The last year has been massive for Michelle Zauner, the artist behind Japanese Breakfast. Her essay “Crying in H Mart”— which poignantly connected food to ethnicity and loss— was published in the New Yorker, she directed the stunning music video for “Dylan Thomas” by Better Oblivion Community Center, and to top it all off, she recently announced a forthcoming memoir about Asian American identity that will be published through the Alfred A. Knopf publishing house.
As Japanese Breakfast, Zauner’s music is just as varied as her wide range of accomplishments. 2016’s Psychopomp, an album about her mother’s passing, is at times ethereal, heavy-handed, and haunting, her vocals cloaked in a shroud of shoegazey guitars, and at others, high-spirited and joyful, containing some of the stickiest pop hooks you’ll ever have the pleasure of hearing. 2017’s Soft Sounds from Another Planet generally brought in lusher instrumentation and tighter production, marking a foray into sounds beyond the realm of electric guitar driven rock. Zauner was not afraid to embrace maximalist production on songs like “Machinist”, an auto-tuned ballad about falling in love with a robot that certainly sounds the part (the track ends with what I can only describe as a very emphatic and sensual saxophone breakdown), and “Boyish”, a sparkly, gorgeous, and unabashedly romantic song— complete with string section— that somehow manages to capture the feelings of high school prom and an intimate dance in a cramped bedroom many years later, both at the same time. Tracks like “Road Head” and “The Body Is a Blade” feel fluttery and cosmic, a restless synth grinding on in the background all the while. But Zauner also gladly trades drum machines, vocoders, and synths for a simple acoustic guitar on emotionally devastating songs like “This House.” Soft Sounds from Another Planet rarely stays still for more than two songs at a time, and is all the more better for it. The band’s loosely released tracks have also been nothing short of a blessing— “2042” is the sort of hypnagogic pop that would feel right at home as the focal song in a Wong Kar-Wai film, and Zauner’s voice is a natural fit on The Cranberry’s iconic “Dreams.”
One of the most exciting indie acts in recent years, things are only going up from here for Japanese Breakfast! We can’t wait to see what the band has been cooking up for this tour— come see them at the Royale on either the 1st or 6th of April.