Japanese Breakfast

Japanese Breakfast's third album, Jubilee, breaks open with a bang.

The first song, "Paprika," is one of the artist's biggest, brightest songs. It rolls in with a giant crescendo about 30 seconds in, and from there it rides on a buoyant, trumpet-laden beat that marks a stark contrast to the more meditative qualities of the artist's earlier works.

The song, and the album that follows, were created to be a celebration of ecstasy, happiness, and the brighter sides of life. (Ahead of its release, the artist literally tweeted, "This is an album about joy.")

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Halsey

Our favorite artists' music can feel like a glimpse into their lives, a way to connect even more deeply with the disembodied voices that sound so good to the ears.

But the music is really only one side of the person, and often, fans aren't given the opportunity to learn about the true ins and outs of an artist.

That's where books come in. Just like how fiction has the ability to transport a reader to any time or place in this universe and beyond, books written by musicians are like tickets into their mysterious lives.

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New Releases

Fenne Lily's "Hypochondriac" Reckons with Emotional Fallout

It's the budding singer-songwriter's debut on seminal indie label Dead Oceans.

Keri Dolan

For those who know firsthand, feeling emotions to their extremes can create some painful results.

Bristol upstart Fenne Lily understands this conflict well, and the folk-pop singer-songwriter states it beautifully on her new single, "Hypochondriac." After spending time touring with North American alt favorites like Lucy Dacus and Andy Shauf, Lily is equipped to pave her own path this side of the pond with her delicate songs.

"Hypochondriac" marks Lily's first release on Dead Oceans, the indie label that boasts a roster of similarly evocative musicians like Phoebe Bridgers, Mitski, and Japanese Breakfast. The song spotlights her gentle vocals atop layered, swirling guitars that give the song an ethereal aura, backed by a driving drum pattern that tethers it to earth.

Here, the term "hypochondriac" isn't intended to be taken literally; the "illness" Lily sings of seems to be her own anxieties, which she says tend to lead to somewhat-self-induced paranoia. "The song's theme [is] pressure to feel enough but not too much in a time of hyper connectivity, plus a personal reminder to be accountable for and have agency over the part of me that gravitates towards meltdown," Lily explains in a statement. Throughout the song, she tells herself to "look alive, look alive"—mimicking the snap back to reality after your intrusive thoughts take hold. "We're all sick of waiting for a moment to stop and sleep it off," goes the chorus. "Now I'm sick and waiting for a moment to stop and not feel so much."

As Lily tells it, people can be both the cause and solution to their own anxieties. "Hypochondriac" comes to terms with becoming more of the latter.

www.youtube.com

On Melina Duterte's 2017 debut as Jay Som, the 25-year-old was lauded for her intimate experimentation and expansive redefining of bedroom pop.

Jay Som - Superbike [OFFICIAL LYRIC VIDEO] youtu.be

Everybody Works, which was created in its entirety by Duterte, would at one moment have rolling orchestral symphonies ("Lipstick Stains") and then amalgamate indie-rock with grunge or R&B ("Take It," "Baybee"), all while maintaining Duterte's stark individuality. While the experimentation was overwhelming at times, none of it was fraudulent. Duterte's talent was unhinged, and all she had to do was decide where she wanted the Jay Som moniker to go.

On "Superbike," the lead single off of her sophomore triumph, Anak Ko, it feels like the hedges have been trimmed, and that fog has been lifted. While Anak Ko is more subtly tuned and lo-fi-influenced than its predecessor, it possesses a similar, albeit more refined, charm. "I feel more at peace with myself and I feel like I've done a lot of work mentally," she told London In Stereo. "I think that translates into my music and I just felt more like myself."

Jay Som - Tenderness [OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO] youtu.be

Every ounce of Anak Ko is authentically indie rock, with just enough splashes of other genres to keep it interesting. The title track is a layered and beautifully muddled lo-fi slow-burn, with multiple listens unveiling the true breadth of Duterte's eye for detail. On the other end, tracks like "Devotion" and "Tenderness" are warm and charismatic. Yet while both those tracks bounce along effortlessly, Anak Ko's themes are significantly darker than its predecessor. The singer described of "Tenderness:" "[The song]'s definitely about scrolling on your phone and seeing a person and it just haunts you, you can't escape it." Similarly, "I'm sinking in my bed," Duterte sings over the beguiling folk chords of "Nighttime Drive," "so used to feeling numb."

Each song, while vastly different from the others, deals with heartbreak and loss in some capacity. Yet Duterte is never vindictive, only reflective and empathetic about the poor choices of the past, both her own and those of her former lovers. As the album closes out, "Get Well" offers a gratifying final moment of revelation that perfectly captures the final moment of a breakup when the anger finally seeps away. But for a record of only 9 tracks, this final moment comes suddenly, capturing the whirlwind of emotions that come with heartbreak and ending more abruptly than we anticipated. "Get well, I hope you can," she coos, "I've been sick like you, I've had my share."

MUSIC

Michelle Zauner of Japanese Breakfast Spins Indie Songs Into Music Video Gold

The musician directed the video for Charly Bliss's new single Capacity, the latest in a string of gorgeous videos helping to solidify her reputation as a star in multiple mediums.

"I was watching a lot of heist movies at the time," said director Michelle Zauner of her work on the music video for indie pop up-and-comers Charly Bliss's new single Capacity, released today. With its dizzying series of shots featuring neon cacti, speeding cars, blurry TV screens, and plenty of cash, the video plays on all the best tropes of kitschy-crime 80's shows and films like Twin Peaks and Badlands in a display of what's becoming its director's signature style: dreamy slow-motion sequences and vaguely cultish imagery that both leans into and laughs at vintage pop culture's most extravagant excesses.

Charly Bliss - Capacity [Official Music Video] www.youtube.com

The video is another installment in the growing body of directorial work for which Zauner, most famous for her excellent solo work as psychedelic-indie-rock musician Japanese Breakfast, is becoming increasingly noted. Alongside frequent collaborator Adam Kolodny, she directed the videos for Jay Som's "The Bus Song," which captures a blissfully homey Californian summer, and Conor Oberst and Phoebe Bridgers' new project Better Oblivion Community Center's "Dylan Thomas," which transports the viewer to headquarters of a mysterious, quasi-religious cult.

Jay Som - The Bus Song [OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO] (Amazon Original) www.youtube.com

Better Oblivion Community Center - Dylan Thomas www.youtube.com

She's also directed most of the visual counterparts to her own songs. " Boyish," from her excellent 2018 LP Soft Sounds from Another Planet, is a dismally gorgeous interpretation of a high school prom. Zauner dons a suit, slips into her characteristic bath of ethereal pink and purple lights, and soundtracks one girl's shift from pining over a boy to taking the stage and shredding on her guitar.

Japanese Breakfast - Boyish (Official Video) www.youtube.com

It's a similar narrative to the story told by Mitski's Your Best American Girl video, in which the protagonist exchanges her unrequited desire for an archetypical, all-American guy for a much more satisfying love affair with her bass. Japanese Breakfast joined Mitski and Jay Som on tour in 2016, a lineup of all Asian American women that—although musically very different—were unified by a sense of creative ambition, talent, and a knack for crafting lyrics that cut through all bullshit.

Mitski - Your Best American Girl (Official Video) www.youtube.com

Zauner is also signed to Mitski's label, Dead Oceans. The label's interest and that subsequent 2016 tour with Mitski was a marked surprise for her, for earlier that year she had been working at a "soul-leeching" ad job while quietly dealing with her mother's death by writing what would become Psychopomp, an album that explores many dimensions of grief through waves of reverb-heavy electric guitar and lyrics, sung in her distinctive wail.

A psychopomp, in Greek mythology, is a nonjudgmental tour guide who carries the soul from life to death; and the eponymous album's composition served this purpose for Zauner, providing catharsis in the midst of a storm.

Image via Rolling Stone

Since then, she hasn't stopped creating. Her first published essay won Glamour's nonfiction contest, and she hopes to turn a lauded essay about Korean food and grief published in the New Yorker into a full-length food memoir about her childhood growing up Jewish-Korean in a predominantly white town.

In the midst of it all, she's found time to turn her knowledge of heist movies and crime dramas into Charly Bliss's newest visual. Judging by the quality and the sheer breadth of the output she's been gifting the world with over the past few years, "a lot of heist movies" probably means endless numbers of films watched at all hours of the night. Zauner seems like the kind of person who's constantly uncovering new conspiracy theories, always knee-deep in a rabbit hole of pop science and personal reflection.

Via emmiemusic.com

Certainly her own music videos belie a huge variety of filmic and cultural influences. 2016's " Jane Cum" is hypnotic and haunting, following Zauner on a journey through misty woods to a fiery ritual. Directed with Kolodny and House of Nod Productions, the video borrows from vintage movies, mostly riffing on the 90's horror flick The Craft. 2018's "Road Head" continues this tradition of using occult themes to express the complexities of human feelings.

Japanese Breakfast - Jane Cum (Official Video) www.youtube.com

Japanese Breakfast - Road Head (Official Video) www.youtube.com

"Machinist," also from Soft Sounds, is a nod to sci-fi, inspired by Alien and 2001: A Space Odyssey, and takes inspiration from the Mars Project, an initiative meant to eventually make Mars habitable. It's a trip through a subterranean laboratory that finds Zauner writing love letters and dancing beneath glowing wires and flashing TV screens, using a vocoder and autotune to tell a cyborgian love story; throughout, she almost seems to be laughing at the surreality of our modern technology-saturated world while relishing in its aesthetic beauty.

Japanese Breakfast - Machinist (Official Video) www.youtube.com

"The Body is a Blade," of the same album, is also a tribute to 80s nostalgia, as well as to her mother's memory. It shuffles grainy, faded shots of summertime fields and beaches with family photos as Zauner sings about the body's persistent will to live in spite of all odds. It's classic Zauner: aesthetically beautiful and effortlessly dreamy, a tradition that Capacity dutifully follows, its lurid celebration perfectly framing the song's sonic buoyancy and moody lyrics. Maybe soon enough we'll be getting our own full-length feature film from her, but until then, it seems a safe bet that there are more cyborgs and redemptive senior proms to come.

Japanese Breakfast - The Body Is A Blade (Official Video) www.youtube.com


Eden Arielle Gordon is a writer and musician from New York City. Follow her on Twitter at @edenarielmusic.


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MUSIC

#WomenCrushWednesday | Top Albums of 2017

Who runs the world? Girls! And they released some seriously good stuff this year.

2017 has been a whirlwind of a year, but nevertheless, women musicians have persisted.

Women are killing it in the music industry, and the world of song lovers couldn't be happier! In a special edition of our new column, #WomenCrushWednesday, we're breaking down our top ten albums from this past year from female artists. Our list includes breakthroughs in body positivity, more visibility for artists of color and members of the LBGTQ communities, and a really great overarching message of finding your voice.

Take a listen to the albums via Spotify below (or purchase them from Amazon) as our belated holiday present to you!

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