Release Date: Jun 3, 2014
Record label: Easy Sound
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, American Trad Rock
?As well as having one of the best names in modern music, The Donkeys have one of the chillest, coolest sounds you’re likely to find outside of a Jicks record. In facr, you could probably trace their lineage back through the Jicks’ leader Stephen Malkmus and Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy all the way, via Tom Petty and Steve Earle, to The Grateful Dead, The Flying Burrito Brothers and The Byrds (with Parsons and without). As you can probably guess from those million-pound namedrops, their sound is pretty astounding to fans of sun, relaxation and chiming guitars.
California has long been the muse of pop culture, with everyone from the beat poets to the Beach Boys to the Grateful Dead at one point or another staring into the Pacific Ocean and seeing a universe of inspiration. The Donkeys are another in a long line of California dreamers, hailing from San Diego and slowly moving from their twangy alt-country beginnings into a far more sun-dazed take on slightly psychedelic indie rock. Fourth album Ride the Black Wave continues the obsession with the beaches and vibrations of their home state, beginning with the swirling joy of the appropriately titled two-chord wash of "Sunny Daze," a song that channels the breezy harmony vocals of America, CSNY, or even the Eagles and weaves them into a fuzzy daydream the song's narrator is having about moving to France or maybe getting a job as a bus driver.
The Donkeys’ fourth and latest album, Ride the Black Wave, doesn’t pick up where its predecessors left off so much as twist the same set of influences into something new. It draws a clear line to the group’s eponymous debut and sophomore record Living on the Other Side in its devotion to all things laid-back classic rock, country rock, and outlier-folk. Meanwhile, it finds in its haze a moody counterpart to the modern clarity the band displayed on the last record, Born with Stripes.
The musical traditions the Donkeys draw from are pure California, the good vibrations of sunny pop, beach rock, breezy alt-country and psychedelic jams. So then it’s an intriguing curveball to find an identity struggle at the center of the first song on the band’s new Ride the Black Wave. The track opens with a wistfully eyed escape, one that may promise to fill a void: “My heart keeps wonderin’ / wonderin’ who I am / Should I stay in California / should I move to France.