Japanese Breakfast @ Belgrave, 23/5/18

Little Big League’s Michelle Zauner has released two albums with her solo project Japanese Breakfast. Her first album Psychopomp heavily explored the grieving process of her mother’s illness and death through a dreamier, more atmospheric sound than her previous work. In Soft Sounds From Another Planet, Zauner fully embraces this in an intergalactic setting, bringing more electronic, synthesizer sounds into the mix, and writing about life on Earth from an outsider perspective.

Zauner and her band’s entrance was sung in by Planetary Ambience playing in the background, while they set up their gear and greeted the audience. This was a simple scene setting move for the show, immersing the audience in one of Soft Sounds’ instrumentals.

Without the vocal layering and backing vocals from the album, Zauner’s voice throughout the show sliced through the music boldly, with a particular vocal highlight being her performance in ‘Till Death’. In the lullaby-esque love song, Zauner’s voice is much more powerful and emotive live, enough to move the audience without overpowering the gentle nature of the instrumental, and as she sat on the edge of the stage, she mimicked a hopeless romantic. In more upbeat songs, such as the more guitar heavy tracks from Psychopomp, Zauner hops up and down while keeping her guitar playing and vocals tight. In ‘Machinist’, one of Soft Sound’s main singles, an electronic dance number, she utilises the autotuning from the original track excellently, which could easily be mistaken for the original recording. There’s no doubting that she has become her own emotive yet futuristic performer as Japanese Breakfast.

Before ‘Boyish’, Zauner talked the audience about her vision of the song: how she pictured it as her at a “school dance” (which the audience later corrected her as a school “disco” in Britain), where she is plucking up the courage ask a boy to dance. The drums kick the song off, using an idle, swinging beat, and as the synths ease in at the chorus, the swaying slow dance is easy to picture. Other onstage conversations that Zauner has with the audience includes a cute apology for her recent controversial tweets about British food and complimenting the sound at Belgrave, calling it one of the best sounds she thinks she’s ever had for a show, which is well justified.

The audience was truly wrapped in the soundscapes of Soft Sounds during this show, but were not deprived of the Zauner’s energy or Japanese Breakfast’s signature guitar pop either.

Connie Badley

Image: Craig Scheihing

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