Kishi Bashi – Omoiyari review

Secret Meeting score: 83

by Philip Moss

Steeped in empathetic reflection, Kishi Bashi’s fourth album, Omoiyari, is informed by the imagined experiences of his parents and the thousands of other Japanese immigrants who were held in camps following the attack on Pearl Harbour. Combined with the multi-instrumentalist’s fantastic ear for melody, it makes for a vivacious 43 minutes.

At times throughout the LP, you’d be hard pressed not to think that it was James Mercer drifting through your speakers – such is the similarity in voice between Ishibashi and The Shins’ main man. But it’s not just in tone that he recalls him – A Song For You seems to directly imitate the main hook from New Slang on what is one of a number of overt pop moments. But don’t take this is a slight – the song is all the better for it, and it works perfectly!

At the record’s heart, Summer of ’42 opens with a barrage of violins before documenting the tale of a soldier who has returned from war to find his love has gone – while the story may be melancholic, Ishibashi somehow manages to weave it into another glorious piece of orchestral pop. The undisputed highlight, however, is Marigolds, which features yet more brilliant strings, and best highlights the imaginative arrangements and choral backing vocals found throughout the record, as well as being another example of his thoroughly endearing voice.

At no point does Omoiyari stop you guessing, and closer, Annie, Heart Thief of the Sea, takes another unexpected turn. The embellished soundscapes that precede it make way for the clattering of banjos, on what turns out to be a jaunty, country-inspired closer.

Omoiyari is by a distance Kishi Bashi’s best record – and it’s eclecticism, as well as its subject matter, certainly makes it his most interesting.

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