Whimsical folksy ditties.
Several albums in and Kishi Bashi and his fiddle turned rock machine have leaned fully into the folk world. A natural addition to ‘Omoiyari’, which was heavily folk-tinged, ‘Emigrant’ feels like Kishi Bashi’s country EP. Taking that quiet Japanese country village feel and wrapping it in acoustic guitar and banjo, we have a simple and delicate EP.
Easily the most rootsy of his releases, each track is a country barn dance. This style hits its peak with ‘Early Morning Breeze’ which has a violin solo and a banjo swing to it. Cute, playful and thankful for the world around him, Kishi Bashi is at his most reflective and positive. The big shift in style comes with the banjo presence of Tall Tall Tree’s (Mike Savino). The two go way back. When I saw Kishi Bashi live years ago, Mike was the opening act and back for the main event. He can work a banjo like an expert chiropractor cracks a spine – he is superb. This cultivates in the summery ‘Those Days Are Gone’ which has bombastic acoustic guitar, fun folk beach drums and a banjo solo. It is the most upbeat track on the EP.
That aside, this is the most subdued release of Kishi Bashi’s to date. ‘Cascades’ and ‘Wait for Springtime’ are lovely but also pretty pastels compared to his previous work. ‘Laughing With’ has some superb lyrics about when God is or isn’t funny to reference and is playfully quirky. ‘Town of Pray’ is the Western trailblazer acoustic barn story. It is like a settlers version of a sea shanty. It is very enjoyable – just less immediate.
I feel like ‘Emigrant’ will be a grower, not a shower. It works as a short, standalone reflection on Japanese sentimentality seeping into Western culture. Kishi Bashi sings the blue(grass) so to speak. Place this against ‘Hahaha’ and they are chalk and cheese. Both have their merits and I think the perfect blend is to perhaps mix a bit of both.
Recommended track: Those Days Are Gone
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