The Donkeys: Born With Stripes
San Diego's The Donkeys strike a balance of smiling, surfer mysticism and winking, slacker mystique. They reanimate the charming hallmarks of sunshine-rock past without being sepia-toned retro or bubblegum-cloying. There is an innate playfulness and honesty to the music they make. It's a dynamic that has made public champions of keen-eared musicians like John Darnielle (Mountain Goats) and Craig Finn (The Hold Steady). It was Darnielle who claimed The Donkeys were benevolent keepers of what he called "The Antidote" to an unnamed sickness plaguing indie rock. We liked that sentiment a great deal. Born With Stripes is an altogether less twangy affair than the band's 2008 Dead Oceans debut, Living On The Other Side. The nods to Grateful Dead and Buffalo Springfield are better balanced with echoes of other Cali arists, notably Pavement and Beck. The country-rock flairs are often overtaken by powerpop hooks. "Ceiling Tan," feels like a lost weekend in Tijuana with Mutations and Crooked Rain, and may well be the band's mission statement. "I Like The Way You Walk" also cops a 90s? alt-rock lick, but ditches any esoterica for earnest yearnings and sweet nothings. However, as all four Donkeys shout-sing "Love you with all my heart!" to close out the tune, one gets the sense it's less a love song than a lament.