Reviewed by: Tiffany Taylor
Bushy tailed and starry-eyed is where I’m left at the end of Kishi Bashi’s latest album Sonderlust. First, let’s define sonder: the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own. Add the word lust to that and we’re left with the desire of something intricate and electrifying. The entire album has something ultimately celestial about it, glistening and shimmering through the ears, creating pictures in your eyes. For an artist that is so multi-talented and creative in his work, it is quite the feat to imagine something as incredible as Sonderlust. I urge you to melt into the sound and laugh and love as hard as this album pulsates.
My applause go the one and only Kishi Bashi for his remarkable work on all the instruments he incorporates into his music: keyboards, guitar, violin, and multiple programming outlets. Stylistically this album bursts at the seams with pop elements, but there is something obvious and different in each song on this album. Not only is it just well produced, popular music, but it contains string elements from the violin combined with electronic complexity- something that is growing more popular in mainstream music. Track one “m’lover” is best described as a twinkling introduction to a story of growth. Dazzling vocals accompanied by a backdrop of voices and drums escalates into a booming fairy tale of emotion. By the time the chorus hits, if you are not moving- there might be something wrong with the way you perceive rhythm.
Anyways, enough of my gushing; as we get into the following tracks including “Hey Big Star” and “Say Yeah.” Things get a little more techno, almost reminiscent of a video game ‘beep boop’ and it’s accompanied with a dreamlike keyboard sound and more airy vocals. Mixing generational boundaries with a little bit of ’80s flare combined with the now. “Can’t Let Go, Juno” has an intro that hooks from the start. The keyboards are used as a lure and then steady electronics and a string guitar with violin makes things simply beautiful. As it progressed it became one of my favorite tracks, a bit of somber thrown into something powerful really hits home.
Completely switching gears, we hit “Ode to My Next Life” which is very orchestral compared to the rest of the bunch; however it takes a very deep plunge into a underground dance track. So much of this feels it was derived from early disco and the early stages of electronic, it almost comes off refreshing and new. Luckily each track stands on its own, is easy to differentiate between, and has its own ‘Kishi Bashi’ flare that totally sets it apart. Before we get to the latter half of the album, I would like to make note that some of the songs that fall in the middle such as: “Who’d You Kill” and “Statues in a Gallery” fall a little short for me. Then again for the central point of the album they make sense. There is some slow interludes and rawness that makes the entire piece unique…they just do not end up being standout songs in the end.
However “Flame on Flame” which ends up being categorized as a slow, mournful song, almost poem like turns out to be a haunting and uplifted track. Overall it plays over as a repetitive ballad that is meant to backdrop a feeling that was needed to be sung. “Honeybody” ends the entire album in a triumphant and restorative way. It feels that we almost underwent a journey and now that journey is coming to a finish. The pop track is a memorable way to finish everything off. Placing this song at the end was a smart and bold decision because although it may not be the most boasting track on the record it will be in the heads of all who listen and truly that is what makes a good pop song. So although Ibashi wrote this song with personal feeling and heart, he definitely placed it in an intelligent manner.
This album marks a change in the style and the musician that Ibashi wants to be. Fueling a lot of the fire from personal struggles and innate feelings into this album is paying off for the better and it is setting a fire behind him that will hopefully create a storm. Sonderlust is a complicated and timeless piece of music that takes you back and forth from the present to the past. As a solo artist compiling this all into a beautiful piece I would recommend everyone to not only listen, but to challenge you to see him live; he is truly a musical genius of his time.