I sliced through a cantaloupe, drove my car and cleaned my kitchen as I listened to this album. I can’t tell if it’s multipurpose, or if I am just a fan of it.
I’ve always loved Japanese Breakfast. When I first heard “Everybody Wants to Love You” off the first album, “Psychopomp,” I knew it was going to be a life-long love. So, when Japanese Breakfast released its sophomore album “Soft Sounds from Another Planet” on July 14, I wasn’t surprised that I enjoyed it; I was surprised at the change in sound.
This album is not like the more pop-oriented “Psychopomp.” It uses a lot of vibrato guitar, and a lot of Juno 6, a keyboard synthesizer that creates fluttering sounds.
The album begins with the dreamlike “Diving Woman,” a six-minute song that starts with soft, waving keyboard.
“I want it all,” Michelle Zauner sings over the sounds of her guitar and keyboard.
This record is full of personal lyrics, something I really respect about Zauner. The record deals with her mother’s death and how she found something beautiful — love — during such a difficult time.
“Machinist,” Zauner said in an interview with NPR, is about a woman falling in love with a robot — something that gives me serious “Her” vibes.
“I don’t know how it happened,” she says, while the sound of ocean waves plays in the back.
After the spoken word ends, she begins singing in a heavily auto-tuned voice. Something I don’t usually enjoy, but it worked well with this song.
Perhaps the most dreamlike of all the songs, “Planetary Ambience” is an instrumental that consists of soft sounds and bleeps like the sounds satellites would make.
“I wanted it to sounds like two satellites talking,” Zauner said in the NPR interview.
The song is only one minute and 17 seconds, and it’s one of my favorites. Though I wish it were longer, it is the perfect length for an instrumental break between the tracks on “Soft Sounds from Another Planet.”
“Boyish” is a track about longing for someone who has eyes for someone else.
“I can’t get you off my mind, you can’t get yours off the hostess,” Zauner sings over layered vocals.
The track is actually the scratch take, Zauner told NPR. The newer versions she recorded didn’t sound as good to her, so she used the first take.
She sings an apology in “12 Steps,” named after the bar where Zauner met her husband. Though she was dating someone else at the time, the song is her apologizing to the man she was with.
The guitar riffs in this song are my favorite out of the entire album. The sounds mix perfectly with Zauner’s voice as she sings.
“Find what’s left in you, channel something good,” Zauner sings over the guitar and drums.
The ocean wave sounds return on “Till Death.” Zauner sings “all our celebrities keep dying” as my mind wanders to David Bowie and I space out for a minute. Rest in peace.
She pairs lyrics in this song with the song “Soft Sounds from Another Planet.”
“While the cruel men continue to win/You’d reassure me in a way you only can” Zauner sings in “Till Death,” connecting back to the lyrics of “Soft Sounds” where she sings, “striving for goodness while the cruel men win/There’s no part of me left that can feel or hear it.” I’m going to be honest and say I don’t know what this pairing really means, but my excitement was real when I realized it connected the beginning of the album to its end.
The album closes out with “Here Come the Tubular Bells,” which is a 41-second song that just consists of tubular bells. To me, it sounds like wedding bells, and it’s a fitting close to an album that is about finding love through the dark times.
The album is available on iTunes for $9.99, and it’s free on the Spotify app if you’re a Spotify-shuffler like I am.
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