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THE REDS, PINKS AND PURPLES

The Reds, Pinks And Purples

Unwishing Well

    RIYL: The Field Mice, Blue Boy, The Clientele, Cindy.

    The cinema of the scenes as told from the heart and spirit of the omniscient narrator shines through the awe-inspiring oeuvre of Glenn Donaldson's canonical titan that is The Reds, Pinks & Purples. The storied and esoteric histories of every underserved underdog becomes immortalized in records and poignantly penned paeans that evoke the eras and underachievers that became synonymous with their own respective corresponding localized micro-movements. Donaldson channels that psychic spirit and journeyman earned wisdom to provide contemporary era rock operas that eulogize tales of infinitely influential rises and falls. Crystalizing the tragic self-celebrating kingdoms of fortunate failures, false heroes, music press deities of limitless deceit, hometown dive gods and humanity in the grips of all its romanticized wonder and woe — the latest sortie of the sensational and spectacular takes aim at the threads of hope and an untethered abandon into the intimacy and dualities of idolatry and isolation with Unwishing Well.

    Ever since its emergence from the harried late 2010s — The Reds, Pinks & Purples have become the absolute encapsulation of Donaldson's own proliferation and prestige. From a musical legacy that chronicles a long list of minor successes and major tragedies; Glenn distills the timelines of distinction from yesterday, today, tomorrow and whatever may be into a musical phenomenon that embodies something more than all of its analogous inspirations. Beyond the clamor about the retro cult pop artistic allusions and tropes that can be found in those spirit expanding kaleidoscope chord chimes; Donaldson takes you on a guided tour through the San Francisco underground movements that would have been, could have been or perhaps never were at all from the start. The Reds, Pinks & Purples’ coveted catalog inadvertently, consciously or unconsciously, offers an authorized and anonymous history of imperfect and ambitious debutantes, dilettantes, auteurs, et al. The lauded visionaries whose volition informed the big money touring stage headliners, but only enjoyed a fleeting jaunt through the glorious corporate clad carnival canopies from the touring circuit routes and tech funded festival tent tabernacles. Unwishing Well is a eulogy for the buzz bands that crashed, the wily one hit wizards, and omnipresent (and often uninspired) eternal aesthetes who work the lucrative outlets of licensing media markets.

    Glenn pulls no punches with the promiscuity of the pop machines and their exploited propped up brand ambassadors on the cutting "Your Worst Song is Your Greatest Hit" that tangles with the lumbering and inescapable creatives and careerist trajectories that trade in boardroom playbooks and verticals. Expressions and influencers break out into the collective commissaries of commerce exhibitionism on “Public Art”, to auditing the forums of fandom that pertain to developed affinities and the roads to rabid infatuation with the obsessive in earnest, “Learning to Love a Band”.

    And while the Glenn spins many yarns on the under-appreciated secret histories of DIY, Unwishing Well offers cathartic hymns of modern malaise. Sighing in lamentation of regressive trends, “What’s Going on with Ordinary People'' balks with concern over contemporary states of devolution, while “Faith in Daydreaming Youth” questions what vestiges of hope and valor can be found in the new vanguards of political bodies that govern the world’s sovereign daydream nations. The dustbins of dastardly discontinuity are imbued with desire and grief on the dramatist tragedy of “Dead Stars in Your Eyes”, to basking in the discarded ditches of the damned below in voids of obscurity on “Nothing Between the Lines at All”. The human addiction to languishing in anguish, misery and negativity tussles, tosses and turns on “We Only Hear the Bad Things People Say”, the penultimate ode to inherent human infallibility as Donaldson rides the audience out into the gilded sunset glow of “Goodbye Bobby”.

    The central set piece of Unwishing Well revolves around the title track that wrestles with wellness and wishes tempered by the sobering reality of ultra pragmatic skepticism. Donaldson shows the audience where the dream falls short, an indictment on the fickleness of wants and the life/work/art balances of making it all work. It's the group that never makes it, the idea that never gets off the ground, the recognition that never arrives, the raise that is never awarded, nor the promotion to the next ladder rung that remains laughably inaccessible. Glenn has the gift of bridging the divide between the hunger artist, their adoring cult public and the common threads that connect these local and global communities through the humanist cause of collective commiseration.

    As increasingly found in the continued adventures of The Reds, Pinks and Purples canon — Glenn circles the drain of surrendering to unabashed sentimentality in passions worthy of being showcased as the top headlining spot that your favorite revered then later reviled pop act never even had the chance to claim or ascend. Unwishing Well uplifts and uproots the undercurrents that carry the commonalities between the spectators and the spectacles. Donaldson pays homage in heart to everything and everyone that never got their due or to the lucky ones that made the grade, but paid an ultimate price. The cycle of these pop vignettes depict successes and failures in the same sentences, existing within the same stanzas, where the stories of making it and breaking it operate as events that live on different sides of the same coin. Unwishing Well is a reflection of us, the icons we adore, the Adonises we worship, the false prophets that proselytize the edicts from theses cults of personality, the fallouts, the third acts and the artistic fabrics that spool these sub-sects of artful dodgers into the stuff of legend.

    STAFF COMMENTS

    Barry says: There are obvious comparisons to be made here with the jangling, morose indie of the late 80's and 90's but the resulting sound on The Red Pinks & Purples' new album is both hugely modern, while breezily embracing the lo-fi jangle and airy melodicism of the era. 'Unwishing Well' is a perfect distillation of both Donaldson's established sound and the musical influences he absorbs, and results in an absorbing and emotional listen.

    TRACK LISTING

    1. What’s Going On With Ordinary People
    2. Learning To Love A Band
    3. Unwishing Well
    4. Faith In Daydreaming Youth
    5. Your Worst Song Is Your Greatest Hit
    6. Dead Stars In Your Eyes
    7. Nothing Between The Lines At All
    8. Public Art
    9. We Only Hear The Bad Things People Say
    10. Goodbye Bobby

    The Reds, Pinks And Purples

    The Town That Cursed Your Name

      RIYL: Sarah Records, Even As We Speak, The Field Mice, Blue Boy, The Clientele, early Belle & Sebastian.

      It’s ok to play out of time.

      Music toys with time. Or, maybe songs reflect back that time is always toying with us. The world of a song takes hold of us like an eternity to be lost in, with its repetitions and variations, but ultimately, as with everything else, it has a start and then ends. And there’s no place to lose time like San Francisco, where there are no seasons and all the seasons occur within one day; where the fog takes the space where your plans might have been; where there’s insane wealth all around and everyone you know and love is hanging on at the periphery and making art on any given Tuesday night. About Glenn Donaldson’s new record, The Town That Cursed Your Name, he says, “I realized as I was piecing it together that it's a song cycle about trying to live while also feeling called to make music”. It’s a double life when it works and a deeper doubleness to mirror the Gemini nature of songs themselves. The Town That Cursed Your Name contemplates this problem with wryness, generosity, and the micro- and macroscopic realness Donaldson is known and loved for.

      Whereas the 2022 collection Summer at Land’s End was a softer, gauzier world, The Town That Cursed Your Name is heavier, with fuzzed lines running through. 'Leave It All Behind' starts out with an amorphous whine but quickly launches into something both supremely melodic and buzzing at the edges. 'Here Comes the Lunar Hand' is an impressionist geometry that seems to capture the album’s themes without telling you how. Lyrically, Donaldson embraces the earnestness of his heroes Paul Westerberg and Grant McLennan. Sonically, late '80s college rock is filtered through song-forward lo-fi acts like East River Pipe and House of Tomorrow-era Magnetic Fields. Like the images that accompany his releases – flowers and residential street scenes are pushed to the breaking point with colour – Donaldson’s songs are at the same time dazzling and lurid, beautiful and burdened, not unlike life as a musician around here.

      In the liner notes, Donaldson dedicates the record “to everyone who ever tried to start a band in the Bay". There will be many knowing smiles at his title, 'It’s Too Late For An Early Grave'. But, this dedication captures something else about the particular strain of sincerity that laces the city water supply – the front man around here is on stage under those lights evincing the fervor not of the pop star but of the biggest fan.

      - Karina Gill.

      TRACK LISTING

      1. Too Late For An Early Grave
      2. Leave It All Behind
      3. Life In The Void
      4. Here Comes The Lunar Hand
      5. Burning Sunflowers
      6. Waiting On A Ghost To Haunt You
      7. What Is A Friend?
      8. Mistakes (Too Many To Name)
      9. Almost Changed
      10. The Town That Cursed Your Name
      11. I Still Owe You Everything
      12. Break Up The Band

      The Reds, Pinks And Purples

      Summer At Land's End

        Summer at Land’s End is not an interlude or tangent for The Reds, Pinks & Purples but rather a perfect fourth movement following the albums Anxiety Art, You Might Be Happy Someday, and Uncommon Weather. As with these self-recorded records (the primary work of songwriter Glenn Donaldson), the songs on Summer at Land’s End were crafted slowly and then drawn together to make a unified statement. But here, and more than before, Summer at Land’s End combines Donaldson’s rueful pop sensibility with a parallel musical universe, one composed of pictures, dreams, and feelings without words. Even if the underlying theme of this collection is one of conflict or unhappiness, the vision of the music presents an escape to a new world, always fading in and out of sight.

        For listeners who may not be familiar with Donaldson’s corner of San Francisco––the Richmond district––or the current wave of hazy, melodic DIY pop groups performing in the city, Summer at Land’s End pulls in images and scenes that feel like a collision of the mundane and the sublime of this present landscape. But settings such as these are the backdrop for personal narratives, expressed as a struggle with love, with companionship and the conflicts of home. With this record, The Reds, Pinks & Purples give less focus to the vanities of a subculture and more to the challenge of connecting with someone, to the ordinary goals of being human and finding harmony with others.

        This deliberate saturation in drama and ambiance, along with some of Donaldson’s best songwriting to date, is what gives Summer at Land’s End its special class in the project’s discography. Of the album’s cinematic mood, Donaldson refers to films like Summer of ‘42 and the influence of the classic 4AD catalogue of the 1990s. This style informs much of Donaldson’s prior and current ventures of course (The Ivytree, Vacant Gardens, and a dozen projects in between) but now The Reds, Pinks & Purples have taken the mantle, embracing this instinct for instrumental or dreamier modes of pop songwriting. It’s a pleasure to experience Summer at Land’s End, as this record finds a thrilling balance between songs and sounds, instruments and voices, and the ironic twin poles of art and life.

        TRACK LISTING

        1. Don’t Come Home Too Soon (03:12)
        2. Let’s Pretend We’re Not In Love (03:06)
        3. New Light (02:53)
        4. My Soul Unburdened (02:21)
        5. Summer At Land’s End (07:02)
        6. Pour The Light In (04:10)
        7. All Night We Move (02:42)
        8. Tell Me What’s Real (03:05)
        9. Upside Down In An Empty Room (03:15)
        10. Dahlias And Rain (02:37)
        11. I’d Rather Not Go Your Way (01:56)

        DINKED EDITION:
        Side A
        Don’t Come Home Too Soon (03:12)
        Let’s Pretend We’re Not In Love (03:06)
        New Light (02:53)
        My Soul Unburdened (02:21)
        Summer At Land’s End (07:02)
        Side B
        Pour The Light In (04:10)
        All Night We Move (02:42)
        Tell Me What’s Real (03:05)
        Upside Down In An Empty Room (03:15)
        Dahlias And Rain (02:37)
        I’d Rather Not Go Your Way (01:56)
        Side C (DINKED EXCLUSIVE)
        Never Said I Was Sorry Then (02:34)
        Hummingbirds (03:19)
        Holiday Cheer (02:56)
        Randy, If You Were Here (02:34)
        Public Fountains (02:37)
        Side D (DINKED EXCLUSIVE)
        Outer Avenues (02:37)
        Sea Wall (02:43)
        Mountain Lake Park (05:10)
        Conservatory Of Flowers (03:19)
        Like A Ghost Warmed Over (02:48)
        Midday Sun (04:05)

        A message from an old friend earlier this year: “I heard an album yesterday and thought: I bet Laura likes this”. It wasn’t a record I knew, but one look at the record’s sleeve and I was pretty sure he’d be right - It looked like an album I’d love! (We’ve all bought an album ‘cos we love the artwork right?) He was talking about this, the third LP in as many years from San Francisco resident Glen Donaldson. Self recorded and self produced, this collection of 13 succinct, super melodic, understated pop songs has a lovely warm, hazy feel to it. With song titles like “A Kick In The Face (That’s Life)” and “I Hope I Never Fall In Love” you can guess there’s a heavy dose of melancholy in the songwriting, but the gorgeous guitar jangles that chime through the low-fi haze lift the spirit, like the sun breaking through the clouds on a summer's day. 

        TRACK LISTING

        Don’t Ever Pray In The Church On My Street (02:46)
        I Hope I Never Fall In Love (02:56)
        The Biggest Fan (02:47)
        Uncommon Weather (01:54)
        A Kick In The Face (that’s Life) (02:01)
        I Wouldn’t Die For Anyone (02:35)
        I’m Sorry About Your Life (02:05)
        The Record Player And The Damage Done (02:22)
        Pictures Of The World (03:11)
        Life At Parties (02:52)
        Sing Red Roses For Me (03:54)
        The Songs You Used To Write (02:49)
        Sympathetic (03:11)


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