On paper, Kishi Bashi might sound a little sparse.  Sure, he’s toured with the likes of of Montreal, Regina Spektor, and Sondre Lerche as a violinist, but a solo violinist/singer making a full length record sounds a bit like a stretch.

Pleasantly, his sophomore full-length album, Lighght, dispels any qualms I may have had about being able to get a rich and diverse sound from a violin, voice, a diverse set of other instruments, and some great looping techniques.  The overall sound is summery and quirky, a great album for hanging out in a park on a bright and sunny summer day. Kishi Bashi is an insanely impressive multi-instrumentalist, though the violin is definitely a standout, particularly on the instrumental tracks “Debut” and “Impromptu No. 1”.

The first single, “Philosophize In It!  Chemicalize With It!” opens with a crisp and clear violin intro, but then evolves into a gorgeous soundscape, complete with guitars, drums, and soaring vocals.  Ishibashi’s vocals sound a bit like James Mercer of The Shins, retaining that powerful, but echoed and soaring vocal quality.  The song is swirling and beautiful, and the perfect example of what the rest of the album has in store.  It makes me want to run through a field, which is not something I often say about songs (in fact, “running through a field”-good is a very small, but very exclusive section of my song catalog).

“The Ballad of Mr. Steak” sports a bit more of a traditional pop-song backbeat, but Ishibashi’s violin is still there as an important layering tool, as well as a funky synth.  The song is a quirky and cute song about one Mr. Steak, who likes to go out dancing and falls in love, which is way cooler and way more danceable than Mr. Kite of Beatles fame.  Where the opening single is a bit avant garde and unexpected, with swirling textures and rhythms going every direction, “Mr. Steak” follows a more set structure, but by no means does that affect the overall quality of the song.

Things get a bit more tense with “Carry on Phenomenon”, which has the synth line-makings of a great 80s throwback hit (and the vocal harmonies of one, too), but enough happening around that to build into a somewhat more intense ballad.  It’s a nice change of pace, and lyrically it’s rich, with lines like, “So you’ve got the best of me/So amazingly/Carry on.”  Ishibashi’s sound is somewhat niche, but with this song and the following “Bittersweet Genesis for Him AND Her”, which sports a quieter, more stripped-down quality and spoken-word vocals.  They showcase Ishibashi’s range, and are placed in a great spot smack-dab in the middle of the album with all the swirling and perfect chaos around them.

My favorite track is “Q&A”, a guitar-based ballad with adorably sweet lyrics.  “You are the answer to my question/You are my accomplice in a crime/You are my wingwoman and did I mention/We were together in another life” Ishibashi croons.  I’m a bit of a cynic about “love songs” and I tend to think many of them border on saccharine, but “Q&A” is incredibly good, and a definite stand out on the album.  It’s a beautiful little piece of songwriting.

“Once Upon a Lucid Dream (in Afrikaans)” takes us back to the swirling and layered song structures, but sporting a more pronounced minor-key sound and hand claps.  Bashi’s vocals are extra Mercer-y on this track, and while the song has a bit of a throwback vibe, it definitely fits in the grand scope of the album.

The closing track, “Hahaha Pt. 1” sounds a bit more forward, almost like MGMT if MGMT were still trying to be pleasantly kooky.  It’s short and sweet, providing a nice, calming-but-funky closer to the album.  If the rest of the album can be likened to a sunny summer day, “Hahaha Pt. 1” is the song you listen to on your drive home with the windows down, preferably in a comfortable and clear twilight.

I would venture to say that Lighght may very well become my record of the summer, and I encourage everyone to pick it up.  Kishi Bashi is the soundtrack to the summer.

Kishi Bashi
Lighght
Joyful Noise
May 13, 2014

Overall Score
95 %

Violinist Kishi Bashi proves he's a capable and talented multi-instrumentalist/songwriter/jack of all trades.

Complexity 97%
Lyrics 97%
Variety 91%
Instrumentation 94%

About The Author

Self-deprecating fundraising lackey, avocado connoisseur, pop culture aficionado, latte-drinking liberal elitist.

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