Infinite Shuffle

March 2, 2014

195 – KONGOS

Filed under: K, South Africa — assman41 @ 5:50 pm

Do you remember when Alt-J and Django Django hit the indie scene in the summer of 2012? They each had such a unique sound that it was difficult to describe them and even harder to find apt comparisons.

I’m having the same issue now as I try to write about KONGOS, the band of four brothers from South Africa that has put out a pair of albums filled with all sorts of influences — some foreign, some domestic.

As much as I hate referencing Rolling Stone, it’s where I was introduced to KONGOS. In a story about how Shazam has become a great predictor for hit songs, the brothers were mentioned as a band about to break in America.

And, since I can’t think of a better way to describe the group, here is how Rolling Stone characterized it online: “a Balkan accordionist, a Burundi drummer, an American slide guitarist and a British rock star walk into a bar; high-octane folk-pop ensues.”

The Brothers Kongos were born in South Africa and spent their childhood there and in London before eventually picking up sticks and heading to the States, settling in the Phoenix area.

Since 2003, the group has been playing live sets all over Arizona and California, with the occasional jaunt to South Africa. Despite releasing a self-titled debut album in 2007, the band didn’t set out on a proper nationwide tour until September 2012, following the release of their sophomore album, Lunatic.

It’s taken almost two years, but that album is finally starting to gain some traction. The above single is the second track on the disc. Seemingly three songs in one, it gives listeners a good idea of KONGOS’ array of influences.

The two things that stand out the most in KONGOS’ music are the accordion and the heavy, tribal drum beat. The latter is particularly prominent on “I’m Only Joking”, the opening track from Lunatic. (If you’re the impatient type, just skip to the 0:40 mark to hear the song start.)

If Shazam is correct, then KONGOS are primed to blow up this summer. They just passed through the Midwest last month, including a stop at The Cubby Bear in Chicago. They have a few dates booked around the country in the spring before hitting the festival scene this summer.

July 8, 2012

121 – Kishi Bashi

Filed under: Brooklyn, K, Seattle — assman41 @ 12:01 am

Last week, I wrote about Alabama Shakes and mentioned other bands who’d ridden a wave of hype at the start of their careers.

Another artist who’s been receiving a lot of early buzz — albeit on a much smaller scale — is Kishi Bashi. The gang over at NPR’s All Songs Considered have been singing the praises of the singer/songwriter/violinist ever since discovering him at SXSW.

The project name is actually a pseudonym for K Ishibashi, who was born in Seattle, grew up on the East Coast, helped found the Brooklyn-based band, Jupiter One, and is now a member of Of Montreal.

It’s a good thing he’s made it possible to embed all the tracks from his debut album, 151a, because it’s difficult to pinpoint his sound.

The best I can come up with is a cross between MGMT and Jonsi/Sigur Ros, with several other influences sprinkled in. And Ishibashi’s stirring violin adds an incredible dimension to all of it.

The track that first introduced him to NPR listeners was “Bright Whites”, definitely a catchy tune and probably the best on the album. But “Manchester” is certainly a worthy contender for that title.

While there is no real filler here, a few other standouts include “It All Began With a Burst”, “Chester’s Burst Over the Hamptons” and “Atticus, in the Desert”.


November 29, 2010

53 – Kopecky Family Band

Filed under: K, Nashville — assman41 @ 3:03 am

Even though I have a big logjam of All Songs Considered podcasts, I will make it a point to listen to every single one of them. Not only because they play songs by so many great bands — many of which I haven’t heard of — but because otherwise, I’d miss true unknown gems such as the Kopecky Family Band.

The gurus over at NPR led off their CMJ recap podcast with a track from this band that they’d discovered during the showcase.

Each song by this seven-piece outfit from Nashville is led vocally by a man (Gabe) and woman (Kelsey Joy) working in perfect harmony. They kinda remind me of The Magic Numbers in that way. But I don’t want you to think that’s necessarily who they sound like — this group has much more of a folk vibe going for it.

With seven members in the band, you get a lot of different instruments, but the two that will catch your ear immediately are the cello and violin.

With all those instruments, along with the dual vocals, all of the songs are very full. Gabe’s vocals remind me a lot of the lead singer from Gomez, while Kelsey Joy’s don’t remind me of anyone in particular — they’re just really solid.

The dudes at NPR said the band is amazing live, and after watching this impromptu clip, I would have to concur.

Since forming in late 2007, the group has released a pair of EPs — Embrace and Disaster. I already consider the latter to be among the best albums of the year.

For more on Kopecky Family Band, check out their MySpace page and the official website.

August 8, 2010

37 – The Kissaway Trail

Filed under: Denmark, K — assman41 @ 11:59 pm

This five-piece band from Denmark lists a lot of different influences on its MySpace page, including Daniel Johnston, the Pixies, Grandaddy and the Beach Boys, but none of them pop out when you hear its music. The one band that these guys most sound like is probably Arcade Fire — but with fewer instruments.

You can hear it on a lot of their tracks, including “SDP”, the first single off their sophomore album, Sleep Mountain, which came out in March.

Although, on some songs, such as “Eloquence and Elixir” — from their self-titled debut album — I was reminded of their fellow countrymen, Mew, to a certain degree.

The Kissaway Trail – Eloquence and Elixir

With two lead singers, the band’s sound never grows stale, as every track seems a little different from the last.

The group apparently plays a mean live set and is blowing up in its homeland. It has provided live support for the likes of Editors, Ra Ra Riot, The Boxer Rebellion and The Temper Trap.

They’ll be in New York on Wednesday then head back to Europe for a while. Hopefully, they’ll return to the States next year so I can check them out for myself.

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