The third solo album by K Ishibashi under his Kishi Bashi moniker, Sonderlust comes with a tweak to his sound, a footnote on the title, and some emotional baggage. The title is a play on the recently invented word sonder from the Web's Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows. Essentially, it refers to the realization that any random stranger has a life experience as vivid as one's own. As for the baggage, Ishibashi has admitted to suffering marital woes while working on the album, a fact that affected its tone and especially lyrics, which are often colored by uncertainty. It may also have altered his creative process, given that frustrations with developing new material during this time led him to all but ditch what had been his primary songwriting tool, the violin. Instead, he relied heavily on electronics for Sonderlust, which he co-produced with Chris Taylor of Grizzly Bear. The album also features a handful of guests, including the rhythm section of Bram Inscore and Matt Chamberlain. Prepare for wistful dance grooves and continued ELO love on tunes like "Hey Big Star," a mostly electronic creation, and the more orchestral "Say Yeah," in which Kishi Bashi, in full falsetto, pleads "All I want is one last chance as your lover." It's a sparkling disco hybrid that opens with Atari-type sound effects, then adds strings, and goes on to offer a ridiculous (in a good way) flute jam by former Jupiter One and Of Montreal bandmate Zac Colwell. The most organic entry in a relatively shiny set is probably "Why Don't You Answer Me," a guitars and bass-driven track with brief acoustic moments ("Hey, before there were three, there was one/The loneliest of all the numbers"). In a bit of a surprise and delight coming after a tune that's subtitled "A Slow Dirge," the album closes with the playful quasi-calypso "Honeybody." For all of its struggle and unwanted inspiration, Sonderlust is a dazzling listen that will likely again draw attention from the singer's under-recognized vocal performances, one compromise he's probably happy to indulge.
AllMusic Review by Marcy Donelson