Today, Japanese Breakfast’s Michelle Zauner has released a RPG browser game titled Japanese Breakquest. The video game, which Zauner designed with Elaine Fath, features midi versions of all the songs from Japanese Breakfast’s critically acclaimed new album, Soft Sounds From Another Planet, out now via Dead Oceans. The songs play from room to room and are available in full for download if you beat the game.
Set in space, the goal of the game is to collect pieces of the Machinist robot to help you defeat aliens trying to take over your ship. You can equip band merchandise and instruments, like a (Sandy) Alex G T shirt, or Frankie Cosmos’ Dan Electro to raise your characters’ stats and learn abilities like “Philly Indie Cred” and “Rip a Solo” to conquer your enemies
ABOUT JAPANESE BREAKFAST:
“The title Soft Sounds From Another Planet alludes to the promise of something that may or may not be there. Like a hope in something more. The songs are about human resilience and the strength it takes to claw out of the darkest of spaces.”
Michelle Zauner wrote the debut Japanese Breakfast album in the weeks after her mother died of cancer, thinking she would quit music entirely once it was done. That wasn’t the case. When Psychopomp was released to acclaim in 2016, she was forced to confront her grief. Zauner would find find herself reliving traumatic memories multiple times a day during interviews, trying to remain composed while discussing the most painful experience of her life. Her sophomore album, Soft Sounds From Another Planet, is a transmutation of mourning, a reflection that turns back on the cosmos in search of healing.
“I want to be a woman of regimen,” Zauner sings over a burbling synth on the album’s opening track “Diving Woman.” This serves as Zauner’s mission statement: stick to the routine lest you get derailed, don’t cling to the past, don’t descend. In fact, ascend to the stars; Zauner found artistic solace removed from Earth, in outer space and science fiction. “I used the theme as a means to disassociate from trauma,” she explains. “Space used as a place of fantasy.”
And yet, Soft Sounds From Another Planet isn’t a concept album. Over the course of 12 tracks, Zauner explores an expansive thematic universe, a cohesive outpouring of unlike parts structured to create a galaxy of her own design. In the instrumental “Planetary Ambience,” synths communicate the way extraterrestrials might, and on the shapeshifting single “Machinist,” which Zauner has been performing live for over a year now, she details the sci-fi narrative of a woman falling in love with a machine. “It’s pure fiction,” she explains, “But it can map onto real relationships in a relevant way.” The track, which begins with spoken-word ambience, moves into autotune ’80s pop bliss and ends with a sultry saxophone solo, perfectly marries the experience: there’s a perceptible humanity in mechanical, bodily events.
Within its astral production, much of Soft Sounds From Another Planet stays grounded. “Road Head” is the last chest compression in attempt to resuscitate a doomed relationship, while the penultimate track “This House” is an acoustic dirge that honors Zauner’s chosen family. The baroque pop “Boyish” has a haunting, crystalline clarity that recalls the pathos of a Roy Orbison ballad, while “Body is a Blade” embraces the dark intimacy of Zauner’s Pacific Northwest heroes Elliott Smith and Mount Eerie.
With help from co-producer Craig Hendrix (who also co-produced Little Big League’s debut) and Jorge Elbrecht, (Ariel Pink, Tamaryn) who mixed the album, Zauner recontextualizes her bedroom pop beginnings, expanding and maturing her sound. The sheer massiveness of the big room production on Soft Sounds From Another Planet introduces listeners to a new Japanese Breakfast. Zauner’s familiar, capacious voice will serve as their guide.
“Your body is a blade that moves while your brain is writhing,” she sings. “Knuckled under pain you mourn but your blood is flowing.” There’s discernible pain in the phrasing, Zauner recognizing limitation, a lack of control, but then subverting the feeling, creating her own musical language for confronting trauma. Where Psychopomp introduced the world to Japanese Breakfast, Soft Soundsdives deeper. It builds space where there is none, and suggests that in the face of tragedy, we find ways to keep on living.
9/14 – Houston, TX @ Walter’s +
9/15 – Austin, TX @ Barracuda +
9/16 – Dallas, TX @ RBC +
9/18 – Phoenix, AZ @ Valley Bar +
9/20 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Echo +
9/21 – San Francisco, CA @ Swedish American Hall +
9/22 – Oakland, CA @ Starline Social Club +
9/23 – Eugene, OR @ HiFi +
9/25 – Portland, OR @ Holocene +
9/26 – Vancouver, BC @ Fox Cabaret +
9/27 – Seattle, WA @ Crocodile +
9/28 – Boise, ID @ Neurolux +
9/29 – Salt Lake City @ Kilby Court +
9/30 – Denver, CO @ Larimer Lounge +
10/2 – Minneapolis, MN @ The Triple Rock +
10/4 – Chicago, IL @ Subterranean +
10/5 – Bloomington, IN @ The Bishop +
10/6 – Detroit, MI @ UFO Factory +
10/7 – Toronto, ON @ The Garisson +
10/8 – Montreal, QC @ Bar Le Ritz PDB +
10/11 – Cambridge, MA @ The Sinclair +
10/12 – Brooklyn, NY @ Music Hall of Williamsburg +
10/21 – Bristol, GB @ Simple Things Festival
10/23 – Cologne, DE @ Blue Shell
10/24 – Hamburg, DE @ Hakken
10/25 – Berlin, DE @ Badenhouse
10/26 – Paris, FR @ Pop Up Du Label
10/27 – Gent, BE @ NEST
10/28 – Amsterdam, NL @ London Calling
11/2 – Brighton, GB @ The Joker
11/3 – Manchester, GB @ Soup Kitchen
11/4 – Edinburgh, GB @ The Mash House
11/5 – Glasgow, GB @ The Hug and Pint
11/6 – Leeds, GB @ Headrow House
11/7 – London, GB @ The Dome Tufnell Park
+ w/ Mannequin Pussy & Spirit of the Beehive
SOFT SOUNDS FROM ANOTHER PLANET
JULY 14, 2017