Kishi Bashi is a monument to earnestness. The man named K Ishibashi (two guesses as to how he chose his moniker) has made a career from pure sweetness. For a long time, and even still at times, these sort of descriptors have been deployed as weapons, writing off gentle good will in favor of the angst and narcissism of a, say, Father John Misty.

For years, Bashi has never quite received his due. To be fair, at times, his past work was perhaps a bit too sweet, growing kitschy rather than endearing when it overstayed its welcome. Omoiyari, then, is his moment.

Named for the Japanese word which essentially means valuing a sense of empathy and compassion towards others, Bashi remains as on brand as ever, true to himself to the last. His intentions may not have changed, but the climate of the, shall we say, zeitgeist is far warmer for his sound in 2019 than it was for any of his prior efforts. With the likes of Kacey Musgraves and Carly Rae Jepsen dominating many musical conversations, Kishi Bashi no longer feel bashful about his own warm ruminations.

What’s more, he’s outgrown seemingly all of his lesser impulses, with his sense of kindness comfortable and proud, vibrant without being showy, emotive without overplaying its hand. In fact, however warm and giving Omoiyari may sound, its origins stem from a far graver place than Bashi has reached towards before.

Inspired, in large part, by the internment camps more than 120,000 Japanese Americans were forced into following Pearl Harbor, a gnawing sense of fear lurks behind Omoiyari’s colorful sounds and vocals. Indeed, reflecting on his parents' early days in the country following World War II compared to recent events, Ishibashi allows, “I was shocked when I saw white supremacy really starting to show its teeth again recently in America. As a minority I felt very insecure for the first time in my adult life in this country. I think that was the real trigger for this project.”

Still, while this cloud certainly hangs over some of the material here, nothing can repress Kishi Bashi’s undying sense of optimism. When ‘Summer of ‘42’ tells a tale of undying love for another that’s moved on, rather than give in to easy despair, it celebrates the power of adoration persevering without reward. It’s both sweet and sad, and speaks to the very best of Ishibashi’s ability as a songwriter.

Much of the music here ranks among the most beautiful Bashi has yet produced. Single ‘Marigolds’ boasts both a gorgeous musical backdrop, complete with the artist's trademark gorgeous violin playing, and touching lyrics of longing for a relationship unexplored. When Bashi sings, “I wish that I had met you / When your heart was safe to hold / When you were simple and fancy / In that field of marigolds,” the words may strike gently, but they’re still akin to a blow, immediately, deeply relatable.

Quite simply, Kishi Bashi has never sounded so beautiful, nor so relatable, nor so focused. With clear intent, Omoiyari is a strong example of that rare moment when a musician finds their true stride later in their career. K Ishibashi has offered up a truly essential statement.