60s Infused Baroque Indie Pop: Kishi Bashi’s 151a

“I haven’t felt this alive in a long time, all the streets are warm today…” – Kishi Bashi

Pop music often gets derided for its lack of emotional depth and complexity. This criticism suggests that perhaps the only valuable art is that which is replete with some sense of anguish and torment. (Don’t get me wrong I love my fair share of sad songs.) Whether a warranted critique or not, I think this disregards the reality that music can be a welcome respite from difficult times and a means of shaking us (literally) out of a funk. In other words, there is nothing wrong with music that simply tickles your funny bone and makes you want to whirl around in bliss like a dervish.

From the onset, Kishi Bashi’s 151a sets out to bring this form of euphoric indie-pop rock to its listeners – it’s serotonin for your eardrums. Hailing from Seattle, Washington (more known for punk/rock dirges and diatribes), K Ishibashi (the gentleman behind Kishi Bashi) has been working over the years with various artists you might have heard of, namely, Regina Spektor and Of Montreal, and their influence and aesthetic resounds throughout 151a. K takes elements from Of Montreal’s musically eclectic pop-psychedelia and combines it with Regina Spektor’s lush orchestrations to create a pastiche of pure pleasure – a paisley, cotton candy sonic tapestry of unfolding layers. In other words, this is hippie/flower-child indie-rock, with which I’m totally cool.

When navigating the more upbeat moments, Kishi Bashi evokes mid-60s-era Beatles (i.e., Revolver to Magical Mystery Tour) along with post-Pet Sounds Beach Boys (Holland to be precise). But, he then layers in electronic, dance beats that recall Of Montreal in their earlier days, especially, my favorite record of their oeuvre, Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?, and Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion.  Unlike either Of Montreal or Animal Collective, 151a does not have moments of non-linear musical experimentation (some might call this improvisation). Instead, these are tightly contained pop songs. Take, the first track that caught my attention weeks ago, the infectious “Bright Whites”, it has an unrelenting up-beat “Yellow Submarine” feel combined with a non-Western backdrop reminiscent of Deep Forest‘s “Sweet Lullaby.” It’s sort of like pop-music meditation. One of the record’s more stunning numbers is “Manchester”, which largely consists of K singing alongside a series of string instruments (mostly violins I think). It has the tried-and-true technique of a soft, subtle build up that guides you lazily along and crescendos into a joyous explosion of sound. Plus, there are some really amusing lines like “When Pluto was demoted, I felt a sigh of relief I never knew why.”  Oh, yeah and there is a lot of hand-clapping (!!!) and/or moments to get silly clapping along to the beats!

But, best just to listen to the record and get ready for mirth and mayhem, it will ensue

To listen to all of Kishi Bashi’s 151a click here.

Also check out Kishi Bashi’s bandcamp page (where you can order or purchase the album) here.

If you like this record, definitely check out the above mentioned albums by

  • Of Montreal (Hissing Fauna…) and
  • Animal Collective (Merriweather Post Pavilion) along with
  • Panda Bear‘s Person Pitch and Tomboy.

In other news…

  • Turns out this guy Robert Zimmerman wrote a really good song that earned him a Presidential Medal of Freedom today, see here (via NPR). #abouttime #behindthetimes
  • Check out this excellent blog post at 70dayweekend.com about one of the more under appreciated Conor Oberst (aka Bright Eyes) side projects, Desaparecidos.  (Check out the whole album, here.)
  • Umm… on first listen the new Santigold record could be the jam of the summer.  I’ve only given a cursory listen but already I’m eagerly anticipating its release (and availability to share) but in the meantime listen to it via NPR here.

hasta pronto,


p.s. I think Kevin Barnes picked the name Of Montreal to challenge people not to write “of Of Montreal” much like Stephin Merritt called one of his side projects The 6ths because it’s a tongue twister.  And, people say James Joyce was cruel to his readers…

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