new sound: kishi bashi

What instrument do you want to hear more of in indie music?

If someone asked me that question, I don’t think my first answer would be violin.  It’s an instrument much more associated with a classical sound – or a country sound if you call it a fiddle.  It’s an instrument that you would expect to feel out of place in indie.

But there are a lot of folks out there rocking the violin – and not just putting it in the background, but bringing it to the forefront.  In particular, Owen Pallett comes to mind. Have you heard his cover of the Stroke’s “Hard to Explain”?  It’s a thing of beauty.

And if you’re feeling that kind of sound, there’s another musician you need to check out:  K. Ishibashi, aka Kishi Bashi.  He’s played violin with a number of indie bands,  most recently with Of Montreal.   But he recently announced he’ll be leaving Of Montreal and this past April, he released his first full-length album, 151a, via Joyful Noise.

There’s probably a good chunk of you out there thinking that Kishi Bashi has gotten enough press that it’s not really fair for me to call this “new sound.”  And y’all are totally right.  Folks have been singing his praises for months now, and I’ve been totally behind the ball in getting this written up.  But the fact that I still feel compelled to post this means that if you haven’t already checked out his music and fallen in love, now is the time to do so.  Take a listen to “Bright Whites,” the third track on 151a:


Now, I kind of hate to call music “life-affirming” – that’s way too positive a term for a cynic like me – but doesn’t that song just lift you up?   As an added bonus, you can totally pretend that you’re learning Japanese as you go.  Here’s your cheat sheet:

in Japanese,
“douse dame da” means “probably impossible”
“yamerarenai” means “can’t stop” and
“taerarenai” means “can’t take it anymore”

See?  You’re practically bilingual.

If you’d like some visual with your audio, check out his Tiny Desk Concert for NPR Music, where he plays a three-song set of tunes of 151a.


Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten a chance to see him live yet (Kishi Bashi! Come back to Texas!), but I have heard amazing things about his live show.  If you want to get a taste, you can watch his set at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C., again courtesy of NPR.  If you head over there, you can also grab a free download of the audio from that show.

If you’re still left wanting more (and I bet you are), you can stream the whole album over at his bandcamp, and while you’re there, grab a copy of it on black or white vinyl. (Hint: go for the white vinyl.  It only costs a few bucks extra, but we all know colored vinyl is the always the best choice.)

new sound is an occasional series featuring new and emerging musicians.

  1. Love your description of his music being “life-affirming.” Couldn’t agree more. I get the best feeling listening to his stuff. It’s funny, because some of the most uplifting moments are purely musical, not even related to inspirational lyrics.

    • That’s exactly what I mean. Just listening to it gives you this positive feeling coming from inside.

  2. Friend of mine was trying to talk us into going to see Kishi Bashi—glad to see you vouch for him. I’ll have to check the show out.

    • Check it out for sure. It’s probably a bit more electro/poppy than is usually your scene, but I’m hearing such good things about the live show. Let me know what you think!

  3. Niko said:

    Guh! That Tiny Desk Concert just did me in. I’m officially in love.

    • Totally. And thanks for the reblog!

      • Niko said:

        Fo sho!

  4. Niko said:

    Reblogged this on elifunt and commented:
    This is my very first reblog and it is SO worth it! Experiment: Watch the Tiny Desk Concert, and then just try to frown.


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