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Last night I was at the Calvin College Fine Arts Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan, for what turned out to be one of the more memorable shows I’ve ever attended. I was there for Tinariwen (on whom more below). I had never heard of the opener, Kishi Bashi, not even via the use of his music (as I now learn) in a familiar Windows 8 commercial, and even if I had made the connection I would not have expected his music to be my thing. Support bands you’ve never heard of are often a bit of a lottery, and as two guys with a violin and a banjo took the stage I was ready for anything, but little expected what followed. Working with an amplified violin, various looping devices, and the assistance for half the set of Mike Savino of Tall Tall Trees on banjo and bass, Kishi Bashi (real name K. Ishibashi) strung together a series of loop-based pieces that defied genre categorization. He is blessed with formidable skills on the violin, a pure and powerful voice, and apparently boundless energy and musical imagination. Picture Jónsi Birgisson of Sigur Rós singing bluegrass-classical-folk-pop-experimental pieces structured like miniature progressive rock epics interspersed with beatboxing and driven by double-speed loops created live and you’ll be half way there.

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This is part of a series suggesting ingredients for mixtapes or playlists on a variety of themes.

Whether you have a special someone to be your valentine this year or not, we’ve got you covered with this genre hopping “two-fer” mixtape of old and new songs ranging from easy listening to rock, pop, R&B, and lesser known indie singer-songwriter folk stuff.   Side A is just the thing for happy couples to play while celebrating Valentine’s Day with a romantic evening alone – or, if the love affair’s over, flip it to Side B and let the music keep you company this Valentine’s Day.  Either way, it’s a night spent with some great music.

Links to artist websites are provided for each track – a good way to learn more about the artists or to catch up on their latest news.  Many of them are working on new recording projects for 2012.

SIDE A:   VALENTINE

1. Galileo (Someone Like You) – from Since Kyabram by Declan O’Rourke

When Irish troubadour Declan O’Rourke wrote this song, he thought no one would want to hear it. But he liked it and says he only finished it because he thought his family might enjoy it.  He was more than a little surprised when he learned Josh Groban picked it up for inclusion on one of his albums – and a little sad to say goodbye to “his little song.”  Since then, it has been covered by numerous artists and is destined to become a romantic standard.

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Here as elsewhere, 2011 finished with the customary best-of-year lists, inevitably confronting the dedicated music lover with large numbers of as yet unpurchased albums said to be the cream of the crop; catching up would cost a small fortune, even if 2012 held no new promises. Well, 2011 also saw the release of some excellent albums offered for free download, and a few of the Music is Good authors have put together a list of their favorites across several genres. All of the albums listed below can be downloaded either for free or on a “name your own price” basis (donations encouraged, but with no minimum) from the artists or labels or at bandcamp. You can also stream some of them below. Our thanks to these artists for making such good music freely available.

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18

Nov

2011

The Smile Sessions – The Beach Boys

By Greg Lewis. Posted in Pop, Reviews | No Comments »

 

I’ve been waiting for this album for 45 years, virtually three quarters of my life, but it is still not the finished article! Back in the mid 1960s, The Beatles reigned supreme in the world of popular music. But if any group (as we then called them) came close to taking that crown, it was the Beach Boys. The Beach Boys’ previous album to the Smile sessions was Pet Sounds, Brian Wilson’s answer to Rubber Soul and Revolver. The Beatles had raised the bar with their albums; until then, LPs were usually collections of singles, b-sides and fillers. But a few months after the release of Pet Sounds, Sgt. Pepper raised the bar even higher for Wilson. He wanted something even grander, and Smile was to be his answer. As he describes it in the notes published for this new release, “Each Beatles album had sounded different. The way I saw it we were in a race, a production race.”

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