Premier Concerts and Manic Presents:
295 Treadwell Street
Hamden, CT, 06514
Doors 7:00 PM / Show 8:00 PM
This event is all ages
“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 Sounds dives deeper. It builds space where there is none, and suggests that in the face of tragedy, we find ways to keep on living.
Meg Duffy hasn’t stopped moving, working, or growing since she left her quiet childhood home in upstate New York. You can find her in the back of the van reading a book, quietly warming up backstage with some guitar workouts, or waiting tables at a neighborhood pizzeria. Though Meg didn’t pick up the instrument until she was seventeen years old, her intuitive, naturalistic musicality and commitment to the craft of guitar playing have made an in demand collaborator and guitarist for countless indie acts (Kevin Morby, Mega Bog, Weyes Blood) and kept her between the road and the studio for almost three straight years. Like much of the richest art, Meg’s LP debut Wildy Idle (Humble Before the Void) (Woodsist 2017) is many things at once. The record is a collection of songs written amidst the constant motion of touring, recording, and working part-time jobs; recorded at home in North East LA between other commitments, around the sounds of roommates cooking breakfast, and dogs pattering though an old craftsman house. Layered with Duffy’s signature extended guitar techniques, poems read by friends, and musical contributions from contemporaries like Keven Lareau (Quilt), Avi Buffalo, Sheridan Riley, and others, the album combines striking visual storytelling and compelling melody with a deceptively light touch. Drawing on diverse influences ranging from novelist Iris Murdoch to Phil Elverum’s seminal work under his Microphones moniker, this album is more than the sum of its parts. Like a folded paper fortune teller, each listen reveals a new, hidden truth about living, working, and falling in and out of love buried in the quietly beating heart of the record. Dark, pulsing tracks like the intoxicating “Bad Boy” sit comfortably beside sunny strummers like “All The While” with its bouncing bass line and beguiling lyrics. The thread that runs through all these songs is Duffy’s voice, in turns languid and sweet, and always telling a story. Mixed and mastered by contemporary electronic music maestro M. Geddes Gengras, the result is an LP as hypnotic as Hand Habit’s impossibly immersive live set, and filled with the same engaging blend of wild improvisation and perfect restraint. Expansive, atmospheric arrangements punctuated with intricate melodic details. This record is indoor music at its finest: listen in the morning, in bed with your partner, in the kitchen while you make coffee, at night when you read on the porch.