One-part sweet and and three-parts sassy, New York’s brazen synth-pop outfit Heartsrevolution showcases the snappy vocals of Leyla “Lo” Safai, the quirky composition of Ben Pollock, and the instrumentals of Terry “Prince Terrence” Campbell, who joins the duo for live performances. The band formed back in 2005, when Safai commissioned Pollock to write music for the Heartschallenger ice cream truck – that’s right, the band owns an ice cream truck – which has helped fund the band’s releases and was hailed in 2014 as the Best Band Vehicle by Rolling Stone. They released a slew of singles in the late 2000s, a split-single collaboration with Crystal Castles, and several EPs and mixtapes before finally unveiling their first full-length studio album in April 2014, titled Ride or Die, under Skrillex’s OWSLA label. Besides their musical endeavors, Heartsrevolution has embarked on several interesting art projects, including the bedazzling of their ice cream truck in Swarovski crystals. Safai claims the project took two-and-a-half years to complete, and that they would have run out of crystals had Michael Jackson not passed away: he had requisitioned a large quantity of crystals for a tour, and those crystals were passed on to Heartsrevolution upon his death.
Today’s review concerns the standout track, Kishi Kaisei, off April 2014’s Ride or Die LP. Although the tune appears relatively straight-forward and jovial, there is much deeper meaning to be found as we peel back the layers of hi-fi dream pop and lyrical context.
The name ‘Kishi Kaisei’ is borrowed from an ancient Japanese proverb, 起死回生 (pronounced ‘kishi kaisei’), and literally translates as “wake from death and return to life.” In this sense, we can understand the track to be about someone escaping a desperate situation, making a “return to life” in one sudden burst. That situation being ‘expectations.’ Societal, familial, and any other expectations to push a pre-determined, controlled way of living. “We’re gonna live free,” trills Safai, “now put your hands in the air and waive them round like you just don’t give a uh.”
Kishi Kaisei, albeit confrontational, is overwhelmingly positive and a joy to listen to. The bouncy synth beats and declaration of freedom hearken to themes of acceptance, renewal, and transformation. Give it a listen and let us know what you think!