Japanese Breakfast

Soft Sounds From Another Planet

Dead Oceans

Jul 13, 2017 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Find It At: AMAZON

When Japanese Breakfast first emerged into the world, it was to deal with the loss of Michelle Zauner's mother. The solo project from Little Big League singer Zauner mourned with impeccable pop style on 2016's Psychopomp. A year on and Soft Sounds From Another Planet finds Zauner seeking escape from trauma, shooting off to the stars for a synth-tinged autotuned adventure every bit as good as her debut.

Her sophomore record is dense, full of life, and full of fascinating sounds. Drum machines and sax solos vie for space next to guitars, autotuned vocals, fluttering synth effects, and funky basslines. The bass is vital here. Simple and easy to overlook, it's also the beating heart of many tracks.

That's the thing with Zauner's work though: it's easy to obsess over any one part of the sound, then come back later and obsess over something entirely different. Musically it feels like she's mixed up different jigsaws and somehow made the pieces fit together. Soft Sounds is ambitious not only because it throws so much in, but because it aims to push a coherent whole out the other end. It's experimental pop that wants to experiment while still sounding like pop, and it really works.

Thematically as well Zauner sets a series of interesting challenges. "Machinist" has her tell of the love between a woman and a machine. Other tracks find her contemplating women trapped by men. "Boyish," a wonderful blend of David Lynch commissioned Roy Orbison balladry, sees her sing "Your boyish reassurance is not reassuring" before later concluding "I want you/And you want something more beautiful." It's a conflicted sentiment for an album of confliction and setbacks. It's also a rebuke, because those looking for something more beautiful need look no farther than what Zauner is already offering. (www.michellezauner.bandcamp.com)

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