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Japanese Breakfast - Soft Sounds From Another Planet (Album Review)

Friday, 11 August 2017 Written by Huw Baines

‘Psychopomp’, Michelle Zauner’s first LP as Japanese Breakfast, was an album that came to be inextricably tied to the time and place of its writing. Assembled in her home state, Oregon, following the death of her mother, the record would become a byword for grief in the coverage that followed.

“It’s really hard to follow up a record [where the] narrative was blown up to be, ‘This is a record about her mom dying,” Zauner said in a recent Bandcamp interview. “And like, how do you follow up an album about grief? Because it’s not like it goes anywhere and it’s not like it’s not going to stay with me for the rest of my life, it’s not like I don’t think about it every day."

That understanding is one of the great strengths of ‘Soft Sounds From Another Planet’. Here Zauner is further down the tracks and frames her experiences as part of a wider canvas informed by 18 months discussing a life-changing event with strangers.

“Try your best to slowly withdraw from the darkest impulses of your heart,” she sings on The Body is a Blade, a song that finds her as a vessel moving through time. “Try your best to feel and receive. Your body is a blade that cuts a path from day to day.”

There is a sense of detachment and reappraisal throughout, stemming from the record’s beginnings as a sci-fi concept piece and running through Zauner’s words on self-care and past relationships, where her analytical eye is operating with 20/20 hindsight. But the result is never clinical.

‘Psychopomp’ was a rich, cathartic record, but also one with ebullient songs and frank, often funny, depictions of love and sex. Both threads are deftly picked up and expanded upon here with fine results.

‘Soft Sounds From Another Planet’, produced and performed by Zauner and Craig Hendrix, experiments with a wider tonal palette than its predecessor, but it is also packed with wicked earworms and dispenses lyrics like Boyish’s razor sharp chorus: “I can’t get you off my mind, I can’t get you off in general.”

That song is a direct link to Zauner’s past fronting the Philadelphia emo band Little Big League, having featured in fuzzed out rocker form on their ‘Tropical Jinx’ LP, but here it’s a nice example of her shifting priorities.

It’s re-cast as a lilting, glittering ballad comfortable in the company of songs like the cosmic jam opener, Diving Woman, and the synth-pop of Machinist, revealing that the solid foundations of her work extend far beyond style and presentation.

Japanese Breakfast Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Tue October 31 2017 - LIVERPOOL Heebie Jeebies
Thu November 02 2017 - BRIGHTON Joker
Fri November 03 2017 - MANCHESTER Soup Kitchen
Sun November 05 2017 - GLASGOW Hug and Pint
Mon November 06 2017 - LEEDS Headrow House
Tue November 07 2017 - LONDON Dome, Tufnell Park

Click here to compare & buy Japanese Breakfast Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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