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Kishi Bashi – “Sonderlust” Review

Album of the year? Quite possibly...
Kishi Bashi
Kishi Bashi

Kishi Bashi has quickly become one of my favourite musical artists of the last few years as I fell completely in love with his first two albums. His mesh of orchestral tendencies with his violin and his indie pop side has created some absolute gems. Back for his third studio album, this see’s things move more towards the indie pop side and use more electronics embedded in the album rather than clever violin looping. Everything we love about Kishi Bashi is still very much here though and it’s a stonker of an album.

Opening with the magical “m’lover” we have smashing tom drums, looping violins, happy chords and soaring male vocals that burst into life for the choruses. The ukulele is integral to the track as its happy-go-lucky plucking is infectious and rainbow filled declarations of love capture the pure innocent of love. It’s a mass hit in waiting – as so many of his tracks are – and provides a great launch point for the album. “Hey Big Star” is the disco number with a heavy influence of thick bass lines, 70’s like cute vocal oohs and plenty of organ synths underpinning the space-pop sound that is the core element to this album specifically. There’s something retro ABBA about it whilst it never really sounds similar to it either. Either way you’ll be in the groove throughout. “Say Yeah” is more the embodiment of what I mean. It uses beautiful string arrangements alongside glitchy chiptune keyboards, lush guitars and cute as hell vocals. Kishi Bashi has always had a smooth as butter voice but here its higher register lets him smoother you in the warmest, fluffiest pillows of music whilst being utter sincere and on point lyrically. There’s even a flute solo. What more could make you smile?

After the opening trio the album takes a slight turn towards the more space odyssey drama side. “Can’t Let Go, Juno” has gorgeous string sections that make everything sound so grande and full. The indie pop sound has catchy melodies and motifs a plenty and it’s just golden age pop created with love and creativity. The second part of the dramatic duo is my personal favourite “Ode to My next Life” which starts with a cranking up a dramatic violins and then bursts into something that you’d usually hear as a TV introduction. It’s a powerful track that is drenched in layers of arpeggio synths, rubbery sounds and space alien b-movie sounds – and it works fantastically. Cinematic pop at its finest.

Despite its name “Who’d You Kill” is a creeper rather than a dramatic track. The electric piano and phased vocals and guitars place it firmly into the 70’s psychedelia world. It’s intricate interplay between the instruments marks it out in style because most of the album sounds like a beautiful wash of sound and here you can hear most of the instruments crisply and appreciate the detail without going to seek it. It’s a great change of pace before surely a future single “Statues in a Gallery” plays with looped chipmunk voices, violin mash-ups and huge drums as Kishi Bashi lets loose with some of the most instantly catchy hooks of the album. I always feel so elated after the track is finished – I usually stick it on repeat and dance around again!

“Why Don’t You Answer Me” is another indie pop gem. Strings, guitars, harpsichord and drums collide with plenty of force as effortlessly chord after chord roll into each other. It’s one of the few slightly downbeat tracks on the album but even then you can’t help but dance whilst singing “all the kings and queens cannot stop this siege – why don’t you answer me?” It moves into the only real ballad track “Flame on Flame (A Slow Dirge)” but even then its full of celestial keyboard effects, intricate violin warps and smooth vocals to provide a track that feels like it’s moving in slow motion. It’s a cinematic end to the album which then ends with the ultra cute and bouncy summer beach pop track “Honeybody”. Bouncy chopped up violins and vocal snippets over a happy beat and cheeky lyrics makes the album round off with the kind of track you’d shuffle and click to if you were a hipster or just get deliriously drunk to if you weren’t.

Easily a contender for album of year. I love it when an artist opens their palette of music wider but still keeps their signature sound grounded somewhere inside. Kishi Bashi has managed to do this with aplomb and if you aren’t a fan I recommend going and listening to this fantastic piece of work…now!

Recommended Track : Statues in a Gallery

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