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Album Review – Sonderlust

Kishi Bashi – Sonderlust – released 16 September 2016

When I was sixteen, I had to take the tube early every morning in July to get to my Shakespeare course in central London. I was obsessed with ABBA that summer, and I listened to the Mama Mia! Soundtrack via Discman over and over again on my commute. I remember looking around at all the miserable passengers and thinking, ‘If only you were listening to what I’m listening to, you’d be smiling!’

I’m no longer sixteen and I now realise that no matter what music they are listening to, no sane person is going to be smiling during their trek to work on London public transport in July. However, I couldn’t help the corners of my mouth from turning up ever so slightly as I took in Kishi Bashi’s latest album Sonderlust for the first time whilst riding the bus.

Although it is his third solo studio album, Ishibashi remains clearly influenced by his time with of Montreal—especially evident in the Kevin Barnes-esque vocal styling and sexualised lyrics in the track ‘Honeybody’. But whilst of Montreal’s last couple of albums have left me cold, Sonderlust invigorates my senses with its exciting combination of shimmering disco beats and electronica vibes.

Echoing the recent dissolution of his marriage, Ishibashi touches on darker themes throughout the album—yet the mood never dips to a depressive level. Even his self-professed dirge, ‘Flame on Flame (a Slow Dirge)’, remains sensual and danceable. Although less prominent than in his former albums, his orchestral strings still swell through the electronic arrangements, mirroring his lyrical and emotional depths. ‘Can I be insane forever?’ he wonders as his violin wanders in ‘Can’t Let Go, Juno’, a single that feels both expansive and intimate.  Other highlights include ‘Ode to My Next Life’ and ‘Statues in a Gallery’—both whimsically rousing and jubilant in the spirit of his of Montreal roots.

The overall effect of the album is one of complex enjoyableness. I think Sonderlust offers listeners guilt-free buoyance and pleasure—something that can’t truly be attained from more vacuous feel-good atl-pop artists.

Kishi Bashi’s music is secretly uplifting through headphones on a morning commute–how much more joyous once you’re able to openly dance to it in your living room after a long week?

Reviewed by Weekes Gaehl

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