Mar 302018
 

best songs march

See previous monthly Best-Of lists here.

Aviation – Invisible Boy


In 1980, Queen delivered one of the great superhero themes of all time with “Flash.” If the Invisible Boy were a real superhero, Aviation gave him an equally bombastic theme song, a six-minute epic complete with piano crescendoes, scorching guitar solos, and canned applause. He’s not real, though. In fact, as you discover over the course of the song, he’s not exactly a superhero after all, just a lonely kid who sits by himself at lunch. Well, now he’s a lonely kid with an epic piano-prog theme song. Continue reading »

Mar 292018
 

a2vt

It has been a decade now since Said Bulle and George Mnyonge moved to Vermont as refugees from Somalia and Tanzania, respectively, but they are working to keep their traditions – and language – alive. Under the names Jilib and MG Man, the pair perform in the Burlington-based group A2VT. And on their new single “Faas Waa,” they blend English lyrics with verses both Swahili and in Jilib’s native Maay Maay, a variation on Somali.

“We Bantus are trying to keep our language alive, since it has only been a spoken language up until recently,” Jilib says in a press release. The language has only 1.75 million native speakers as of 2015 according to Ethnologue, a fraction even of Somalia’s 14 million people. Continue reading »

Mar 022018
 

miku daza

Like “emo,” “ska” is one of those dated descriptors that many musicians run from. Not Miku Daza; it’s right there in her band’s Facebook description. As Daza points out though, ska is one of a number of apt genre tags; the page also cites punk, rumba, cabaret, and glam rock. And unlike many overwrought band bios, you can actually pick out each of those genres in a single song. Like, for instance, the band’s vibrant debut single “Frosty Pink Skies”:

You hear the trademark on-the-upbeat guitars and horn blasts of ska, sure. But what ska band features the accordion and violin so prominently? She pulls those sounds from her world-music background. Miku Daza the person played and sang in the cumbia band Mal Maiz (who we just wrote about), studied Afro-Cuban percussion in Cuba, and currently sings Bulgarian harmonies in an Eastern European a cappella group. Miku Daza the band features a rotating cast of instrumentalists who shift the sound as they come and go. Continue reading »

Feb 232018
 

mal maiz

Maiz Vargas Sandoval began life in Costa Rica. He lived there through college, studying sociology and anthropology at the Universidad Nacional, before immigrating to the states in his twenties. After traveling around for a year, he landed in Burlington, Vermont in 2014 – geographically, culturally, and, not least, meteorologically, a long way from home.

He landed in Burlington through a friendship with local soul musician Kat Wright and her husband Lee Anderson. He quickly integrated himself into the Burlington music scene, playing and sometimes bartending at the local clubs Anderson runs. And he founded Mal Maiz, a band that plays Latin and Afro-Caribbean music in all its many forms, from well-known-to-Americans genres like reggae to lesser-known traditions like cumbia. Continue reading »

Jan 242017
 

In addition to playing percussion in Phish bassist’s Mike Gordon’s band and until recently in Rubblebucket, Craig Myers leads a world-music ensemble dubbed Barika, a name taken from an Arabic word that in West Africa is used for giving praise and thanks. A master of the West African string instrument the n’goni, which he studied in Mali, Myers blends danceable African rhythms with a powerful horn section. Bold and catchy, this is “world music” that avoids the lite-reggae cliches the genre is often saddled with.

The band just announced their third album When The Time Comes, and, judging by the two songs they’ve released thus far, it could be their best yet. The songs show world music as it should be, focusing on a particular region while not being so tied to tradition that they can’t bring in music from other places. “Banni” is a chanted invocation with American soul horns that sounds like the Dap-Kings in the Middle East, while “Gotta Be Another Way” brings a little bit of Italy into Africa by channeling Ennio Morricone’s spaghetti westerns. Continue reading »

Jan 042017
 
brendan taaffe

Pete Seeger once told Brattleboro, Vermont musician Brendan Taaffe: “Your mbira playing is beautiful!” Which probably inspires in you the same question it did me: What’s a mbira?

A mbira, as it happens, is a small thumb piano popular in Zimbabwe and the Congo. And Seeger was right: Taaffe’s mbira playing is beautiful. His 2013 record Can’t Hold the Wheel with band The New Line was one of the best Vermont records in the past decade, blending African music into the broader stew of Americana (Taaffe also plays the more oft-heard instruments of guitar, fiddle, and banjo). And now he’s released a follow-up, a six-song EP called Fly Down You Little Bird. Five of the tracks are covers. We asked Taaffe about them and his responses were so interesting and in-depth we’re just going to quote them at length: Continue reading »