151A is the first LP released by Kishi Bashi, the prolific violinist who plays for Of Montreal. Being one that is not usually impressed by overly happy music, I was surprised when my lips curled up into a smile that I could not possibly fight. Along with the smile inducing hooks and melodies, the album also has a surprising amount of progression.
The album begins with “Intro/Pathos Pathos” which portrays someone looking back on a relationship and sets a perfect tone for the rest of the album. It begins with a swelling orchestral introduction leading to a spritely bassline and the joyous singing of choruses. “Manchester” has a constant back and forth on the violin which provides a perfectly backdrop for Ishibashi’s angelic voice. Of course, the song “Bright Whites”, probably the most exciting song on the album, makes you involuntarily grin with joy, like seeing a loved one after their long absence or running down the stairs on Christmas day.
Very few albums can capture the joy that Kishi Bashi is able to capture in “151a.” But what’s just as impressive as the emotion, is the beautiful maturity that increases through the album’s progression. The innocent, energy filled, and childlike melodies of “Pathos Pathos” and “Bright Whites” lead to more mature and well thought out songs like “Atticus, in the Desert” or “I Am the Antichrist To You.” The progression works so seamlessly that in the final track “Beat the Bright Out of Me”, he is able to bring in an ominous drone that is combated with the pleasure sighs of a beautiful crooner’s voice.
151A plays out like an intricately accurate love story that transfers the ways it hands you the joys of life. In the beginning the joy is brought to you in unbridled, wild excitement, whereas in the end the joy is brought to you in intricate song writing and planned layering. The turning point of the album, which is probably “Wonder Woman, Wonder Me”, shows a more romantic side to the music which is accompanied by a lower and more mature voice. The uncontrollable happiness and innocence is traded for romanticism and borderline sensuality. “Atticus, In the Desert” gives the vibe of a 60’s love song with bright guitars and interesting vocal harmonies. For me, this transition makes the second half of the album seem slightly dull in comparison to the bright joyousness from the beginning. But, his sincerity is still felt through the layers and harmonies.
Above all the hooks and melodies, the song writing is sincere and Ishibashi’s vocal ability and control is truly breath taking. In the end, this album’s impressive parallels to life and love strikes straight to the heart and will be something you always keep close by.
RiYL: Of Montreal, “Aquarius” by The 5th Dimension, being serenaded by an angel sitting on a cloud of happiness and spring time
Recommended Tracks: “Intro/Pathos Pathos”, “Manchester”, “Bright Whites”, “It All Began With A Burst”, “Atticus, In The Desert”, “I Am The Antichrist To You”