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Japanese Breakfast 'Psychopomp' Album Review: An Emotional, Enlightening Dream Pop Wonder

by Jon Niles   Mar 25, 2016 12:29 PM EDT

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Brooklyn via Philadelphia songwriter Michelle Zauner has had a very tough couple of years, which has led to what I consider a masterpiece collection of emotional dream pop songs. She's fronted Philly indie rock outfit Little Big League over the years, but her solo project, Japanese Breakfast, has remained one of the more intriguing musical interests of mine. Due to unfortunate events in her personal life, Zauner created the first full-length album for Japanese Breakfast, Psychopomp, which is out on April 1, 2016, on Yellow K Records, in dedication to her mother who passed away in 2014.

I know Michelle through friends of friends and so on, which has given me a glimpse into the sorrow she's been dealing with. These 9 songs featured on Psychopomp are a culmination of grief, faith, love and so much more coming together in one of my favorite musicians.

The title of the album comes from Greek mythology, and is the name of a soul's guide to the place of the dead, basically. Japanese Breakfast's dream pop sound adds lightness to this idea, mixing fluttering synthesizers, pads and guitars with expressive vocals. Fans of Zauner's long list of musical projects will obviously appreciate her airy voice straining and emoting through lyrics that, if you really sit and listen to, would make you tear up either in relation or simple respect.

Unfortunately for me, I'm dealing with similar sorrow. Without getting too into this, I can say that songs like "In Heaven," "Jane Cum" and "Heft" embody bereavement in my mind. But life continues, which is evident in songs like "Everybody Wants to Love You" and "The Woman That Loves You" - songs that explore subjects you hear in pop songs, without getting too far away from the dedication to her mother.

Even the instrumentation captures the pure emotion of the album, which is a pure wonder of musicianship. I cannot get over this record. Thank you, Michelle, and good luck with everything. 

Psychopomp is streaming right now over at HypeMachine. You need to check this one out right away.

Japanese Breakfast will play two record release shows, one in Brooklyn and another in Philadelphia, on March 31 at Shea Stadium and April 1 at Ortliebs, respectfully.

You can pre-order Psychopomp right here.

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