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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]

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)

Better Oblivion Community Center - Dylan Thomas

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)

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)

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.


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)

Japanese Breakfast - Road Head (Official Video)

"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)

"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)

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

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Night Tales Release 'Friends'

Potent low-level house music from Down Under.

Photo Credit: Gideon Black

Meet Night Tales, composed of Kamaliza and Third Floor.

Born in Australia, Kamaliza Salamba was working in corporate banking, when he started collaborating with Third Floor, aka Aaron Bannie, who, although born in the UK, is an Aussie citizen, and previously worked in the hospitality industry.

Despite their lack of musical background, both artists knew what they were doing. Kamaliza's prior project, called Olympic Ayres, accumulated more than 10 million plays on Spotify, along with being featured on FIFA 14 and Netflix's 13 Reasons Why. Aaron's Third Floor project hit 1 million plays in a short span of time, charted on ARIA, and appeared on MTV Australia and Triple J.

On their latest effort, entitled "Friends," Night Tales hooked up with AIME, a global charity and mentor program for children.

Night Tales - Friends (Official Video)

"Friends" is a song "dedicated to the unsung heroes we have in our lives. Those friends who go above and beyond to pick you up when you're not feeling strong. Friends who are by your side without question or hesitation and help you navigate your way out of dark times, feeling alone and in isolation."

"Friends" opens with swirling, bubbling synths flowing into a tight low-slung house groove. A pulsating bass line, along with click-clack percussion and a thumping kick drum lay down a contagious beat, as colorful accents burble and pop from the synths.

Mellow, silky vocals infuse the tune with curbed cashmere sonic energy, low-level but deliciously proximate with a singleness of intention, like the low purr of an engine. The music, combined with the natural exuberance of being alive and human, exhibits cool vitality.

"Friends" exudes an implacable force that makes you start to move to the groove.


Randy Radic is a Left Coast author and writer. Author of numerous true crime books written under the pen-name of John Lee Brook. Former music contributor at Huff Post.

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Jared Dymbort Releases 'Rearrange'

Retro alt-rock with pop flavors.

Photo Credit: Sam Markus

New York-based singer-songwriter Jared Dymbort releases the music video for "Rearrange."

"Rearrange" is from Dymbort's forthcoming third EP, My Old Victories, slated to drop December 7, which amalgamates both futuristic and retro elements along with Dymbort's distinctive low-slung voice.

Recorded, produced, arranged, and performed by Dymbort, the EP demonstrates his evolving sound, progressing through the rockabilly punk feel of his debut EP, If & When, and the pop rock of 2017's Feel Things.

In addition to writing and singing his own music, Dymbort composes for short and feature length films, television pilots, web series, and other media.

Jared Dymbort - Rearrange

"Rearrange" opens on a compact retro rock shuffle flowing into a new wave alt rock melody riding edgy guitars and twinkling synths. The rhythmic elements are low and pulsing, driving the music forward at a crisp pace. The combination of light colors from the synths and the penetrating depth of the rhythm give the song a split (though harmonic) personality.

Dymbort's baritone voice is slightly reminiscent of David Bowie, coolly relaxed yet infused with a moodiness that's restless. It's one of those voices that linger overhead with its dark, smoky timbres.

The video, directed by Freddie Paull, depicts a woman rearranging her belongings and her life as she moves into a new house. Relocation entails reorganizing more than just material goods. Emotional reshuffling, along with changing friends, lovers, and mental perspective, leave her feeling dispossessed and flummoxed.

"Rearrange" delivers a contagious blend of retro alt-rock and pop flavors.

Follow Jared Dymbort Website | Facebook | SoundCloud

Randy Radic is a Left Coast author and writer. Author of numerous true crime books written under the pen-name of John Lee Brook. Former music contributor at Huff Post.

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Polartropica Releases Spaced-out 'Wild Lyfe'

Visit a domain of trippy sights and sounds.

Photo Credit: Ella Morrison

Meet Ihui Cherise Wu, aka Polartropica, who premieres "Wild Lyfe" today on Popdust.

Born in Taiwan and raised in southern California, Wu blends a heady concoction of pop, space-pop, and classical strings into a bubblegum kaleidoscopic sound that's totally sui generis.

Wu conceived of the name 'Polartropica' after hearing a song by Mark Foster called "Polartropic." The incongruity between the two terms—polar and tropic—titillated her imagination, causing her to dream up a fantasy world in which things can exist where they don't necessarily belong. Incorporating the idea into her music, Wu began fusing antithetical musical elements into otherworldly sonic soundscapes.

"I wanted to create a healing, inspiring and empowering space with just the right amount of disco-party," said Wu.

"Wild Lyfe" opens on swirling, spacey, new-wave synths pushing out tendrils of pristine colors, like froth oozing from a spigot, or ocean foam dissipating. The harmonics undulate and flow delicately until the music swells and gathers momentum. Light, syncopated percussion trembles underneath, accompanied by the fragile pulse of a bass line.

Wu's voice is as surreal as the music, drifting and streaming as if from a dream. It's a gorgeous voice, full of fluctuating timbres and gossamer, wraith-like tones. The graceful plucking of Jett Kwong's guzheng complements Wu's tantalizing, elusive voice, akin to something from the Empyrean.

The video goes enters the realm of dreamlike phantasmagoria with animal-masked humans in string cages, and flag twirlers gamboling around amidst the attendees at a garden tea party. It's wonderfully innovative and fantastical at the same time.

"Wild Lyfe" creates a musical image in the visual region of the listener's mind, an image that moves to the diaphanous emotion of the music. It's both superb and like nothing you've experience before.

Follow Polartropica Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Randy Radic is a Left Coast author and writer. Author of numerous true crime books written under the pen-name of John Lee Brook. Former music contributor at Huff Post.

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