The Donkeys

Born with Stripes

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Pitched somewhere between echoes of '70s country-rock hybrids and a moody, bass-led punch that feels more like the ghost of Joy Division than Gram Parsons, the Donkeys' third album, Born with Stripes, is a quietly enjoyable listen, something where emotions get expressed with often restrained energy -- but, crucially, never lacking that core energy to start with, instead of simply disappearing into a haze of peaceful easy feelings. "New Blue Stockings" is a full-on loungey swing and kick from 1966, thanks to the keyboards in particular, while the most blatant moment of fusion could be "West Coast Raga," where a sitar and guitar part kick things off in equal measure (though the concluding "East Coast Raga" is understandably not far off in that kind of feel). The woozily beautiful arrangement always seems on the verge of collapse in "Kaleidoscope" but constantly follows a central structure, a kind of psychedelia that doesn't go out of its way to advertise itself as such. "You are like a movie/Easy to behold!" goes the joyfully group sung opening of the title track, even as the scratchy-sounding breaks could be from some garage recording in 1982 as much as 1965. Guitarist Jessie Gulati often has breaks that slip easily between post-punk skyscrape and easier-going twang, while hearing a steady rhythm kick backing a roughly sung coda on "I Like the Way You Walk" shows just how well Sam Sprague goes at handling both ends of the matter -- there's always a place for a good singing drummer in rock & roll and the Donkeys are well along in showing why he and they deserve the greater notice.

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