Written Before Listen
Japanese Breakfast is actually an artist who I haven’t listened to yet. She’s gotten buzz in the critical music realm as she’s known to be somewhat of an indie darling. Despite being named Japanese Breakfast, Michelle Zauner is actually from South Korea. The label she is part of is also home to other indie darlings such as Dirty Projectors, The Tallest Man On Earth and Mitski. With that being said, let’s see what Japanese Breakfast has in store for us.
I would be lying to say that I wasn’t surprised that she was an author, but it surely makes sense. Despite surfacing cliche topics such as motivation and love, she stands her own ground as a lyricist. A lot of her songwriting chops use obscure vocabulary when needed. Also, a lot of the emotion in this album comes out in the lyrics and not really the vocal delivery. Not that the vocal performance is bad because it’s actually impressive but a majority of the time, this sounds like contemporary pop music. Meanwhile, the songwriting is where that line between contemporary and indie differentiates.
Like I alluded to earlier, the performance is impressive but it’s her songwriting is obviously stronger. What I will say though is that she is a great melody maker. With songs like “Paprika”, “Be Sweet” and “In Hell”, she creates infectious melodies and hooks. As a vocalist, she’s kind of like Stevie Nicks with innocence. She doesn’t wow you as a vocalist at any point, but you’re never really upset at a Japanese Breakfast performance.
The main producer on this album is Craig Hendrix. He has only been credited production on 4 albums so he’s fairly new to the game. The engineer is a little more experienced but still fairly new to the game. What I will say is that, they know the manuals. They know how to use the gear as there is rarely a bad mixing choice. Although, what stops them from producing a great mix instead of a good one is the personality. Luckily, it’s not a huge gripe of mine but, it does somewhat prevent this album from being better than it turned out to be.
Despite the mixing being a little wallpaper. The instrumentation is immaculate. Despite sticking to rock instrumentation, synths and strings, it sounds like there is way more going on. There is a lot of different instrumental palettes on this record. The track “Be Sweet” is like a new wave cut with disco drums, bass and synths while “Kokomo IN” lays it back with acoustic guitar, slide guitar and muffled drums. The closing track starts of with a very clean electric guitar and then it climaxes like a post-rock song and out of nowhere, a guitar solo comes in alongside triumphant drums. The producers might not have the personality this album needed, but the musicians surely do.
Like I said. I think the production could’ve had a little more spice to it. I also think the vocal performances could’ve been a little more out there. It’s pretty safe, but luckily, the melodies and songwriting are in top form. Japanese Breakfast delivers with detailed love songs and infectious melodies.
I honestly haven’t big on any indie pop releases so far. Luckily this album breaks the ice. It has good lyrics, good palettes, good melodies and it comes off being a great album. Also, if you like your production simple and your indie pop infectious, this is right up your alley.