Japanese-American pop-slash-folk songwriter K Ishibashi, better known by his stage name Kishi Bashi, brings fascinating, whimsical fantasy worlds to life on his upbeat second album, Lighght.
Ex-of Montreal touring musician Kishi Bashi’s self-released, Kickstarter-funded debut album 151a gained a respectable underground following in 2012 for its charming combination of classical orchestral composition, loop-based pop sensibilities, Japanese folk influences, and whimsically dreamy lyrics.
The periodic Japanese language singing that helped his stand out is absent here, but the new album’s sound is no less distinctively Kishi Bashi. The early tracks on Lighght, notably “The Ballad of Mr. Steak” and “Carry On Phenomenon”, augment the pop immediacy of his previous songs with heavier, synthesized dance rhythms to create upbeat violin music not dissimilar from some of the later releases by Electric Light Orchestra. While these songs are less effective than much of his previous work due to their reliance on preset electronic sounds, they are interesting stylistic explorations. However, the jubilant, plucked strings on the single cut “Philosophize In It! Chemicalize With It” are as fun as the cheeriest melodies on 151a.
That being said, Kishi Bashi is very successful when puts his more traditional songwriting ideas at the forefront. “Q&A” is an absolutely darling acoustic guitar song about living with a perfect life partner in a dream world. Closing songs “Hahaha” and “Fantasia” are great demonstrations of Ishibashi’s skills as an orchestral arranger. Delicate vocals float over intricately woven musical textures that combine plucked strings and synths to deeply immerse you in the fantasies in his head. With tracks like these, Kishi Bashi once again uses folk music to help us escape to beautiful, imaginary worlds of pure emotion, even if just for a few minutes.
Lighght will be released on May 13. It is available for early listening on NPR First Listen, and for preorder on Kishi Bashi’s Bandcamp page. Kishi Bashi is currently touring North America and Japan in support of the new album.
Favorite tracks: “Philosophize In It! Chemicalize With it!”, “Q&A”, “Fantasia”,