Author: Izzi Bavis
Japanese Breakfast is coming to the Majestic Theater here in Madison this Sunday, September 16. Japanese Breakfast, a Philadelphia band fronted by the musician Michelle Zauner, has released two full length albums in the past two years; Psychopomp in 2016 and Soft Sounds from Another Planet in 2017. With growing popularity, Zauner’s music has strayed away from its initial bedroom pop sound. Soft Sounds from Another Planet plays with a new element of production, incorporating electronic based noises. Zauner’s infectious vocals matched with the repetitive percussion invites listeners to experience her full ranch of emotions. Psychopomp revisits this territory. “Everybody Wants to Love You” leads listeners to dance around while “Jane Cum” sings about regret and longingness. Zauner’s lyrics display a ranch of emotion, allowing her to explore various aspects of her life.
Outside of the studio Zauner recently published her first article in The New Yorker. In “Crying in H Mart,” Zauner discusses being Korean American growing up in Eugene, Oregon. She talks about the death of her mother, self-doubt of her Korean identity, and the challenges of being raised in a multicultural household. These themes of personal struggles are also evident in her music. The release of Psychopomp dated three years after the original diagnosis of her mother with cancer. The record explores multiple narratives of Zauner. She shares her hardship with grief and struggles with the idea that she has to inevitably move on. Psychopomp offers an intimate glimpse into Zauner’s life. Zauner approaches the album as a work created because of death and for her mother.
On her next release, Zauner explores experimental pop. Soft Sounds from Another Planet provides listeners with a new look at Zauner’s artistry. On this record, Zauner uses electronic sounds as the backdrop to her music. The first track “Diving Woman” braids together guitar solos, electronic waves, and angsty vocals. Similar to Psychopomp, Zauner investigates her personal life, drawing out her experiences and projecting them into a science fiction musical. Soft Sounds from Another Planet is a journey through space and time. The narrative that Zauner conveys through mystical sounds and electronic ambiance is a departure from Psychopomp. Zauner puts her insecurities into song once more in “Boyish,” singing about her fears in her relationship.
The lyrics on Psychopomp and Soft Sounds from Another Planet are consistent, both are grounded in Zauner’s trauma and daily life. The difference between the two records is clear. Psychopomp is bedroom pop with a stripped down production while Soft Sounds from Another Planet is layered with more complex sounds and electronic noises. One hopes that this tension between the albums will be on display Sunday night at the Majestic Theatre.