The Donkeys are one of the bigger success stories in the local indie music scene, and it's easy to understand why. The group plays catchy, easy-going indie folk-rock with traces of country and psychedelia that blends into a warm and good-natured whole. They're more heavily influenced by the Dad rock canon than the '80s SST hardcore scene, and as a result it's music that doesn't so much challenge or antagonize as it does set a fun and freewheeling mood.
Midnight Palms, the new mini-album (or EP, or whatever you want to call a five-track release) is just as laid-back and easy to like as anything in the band's discography, and it arrives at just the right time, now that winter seems to have disappeared so suddenly (where'd you go, El Niño?). This is a summer album, full of gentle, breezy alt-country numbers that strut, sway, groove and choogle. It's the kind of record you'd throw on at a barbecue.
Suffice it to say, the five songs on Midnight Palms are as fun and catchy as ever. Opening track "Hurt Somebody" is all shimmering guitars, simple basslines and lyrics about love and heartbreak and stuff—you know, the usual. It's followed by a finger-picked folk breezer titled "Down the Line," whose '70s throwback sound is reminiscent of AM radio standards such as Mungo Jerry's "In the Summertime" or Three Dog Night's "Joy to the World." Which is to say it's fairly uncool, but endearingly so. There's a little more rock 'n' roll raucousness to the Crazy Horse-style burner, "Hold On to You," which is only marginally louder than the rest of the tracks on the EP. In this case, however, a little can really go a long way.
The Donkeys are good at what they do, and on Midnight Palms, they keep on keepin' on quite nicely. It's just that what they do is done by thousands of bands. That's not necessarily a knock on The Donkeys. Midnight Palms scratches a certain crunchy, organic itch that a more experimental band might purposefully avoid. This record isn't about innovation, but it's hard not to feel good listening to it, however familiar it may be.