Updated: Feb 17, 2021
Album: Sen Morimoto
Artist: Sen Morimoto
Label: Sooper Records
Non-Airable Tracks: Woof, Deep Down, Goosebumps, The Things I Thought About You Started To Rhyme, The Box
Who is Sen Morimoto? Born in Japan, Sen Morimoto was raised in Massachusetts before moving to Chicago. Taking inspiration from jazz and rap, Morimoto released his newest self-titled album “Sen Morimoto” with the label Sooper Records, which he co-owns, on October 23, 2020 (from Genius.com)
When I first listened to this album, I was a bit surprised. Comprised of 15 tracks, the album has a distinct sound and unique balance of jazz, hip-hop, and rock influences. Sen Morimoto also uses a free-form flexibility between a type of sing-talking and singing throughout the album. The more I’ve listened to this album the more I notice little things in the arrangements or lyrics or backing vocals that make me enjoy it more and more each listen. I also really appreciate how many collaborations the album contains; four tracks feature one collaborator while a fifth features three. I think the amount of collaboration really shows that the artists are really focused on the final product they create together, making art for arts’ sake.
One of my favorite things about Morimoto’s lyrical style is his clever reimagining and rephrasing of colloquialisms. Although these phrases have distinct common meanings, Morimoto’s rearticulating conveys a deeper meaning to listeners. “Woof” contains “My back, it breaks for you / The cracks in the pavement move / beneath your feet they land and wait for you”. These lines combined with the colloquial meaning convey a sense of helplessness and inevitability in his feelings for the person he’s talking to. Morimoto is suffering but he can’t do anything about it. The pavement moves its own cracks to fall under the subject’s feet, removing blame from the subject altogether. “Daytime but Darker” has “I gave you homework you said / ‘look what the dog did’”. This line feels more aligned with the original colloquial meaning of “the dog ate my homework”; perhaps the subject took Morimoto for granted or is making up excuses for unsavory behavior, such as blaming it on their dog. In “Jupiter”, the chorus repeats “Every boy I know went to Jupiter”. Even though the intended meaning is somewhat less clear, leaving interpretation up to the listener feels intentional. Perhaps it means that Morimoto feels like an outlier compared to people he knew from childhood and left behind as others go “to Jupiter” to more exciting things. But it also has a sense of pride; rather than going with a societally normal path through life, Morimoto is finding his own way.
Morimoto’s symbolism throughout the album is also something I did not expect. One of the most glaring is water representing the effect of emotions. Five songs use some form of or an association with water and the album cover even has a water-like appearance from the light reflections. In “Wrecked” featuring NNAMDÏ, Morimoto describes floating in a river to describe giving in to inescapable feelings, even though the river can be rough at times. Multiple versions of water are utilized in “Tastes Like It Smells” featuring Lala Lala, Kara Jackson, and Quari. “Cold as ice” is a repeating phrase throughout the song. Considering this phrase is commonly used to describe a closed off, apathetic person, I think this meaning is also relevant here, especially with the mention of “wishing at a frozen well”. Morimioto knows the person is unavailable but still hopes things will change. Follwing those lines, “I drink the water and it tastes just like it smells” probably means he knows his hope is naïve. Although a minimal reference, “Safe” also echoes the water theme with the image of breathing under water seemingly describing the feeling of trying to avoid a complicated situation. “The Box” featuring Joseph Chillams has lyrics describing throwing an old box off of a boat and watching it sink, probably representing the feeling of forcing yourself to move on from old feelings. In “Deep Down” featuring AAAMYYY, “drowning” and “underwater” appear. “Drowning” seems to be used as a way of illustrating the feeling of being overwhelmed since Morimoto uses it in the phrases “All around me, they surround me, and now I’m drowning”. “Underwater”, however, is used in a more visual way. It appears in “What if we could see it underwater?” to remind listeners of the visual distortion and even masking of objects in a body of water. This use also ties into another theme in the album, seeking truth.
The theme of seeking truth is less directly mentioned than the water theme. Both seeking truth regarding someone’s thoughts and feelings and truth about life and himself are included. Through some more direct statements and references to higher power or religion, Morimoto weaves multiple tracks together with this theme. Questions posed to unnamed subjects are peppered throughout the album. In “Love, Money Pt. 2”, “What’s it mean to you” and other similar questions are repeated. “When I feel sick, what should I do?”, “How do you walk away from your shadow”, and others appear in “Woof”. More questions appear in “Deep Down”, “Daytime but Darker”, “Nothing Isn’t Very Cool”, and “Jupiter” Religious references include in the phrase “I meditate and pray, I kneel to pray, I sit to meditate” in “Symbols, Tokens”, “I believe in God like my dog believes in dental” in “The Things I Thought About You Started To Rhyme”, “Can I hit it on the roof like Buddha” in “The Box Ft. Joseph Chilliams”, and “Love to all that I name when I pray” in “Nothing Isn’t Very Cool”.
The truth-seeking theme gives the album a coming-of-age feel; Morimoto wants to figure out the truth of who he is. Teeming with lyrics that mirror thoughts when your mind is racing or wandering, each track has a specific experience behind it. You can tell every second of this album was meticulously crafted for the listener to experience a little microcosm, a vignette transporting them to a moment in time or a recurring feeling. Morimoto does an excellent job of balancing having enough specifics to be engaging but keeping a lot of lyrics nebulous and relatable to a majority of listeners.
Nothing Isn't Very Cool
Reviewer’s Name: Haley Williams
Date of Review: 1 December, 2020