After three stunning albums that showed Kishi Bashi taking his violin into increasingly more cinematic pop and rock arenas, Omoiyari is a complete reset. This time around Kishi Bashi has turned his hand towards gypsy folk. The love letter to Japan takes as much inspiration from the quiet village roads. Nooks and crannies to be discovered. Omoiyari is a real gem to be discovered too.
Opening ‘Penny Rabbit and Summer Bear’ the violin is sympathetic and warm. The ukulele and brushed percussion produce a gentle folk rock affair. It’s not sedate by any means but its a far cry from all the vocal looping explosions of before. ‘F Delano’ is like a country fate dance in euphoria. The organs and marching beats are fun and the way the vocals are layered remind me of Tom Rosenthal – as does the album as a whole.
The violin virtuoso is not content with just the folk side of things. ‘Marigolds’ has a wonderful interplay between the plucked strings being played at double speed and the summery organs and bass guitar which loosely play away. It’s spacious, romantic and dare I say vintage. ‘A Song For You’ and ‘Angeline’ follow in this pattern. They are both acoustic rock anthems. There are tiny influences of flutes and jangles that give a hint to the flower power ’70s but it is concentrated down to its purest form. They are easily among the top tier of any of Kishi Bashi’s tracks and feel mature and heartfelt.
The second half of the album pulls the acoustic guitar and fretted strings back a touch and pulls the violin forward to centre stage. ‘Summer of ’42’ is dramatic and symphonic with its choruses but the verses are beautifully disarming. They show how much of what we loved in a pop sensibility of Kishi Bashi’s work has been funnelled into prime folk rock. As with a lot of folk music,there is always a tinge of sadness that is felt through the melody and chord patterns. ‘Theme From Jerome’ kicks off the most outwardly sad moments of the album. The playful la-la-la sections have a Persian caravan feel to them and the track feels like a nomadic ballad. It sits uneasily but that disquiet feeling strikes fully with ‘A Meal for Leaves’ – a wordless serenade of voice, violin, guitar, woodwind and drum. It feels like a melting pot of cultures and tones as its both pretty and eerie. It’s a beautiful siren call that you can’t quite pull away from. It sets you up for the absolute surge of ‘Violin Tsunami’. The track does what it says on the tin. Beginning with one layer of violin, the taut melodic phrases builds, expands, booms and erupts over your ears. It’s as close to classical as Kishi Bashi has been to date and when the drums and vocals steam in, it’s easily one of the most powerful pieces of music I’ve heard this year. After that four-track combo leaves you, the chirpy pub singalong ‘Annie, Heart Theif of the Sea’ closes the album with a thigh slap and a wink.
Omoiyari wasn’t the album I expected from Kishi Bashi but it is an album that utterly blows me away. Each listen lets me discover a bit more of each song – it’s deceptively heavily produced with tons of sounds to uncover. Each of these tracks are anthems for the indie-folk world and they deserves to be listened to and embraced for the warms and emotion they bring. Easy contender for album of the year.
Recommended track: Angeline
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