I’m no zoologist, but a Donkey Born with Stripes would imply zebra parentage, making these San Diegans zedonks. If we instead delineate their genus from the sounds they make, rather than from laboured puns, the band are proud Buffalo SpringBecks: opener Don’t Know Who We Are is a pinched harmonic away from For What It’s Worth, while early Beck is echoed on multiple occasions by the album’s loafing demeanour.But maybe the first classification is suggestive after all; apparently, the stripy offspring of zebra-donkey combos are frequently smaller than either of the contributing breeds, and there’s likewise something stunted about The Donkeys’ musical appropriations. There are nice sounds to explore here, but the exploration won’t take long, and the prominent prints of others frequently distract. Nonetheless, it exhibits more character than the efficiently-anonymous hippie-country of Living on the Other Side, suggesting slowly but surely, The Donkeys are finding their feet.
Out 25th April
Acid House Kings have been indie-pop darlings for nearly two decades now, and by this stage could likely knock out gorgeous, heart-on-sleeve melodies in their sleep. Their fifth album feels so by-the-numbers that you might suspect it was indeed dispatched whilst napping, but the shiny exterior belies five long years spent tinkering in the studio.
Unfortunately, at some point, it seems the refinement changed from perfectionism to detrimental obsession. Music Sounds Better with You is best experienced in single-song doses, but for all its superficial highs this is likely to leave listeners craving something scuffed and off-the-cuff; something that doesn’t just sing about beating hearts but audibly has one at its core.
If the studio time had been spent experimenting with their blueprint or crafting an elaborate triple album, the lengthy gestation might be understandable. But at barely half an hour of same-old, same-old, it’s both too much and not nearly enough.
When Portland’s Al James rolls through town, he doesn’t exactly ignite the tarmac. This misspelt Dolorean isn’t going back to the future, just back – this is heartfelt alt-country at its most traditional, with few fresh innovations. But lengthy careers have been built on less, and James and co. are testament to the longevity a simple setup and a plaintive disposition can provide.
The harmonies recall sweet songbirds like The Jayhawks, while tracks like Country Clutter possess an irresistibly laidback vibe, but this is exceptionally easy listening, which proves a weakness as well as a strength. The appeal will either be immediate on first listen, or not there at all, depending on your existing affinity for the sub-genre they are comfortably nestled in. This is easy to listen to in the way wet sand is easy to sink into, and the imprint it leaves is just as temporary.