Although the Donkeys' sophomore release, Living on the Other Side, came out in the summer, the album's a perfect cure for the mid-winter blues. This four-piece from San Diego plays out four-part harmonies accompanied by jangly and twangy guitar paired with rosy keys to offer up tightly constructed pop-country tunes.
They take their cues from Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young--most heavily noticed on "Dolphin Center," a melancholy alt-country ballad with a harmonious chorus; the Grateful Dead--heard on "Excelsior Lady," a swaying uptempo jam filled out by fuzzy organ; and Wilco--"Dreamin'" seems almost plucked out of Being There with its strummy acoustic guitar if it weren't for the sitar. That's not to write them off as purely derivative. The Donkeys do construct their own sound and it's an entirely pleasing one.
"Nice Train," with its high-pitched staccato doo-wop keys and vampy guitar later turns all alt-jammy with a guitar solo near the end. "Walk Through a Cloud" begins with a noodle-y yet twangy guitar and then brims with a four-part chorus that repeats for the rest of the song. They meld what should be jarring juxtapositions into a seamless blend all their own and there's not one dud in 11 tracks.
Evoking beach cook-outs and a lazy afternoon sipping beers on the pier, Living on the Other Side will transport you to good times with their crafty genre melding and smart playing. • Katy Henriksen