Last summer, Japanese Breakfast released Soft Sounds From Another Planet, a shimmery and synthy reimagining of her old indie-pop sound that ranks among 2017’s best albums. And Japanese Breakfast’s Michelle Zauner isn’t just finding new ways to present her own music; she’s doing the same things with your parents’ favorite song. In a recent … More »
In a series of interviews, we’re asking some of the artists behind 2017’s best albums to reflect on the year that was. After speaking to Perfume Genius and Vince Staples, we asked Japanese Breakfast mastermind Michelle Zauner to close the trilogy with us. More »
The five-track set includes a blissfully mellow rework of “Maybes” from Grammy-winning artist RAC. He’s taken the minimalist track and given it a bit more of a dance backbone. Though it’s still true to its delicate roots, RAC is able to seamlessly morph “Maybes” into a smooth-flowing remix that accentuates Japanese Breakfast‘s vocals and pays homage to Giraffage’s well-crafted original.
Other remixes of Too Real include “Green Tea” remixes from Carpainter and Onra, another “Maybes” remix from Masayoshi Iimori, and a “Slowly” remix from Hiko Momoji. The set of remixes is out Dec. 5.
Soft Sounds From Another Planet, the album that Japanese Breakfast released earlier this year, is a gorgeous collection of synthy dreampop. But when band mastermind Michelle Zauner took part in NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts video series, she reinvented three of the songs from that album. At her Tiny Desk show, Zauner teamed up with … More »
Japanese Breakfast released the excellent indie-pop album Soft Sounds From Another Planet this summer, and after dropping videos for the album tracks “Machinist” and “Road Head,” they’ve got a new one for the shimmering “The Body Is A Blade.” Band mastermind Michelle Zauner, who’s emerged as a truly gifted music-video auteur, directed … More »
Oakland-based songwriter Melina Duterte, better known as Jay Som, has had a heck of a year. We named her an Artist To Watch and hailed her video for “Baybee” video, and this past summer her debut album Everybody Works placed highly on our rundown of the best albums of 2017 so … More »
Michelle Zauner’s indie-pop project Japanese Breakfast released their gorgeous sophomore LP Soft Sounds From Another Planet earlier this summer. She had originally set out to write a sci-fi concept album based on the Mars One project, but mostly abandoned the idea, except for “Machinist,” a futuristic, energetic, Auto-Tuned song about a doomed romance … More »
San Francisco’s bedroom-based producer Charlie Yin, better known as Giraffage, has an album on the way. In a recent interview with NPR, the producer explained he barely left his room throughout recording. “So, basically, I didn’t go outside,” he said of the two years he spent making his debut record, Too Real (out Oct. 20 on Counter Records). “I hung out in my room with my Siamese cat, Cheeky, until it was done. The end.”
A new single off the forthcoming record, “Maybes,” has just arrived and it’s a cheeky, pleasant lullaby. Featuring the dreamy vocals of Brooklyn singer-songwriter Michelle Zauner, known as Japanese Breakfast, the song is a glistening wave that washes over its listeners with a tide of renewal. While the song’s lyrics dwell on irresolution, the impact of “Maybes” lies lesser in its lyrics that in its visceral sonic tenderness. The track’s vocals and synths rise and fall unexpectedly and equate to Yin as an outlier amongst his contemporaries.
“I really didn’t want to do the build-up-drop thing,” Yin said of creating the unconventional dance tune.”When I did use drops, I wanted them to surprise the listener, to blossom unexpectedly, to be more of a story.”
Giraffage’s Too Real comes out Oct. 20 on Ninja Tune’s Counter Records.
San Francisco producer Charlie Yin, who puts out music under the name Giraffage, has been around for a while now, but he’s just getting around to releasing his debut album. Too Real comes out in October, and one of the songs on it is a collaboration with Japanese Breakfast’s Michelle Zauner, who released her sophomore … More »
Soft Sounds From Another Planet
[Dead Oceans; 2017]
Who cares what we talk about when we talk about love? Where Michelle Zauner’s justly acclaimed first album, Psychopomp, dealt with her mother’s death, Soft Sounds From Another Planet is an odyssey of that other staple of the psyche and of the pop world: romance.
But what if romantic love is not what we find when we go exploring? What if it’s not the only thing in the universe? What if it’s not the only thing worth talking about?
The question here goes unanswered. And maybe it’s unfair to ask, because in space, lovers are always star-crossed.
But indulge my moony ways for a moment — what else does outer space mean in music? Zauner’s interplanetary craft doesn’t have the zaniness of Lucia Pamela or even her Stereolab echo, though it gestures to Gwenno’s motorik pop. The identity politics of Afrofuturism aren’t apparent either (even if Zauner’s talked often in interviews of the influence of her Asian-American background). Instead, on Soft Sounds, space is the place for pop’s eternally lovelorn outsider, a paradoxical Martian landscape where being an outsider makes you feel part of an alien nation. As Zauner puts it, “It’s beautiful that you’re not alone in your pain — you’re not alone in your feelings.”
To journey to this place is to dive upwards — and the album opens with “Diving Woman,” a tribute to the Haenyeo, female Japanese freedivers floating through galaxies of pearls and starfish on the ocean floor.
Where Psychopomp was about a journey as guide, Soft Sounds plunges into the weariness of ongoing grief and the cynicism of failed relationships, as well as the happiness of relationships that work, their capacity to provide a stable launching place. “Till Death” frames love as retrieving and relieving the horrors of contemporary politics and society, from cruel powerful men to PTSD and anxiety — love as Major Tom’s return journey. It’s true, and it’s also a questionable politics and a heavy burden for any emotion. Meanwhile, a sly final nod to Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells” (as wedding chimes) recapitulates “Till Death’s” matrimonial melancholy while exorcising the ghosts of lovers past.
The many points of reference on display are (perhaps too) tasteful, understated — a constellation of Chromatics synth, a stargaze of 1960s chamber pop and of saxophone. Ultimately, Soft Sounds is an uneven experience, stylistically and in terms of (this listener’s) engagement. But still, in the shimmering hooky synthpop of “Machinist,” the Morrissey-esque lilt of “Boyish,” there are bright stars hanging in the firmament.