Review Summary: Kishi Bashi continues to tear down musical conventions in all the righght ways.
In a way, it’s misleading to approach Lighght
with the assumption Kishi Bashi’s sophomore release will be a stark departure from his debut based on the title. A reference to poet Aram Saroyan’s one-word “blatant assault on literary convention and classical form,” as Kishi Bashi fondly refers to it, the album lives up to its name by tearing down compositional forms and building back up from the ashes one that challenges indie rock’s expectations. But hasn’t that been a reflection of Kishi Bashi’s mantra from the beginning? If anything is consistent between his two records to date it’s that his love of classical music’s deconstruction (or evolution, if you’re the glass half full type) is just as prevalent on Lighght
as it was on 151a
. Yet, if there is a progression to his sound on Lighght
it’s that he’s broadened and intensified this approach to create an album even more immediate than his debut, and a damn good one.
Among the changes on Lighght
is the pace. “Philosophize in It! Chemicalize With It!” propels off from the start with its fluttering violin, rapid acoustic guitar strumming, and K Ishibashi’s soaring vocals. Indeed, the track bursts with a revitalized energy explored on 151a
, but not nearly as fully realized as the single hones a much more focused and well-crafted sound. This continues on “Hahaha Pt. 1,” which features delightful falsetto and ascending, human-sounding synth sailing over rattling waves of tambourine and that continued, rapid-fire acoustic guitar. It’s obvious Kishi Bashi’s song writing skills have grown since his last outing just through the strength of the song’s melodies, which neither eclipse, nor are overpowered by the plethora of new instruments employed, and I can only imagine the power these songs boast in a live show setting.
Perhaps even more welcome than the refined energy are the playful lyrics that permeate throughout. When you’re subjected to a song about a dancing steak, filled with dad puns like “Did fate mistake us for a pair of star crossed lovers” and “Mr. Steak, you were grade A,” it’s a testament to the lyrical prowess that the song feels neither sophomoric (I had to), nor childish in a pretentious sense, but instead is refreshingly honest. Yet, the album has its fair share of more serious tracks that exudes just as impressive imagery. “Bittersweet Genesis for Him AND Her” tells a creation-myth of lovers exploring a new world, and “Q&A,” acts as a love letter with a sound reminiscent of Isreal Kamakawiwo’ole’s famous “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” ukulele cover.
is sure to give listeners a satisfying mix of sounds from track to track (some even a nod to 70s prog), the album’s expansion and deconstruction of classical form through a lens of indie-rock is consistent to a stunning degree. Sure, Ishibashi's looping violin lines are as prevalent as ever, but they're not as much in the foreground as on previous efforts. There are so many flourishes and layered subtleties going on in the album's eleven songs that after a dozen listens there is still plenty more to discover, as perhaps over-used as that compliment is now days. Truly, if there is a fault to the album it could be argued that the length of the finale, "In Fantasia," overstays its welcome, but in this reviewer's opinion that would be a tough argument to make. After all, who are we to be backseat composers for a musician who has proven himself on two critically acclaimed records? I think I'll go with the belief that Kishi Bashi knows exactly what he's doing.