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Kishi Bashi: Omoiyari Review


(Joyful Noise) On Kaoru Ishibashi’s last studio album, 2017’s Sonderlust, the prodigious violinist and pop songsmith put his own spin on throwback funk and AOR tones to explore romantic highs and lows to great, often glitzy effect. With his fourth album, Omoiyari, Ishibashi utilizes an equally emotive aural palette to connect the experiences of World War II-era Japanese Americans to the trials and tribulations of modern-day immigrants and refugees, but he opts for a gentler, if no less lush, mode of delivery.

The album’s title stems from a Japanese word closely associated with the act of fostering compassion by thinking of others, which is fitting given how closely Ishibashi gets to both his songs’ subjects and arrangers. Save for a touch of it in pre-release single “Marigolds,” Ishibashi foregoes his signature multi-track vocal and violin loops in favor of more collaborative compositions, with input from Tall Tall Trees’ Mike Savino, cellist Nick Ogawa and members of Cicada Rhythm, among others.

Songs like “F Delano” and “Summer of ’42” shine especially bright, each exemplifying a keen understanding of their protagonists’ adversity and set to a backdrop of blissfully sweet instrumentation. They posit Ishibashi as even more of an essential, empathetic artist than the Classic City already knew.