I saw Kishi Bashi twice during my first semester of college; I tried to see him a third time while he was touring with of Montreal. The pristine voice and intricate violin loops on 151a, his debut, soundtracked the high points of my Freshman year; those songs dripped with the beauty of new exploration. “Bright Whites” can still stop me in my tracks; it oozes happiness without being cliched or sentimental. Lightight failed to catch me in the same way; whether due to his changing sound or my changing taste, the album just didn’t have the same effect on me. The string loops were still there (and used incredibly well on “Philosophize in It! Chemicalize with It!”), but they were backgrounded it favor of various elements of indie electronica. Though I’ve come around on the album a bit, it just doesn’t have the same sense of wonder as his debut and live performances.
Though Kishi Bashi continues to dabble in electronica on Sonderlust, the album feels much more like the debut. The violin weaves through the other instruments, soaring over a keyboard fill or a disco beat. Some tracks see influence drawn from the broader would of rock. “Who’d You Kill” has a groove that wouldn’t be out of place in a 70’s west-coast jam session with vocal effects to match. “Why Don’t You Answer Me” weaves of Montreal-esque glam into a dark falsetto and staccato keyboards, landing somewhere between dancey and heady. The songs rise and fall; while his first two albums were relentlessly cheery, there is now a weariness that sneaks into his music at times.
This album sees a Kishi Bashi painting with a much broader palate, both in sound and mood. For the most part, this works very well, though at times it feels like he’s not quite sure how to balance conflicting emotions as the songs transition. Overall, though, the album is textured and expressive; detailed pop that’s sure to reward repeated listens; not so much a return to form as an expansion on it.