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Kishi Bashi – Omoiyari

June 30, 2019

I can’t tell you how many times I have selected an album purely based on album art. Before the internet, I discovered new music on the radio, reading magazines and based on reputation.  Catchy cover art was also one of my ways of discovering new music. It happens less frequently in this streaming age, but it still happens. Kishi Bashi’s Omoiyari is a recent example.

I saw Omoiyari on a list of new releases on a streaming service and based on the cover art, I gave it a listen and instantly liked it. It reminded me of an acoustic version of Merriweather Pavilion by Animal Collective.

I did not know anything about Kishi Bashi until I bought the LP and read the liner notes. Evidently, he has been a solo loop based artist (as in one man band) and Omoiyari is his maiden voyage with a band (which he took to the extreme with a borderline chamber orchestra). The results of this experiment are spectacular.

Per the liner notes, Omoiyari is inspired by Bashi connecting the dots between Trump’s wall and the Japanese internment camps during World War II.  Bashi is the son of Japanese immigrants and states:

“As a minority I felt very insecure for the first time in my adult life in this country.”

Bashi wrote a set of songs exploring the emotional lives of the innocent Japanese-Americans unjustly incarcerated in internment camps. Struggling to find words to name this collection of songs, he chose a Japanese word: Omoiyari. The word roughly translates as empathy. But empathy short changes the nuance of the word. A better way of saying it is (again from the liner notes):

“…refers to the idea of creating compassion towards other people by thinking about them.”

I appreciate Bashi provided this background because I would never have picked up on this theme.  I am for the most part a music guy vs. a lyric guy.  I am more concerned with how words sound then by what they mean.

What I hear on the album (both in the music and the words) are longing and romance.  The music is beautiful.  Bashi has gorgeous melodies decorated in elaborate arrangements.  I hear Paul McCartney, Brian Wilson, and Paul Simon. Bashi’s vocals are ethereal.  If you want a brief taste of the album, try the song “Summer of “42.”  If you like that you will enjoy the rest of the album. Bashi’s record label is Joyful Noise Recording – how perfect is that?

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