[Aerobic International; 2011]

Have you ever wondered what of Montreal might sound like of they still made innocent upbeat songs about tea parties set in fanatical worlds where the creatures were just as likely to be your best friend as they were to eat your children? Instead we get somewhat woefully inconsistent offerings which, admittedly, can be uplifting and downright chipper at times, but too often they’re masked with or have sexual innuendos running through their core. Enter Kishi Bashi, whose music I can’t help but hear as what Kevin Barnes’ might have sounded like had it not been corrupted with all the gender confused split personalities.

I could be forcing this description, or rather, to be more accurate, squeezing it out from one guest spot Barnes has on this four song EP. “Evalyn, Summer Has Arrived” is an upbeat number with swirling violin and enthusiastic strumming that matches the season it namedrops in the title. And Barnes is pretty good in it too, if not for matching Bashi’s admirable range but for also not getting in the way too much and just helping the song along its upbeat trail. If anything, the two seem to play off each other, coiling around each other’s vocal melodies with their falsettos.

The other three songs, however, do have a similarity to Barnes’ earlier work and to his style in general with buoyant rhythms and jaunty melodies and lyrics that can be heavy and specific but never too overbearing. “Manchester” is the story of writing a story which hides a lot of weight on the bridge where he Bashi sings “I haven’t been this alive in a long time,” and releases the energy he builds up. It’s kind of like waking up in a really, really good mood and having one of those immense stretches where you just feel like you’ve had a new dose of life shot through you.

But it’s not all of Montreal-like, though the other comparisons are to other bands that have a cheerful disposition with their music. “Bright Whites” recalls Passion Pit with its repeated high pitched vocal melodies, while the enthusiasm on this track and “Evalyn” can bring to mind a huge collective like I’m From Barcelona. On stage he actually comes to resemble someone like Andrew Bird or Owen Pallet (with a drum machine) and this loosening of the core material does seem to have found its way into the recording studio. As enjoyable as these songs are for all the peculiar pop they have in them, there is certain freedom on exhibition with the structure of the songs as they all feel like good, if not great songs but spread out a bit. “Manchester” and “Conversations at the End of the World” take their time in releasing their builds, making sure to get the most out of the scattered ambience that keeps them together. While this is all fine and makes for that quirky edge, there are times when you’ll find yourself wishing things were tightened up a bit and would hit that mark a bit quicker. The EP runs for only seventeen minutes but it can strangely feel like it’s longer than this, especially when “Conversations” slows down the pace.

“Evalyn,” however, picks the pace right up again and it’s dizzyingly upbeat moments like this that make the EP worth checking out. Even though I’m a bit late to the game (the EP was released back at the end of May) I’m not going to object to having another few songs to soundtrack my summer. Next year though I’ll be sure to let Kishi Bashi announce my summer as soon as I feel that first warming streak of sunlight across my face.