The art-pop chanteuse writes some subtly heavy and catchy songs with impressive and absolute conviction. Info/tix
Philadelphia musician Michelle Zauner, formerly of punk band Little Big League, writes bright, confessional indie-pop as Japanese Breakfast. On her sophomore album, 2017’s Soft Sounds From Another Planet, Zauner infuses an optimistic, melody-focused energy with spacey synths, putting influences like Grandaddy right up front. While Zauner's first album, 2016’s Psychopomp, already proved her knack for singalong choruses, and an emotional range that soothingly took songs down dark corners, Soft Sounds is a step up in the songwriting department. Her debut just bursts with possibilities and benefits from groovier rhythm-section turns on songs like “Driving Woman,” while “Machinist” pulls off a turn to electronic pop, complete with Auto-Tune and vocoder. Zauner is also a clever storyteller, like on the song "12 Steps," which tells offers a new twist on a likely familiar tale for most in one way or another: How and why she abandoned someone she was dating to be with someone else. Rather than fixate on the situation’s heartbreak and anguish, she instead makes a case for how letting go can be easy and guilt-free if the path towards living your best life is clear.
Zauner often sounds happy as she sings about mistakes in the past, death, and disease, not because she's ironically twisting them to fit in a short pop song, but because she is singing from the vantage point of having overcome the associated trauma. Soft Sounds also spends time ruminating on Zauner's mother's death, and Zauner's guilt at having made music a priority in her life. Her live shows are a celebration of life, even as some fans are left in tears. Montreal post-punk band Ought opens.
In other news, Zauner recently got into a Twitter spat with Steel Panther over her denouncement of the band's offensive pedal. Go check out the fallout from that if you want to see a cultural fault line in action. —Reid Kurkerewicz