesy', like The Doors-bluesy ("New Blue Stockings"). Some of their contemporary colleagues are, say: Band of Horses, Fleet Foxes, Blitzen Trapper, Grand Archives, Fruit Bats. even though the Donkeys' got more cosmic twang in them.

One of the album's key tracks is "Valerie", a 6'47 long song, starting out calm and quiet, before a guitar solo part takes over. Even if the song's not all that special, it's got a nerve in it. The 12 tracks included on the record make a fine team of songs. They don't flip my mind, but they're quite good company as the summer's trying to get started here in Oslo. Born with Stripes was produced by producer/engineer/musician Thom Monahan (ex-Pernice Brothers), who's been working with Pernice Brothers, Vetiver, Devendra Banhart, Beachwood Sparks, and more. He's given the album a warm, crisp and neat sound. Chill in the setting sun with the Donkeys.

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