by Olivier LaRoche
On his self-titled sophomore album, multi-instrumentalist Sen Morimoto offers a slick fusion of jazz-rap and soulful art-pop, mixing in various elements from across the musical genre spectrum along the way. The Chicago artist’s background of saxophone is made clear right away, on the opening track “Love, Money Pt. 2,” as well as his knack for a funkier sound, like on the track “Deep Down.” The guitar and keyboard sounds differ on nearly every song, making for a genuinely engaging sound that remains hard to pin down.
Guest vocals from NNAMDÏ, Joseph Chilliams and others only add to the colourful nature of the record. The broad range of influences and varying sounds make for a dynamic listen, and Morimoto still manages to tie the record together with a certain cohesive moodiness that can be found on every track. This album will pull you into the artist’s mind, as if slipping into a dream.
The introspection and vulnerability of the lyrics give the impression that Morimoto is an old friend, forging a bond between listener and artist from the first listen. From the nonchalant flows delivered on “Save” to the woeful desperation on the song “Woof,” there seems to be a grey cloud hanging over Sen and his music, that makes every joyful moment seem like an exception. This is not to the detriment of the album however, as it properly sets a tone for the record rather than leaving the listener guessing.
The songs themselves are not always sad, but the general melancholy and tones of regret in Sen’s lyrics and voice give the impression that he is perhaps still healing, on a journey to being better, a quality reminiscent of Mac Miller’s later work. Though it may seem that the lyrics and the music tell different stories, the contrasting sadness of Morimoto’s voice and subject matter, and the sheer beauty and colour of the instrumentals makes for a striking combination. Sen Morimoto proves that melancholy can be a vehicle for creativity and charm as it transitions to hope.