December 1, 2014

The Donkeys, "Ride the Black Wave"

Making the jump from one label to another (from Dead Oceans to the new California-centric Easy Sound) and touring incessantly since the beginning of the summer has given this SoCal quartet a real career boost. Deservedly, because their latest record is packed with all types of beauty and sadness. The Donkeys have always had tinges of ennui and darkness in their music, but the emotional barometer usually ended up pointing to the happier stuff. Play a Donkeys record all the way through and you'd feel more like drinking Coronas in the sun with sand between your toes than pouting over the storm clouds and choppy seas from the screened-in deck. But this latest long-player sees things leaning to darker themes just enough to finally tip the scale. "Ride the Black Wave" is filled with organs, thin guitars, and clear harmonies, all layered under some dire longing. Nothing gets too literal (or too literary), so mostly you're left with great moody tunes. They know it, just look at the LP cover: four guys on the beach in pants and long sleeves, staring at the surf on an overcast California day. But it's not all June Gloom—the songs are just catchy enough to stick around in for a few weeks. Or if you're lucky, months. One of 2014's best so far.