Philadelphia’s Carissa Matsushima is a versatile session vocalist and a composer of scores for dance pieces and art installations. Lately, she also makes driving art rock under the name Kikashima.

The project first hit our radar this summer when they appeared on NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Contest Road Show at World Cafe Live. Their entry “Running Away,” a grooving rock and roll pep talk in a moment of self-doubt, impressed the judges and landed the band a spot opening for touring contest winner Little Moon. At the gig, Kikashima delivered on the song’s promise with a roaring set of arcing, complex rock recalling PJ Harvey and Jeff Buckley, with moving vocals and a dynamic range indebted to artists from Angel Olsen to Minnie Ripperton.

In short, we were blown away, and invited Matsushima and her bandmates — bassist Parker St. Charles, drummer Max Azarmehr — to record a Key Studio Session not long after.

Matsushima self describes Kikashima as “a project about truth and legacy,” a space for deep introspection, a celebration of her Mexican-Japanese heritage, and a claiming of her own space in the world. Songs touch on love and grief, insecurity and self-assurance, moments of familial intimacy and views of the greater world.

In this performance, we hear “Deserve You,” a song Matsushima wrote for her mother; we hear a powerfully amplified version of her new single “Not Goin With U” (practically a cappella on stream services, but filled with riffs and drums here); we hear a new rager called “Rattlesnake” and we hear the song that started it all, “Running Away.” Watch Kikashima’s Key Studio Sessions performance below, and for more, follow them on social media at @kikashimamusic.

“Deserve You”
“Running Away”
“Not Goin With U”