Papi Shiitake Wabi-Sabi
It’s not too often we get an indie pop rock record with this much organic swagger. But record label Trash Casual has a reputation for strictly releasing records that scream authenticity and Wabi-Sabi is no exception.
According to their Spotify bio, the band is described as “Employing lush, hypnotizing guitars, reverb-drenched melodies, and an arsenal of diverse, heady instrumentation, the NYC-based dream-pop singer/producer spins a web of 60’s inspired dreamscapes that bring the tensions down and the tranquility up.”
The LP exists less as a mere collection of songs and more as a carefully constructed universe of the artist’s imagination. Over the years Shiitake has become extremely skilled at surrounding himself with talented collaborators and possesses quite a knack for setting up the the proper environment for a killer song to present itself. That’s the world of Papi Shiitake, and that’s the space we are invited to occupy on Wabi-Sabi.
From the very opening track, “Punch Buggy,” you can feel a summery sadness like sinking your toes into the sandy shores of something that’s just slipped away. The vocal delivery throughout the album has a relaxed vibe to it that feels both extremely welcoming and painfully real. Mellotron-drenched “Mountains Red” and groove-driven “Mexican Moonlight” wash over us like a dark soulful wave, leaving us exposed to feel Papi in those specific moments. It’s beautifully rare that an artist can so honestly take us back to such a particular emotional instance, to capture a fleeting moment and build a space around it to exist and breathe.
Papi Shiitake live (photos by Kate Hoos)
Wabi Sabi is full of these complex truthful moments. Sometimes it veers a bit from the somber towards introspective acceptance as we see on the sleepy melancholy-adjacent highlight track, “Hideaway.” Other times it doubles down on the tragic beauty like on the powerful closer “Do What You Say.” Shiitake told Buzz Music, “Before every relationship ends there’s this moment when something turns inside of you. You realize that it’s over, but you’re still in it. There’s such power and sadness at that moment. What once was so bright has dimmed and the cold night is fast approaching.”
Papi Shiitake has spent years in and out of musical projects, traveling both geographically and artistically to find his own voice. I’m probably best acquainted with his previous garage/pop/surf band, Best Behavior. But in 2020, he turned a corner with Quarantine Dream, an EP that allowed Shiitake to break out and approach things with a whole new foundation of freedom. The result was Wabi-Sabi, a bigger and more confident record that serves to take even further down the rabbit hole of Shiitake’s swagger and maybe catch a little sunshine along the way.
Wabi-Sabi is out now via Trash Casual and available on all major streaming services.