Japanese Breakfast is the solo project of Michelle Zauner, who you might remember as the vocalist in Philly indie rock band Little Big League. I have reviewed that band a few times before here on EvilSponge, and i was pleased to see a solo project show up in my inbox.
Zauner's voice is still a little gaspy, and sometimes it can be a little too high-pitched. However, in the time since These Are Good People in 2013, she has seemed to tone it down a little. Well, for the most part.
In Heaven is a bright tune that begins with a piano trilling then becomes a lovely chugging pop tune. She sings nicely here, wailing a bit under guitar and keyboards that shimmer. It's a nice start to the record, and shows that what Zauner is doing here is poppier and less crunchy indie rock than what she does with Little Big League.
The Woman that Loves You starts with a guitar riff that seems to have wandered in from an early Verve record alongside some epic early 1980s drumming a la Big Country. She sings very high-pitched here, over a sung that burbles full of keyboards and little trills. The way she sings on the chorus, as synth bass rumbles and keys sparkle, as she twists here her high-pitched voice so that it breathily gasps likes something Madonna would done early in her career. I really hope that Ms. Zauner wears a giant lace bow in her hair as she sings this.
The next song gets back to LBL territory as Zauner plays 1990s girl indie pop on Rugged Country. The guitar crunches, and the chorus swells up into a catchy little riff. This is nice.
She pushes her voice to the highest register for Everybody Wants to Love You, which is a happy little song that cruises along with jangly guitar, washes of synths, and a deeper male voice repeating the title in counterpoint to her singing. It's a bouncy little tune, and rather fun.
Psychopomp is an ambient interlude of tinkling keys that burble along with a drum machine lethargically tapping, then it ends with a faint vocal sample. It is nice enough, but completely unlike anything i have heard from Zauner before. Huh.
Jane Cum is a good little pop song with light guitarwork in layers and keyboard. It bounces along nicely, getting all fuzzy with overdriven guitar on the choruses. At the end, everything fades and her guitar tanks alongside some sawing strings for a moment.
Heft is a great song. The guitar chugs along and then explodes as her voice soars. It starts off like an indie rock tune with chugging guitar, but as it grows, she layers in synths and other voices, all harmonizing like some 1980s new wave band. It's a bouncy and fun tune.
Zauner gives us another interlude with Moon on the Bath, just a minute and a half of her noodling faintly with the guitar.
And then finally the record ends with Triple 7 which is four minutes of meandering keyboards and Zauner's voice at its breathiest.
Actually, to be completely honest i would have preferred if the record ended after Heft. The last two tracks are far more boring than the rest of the music here, kind of as if someone told Zauner to come up with a few more songs just to round out the release... I have no evidence that is what happened, but it kind of seems like that to me.
The rest of the record is very nice though. Zauner does good work, and i continue to be impressed.