Japanese Breakfast, the solo project of Philadelphia’s Michelle Zauner, broke out last year with Psychopomp, an album that arrived sounding like the young singer/songwriter already had all of her musical shit together. Dedicated to her mother, the album expertly zig-zagged between synthpop, jangly indie rock, dream pop, and early ‘60s worship, making us wonder where Zauner’s talents could possibly end.
Today she’s announced a follow-up and shared a video for the lead single, and yet again, she obliterates all expectations. “Machinist” is a pitch-perfect ‘80s redux, from its moody, New Order-style synths, to its gated drums, to the subtle, Nile Rodgers-esque guitar picking that tiptoes around the hook. It’s far dancier than anything on Psychopomp, and in keeping with its retro-futuristic sheen, Zauner sounds much more like an android than she ever has before.
The accompanying video doubles the song’s breathtaking effect, with Zauner futzing around the guts of what seems to be a spaceship, seemingly frustrated with the machinery but enamored with the ship’s HAL-style robot. Clad in light-up shoes, an all-white jumpsuit, and an unorthodox haircut that’s probably trendy in the future, Zauner is a charismatic presence in front of the camera, able to split the difference between acting and dancing without seeming too choreographed.
Japanese Breakfast’s upcoming album, Soft Sounds from Another Planet, is set to crash-land on Earth on July 14th. The intriguing description of the album on Bandcamp promises that “there are songs on this album that recall the pathos of Roy Orbison’s ballads, while others could soundtrack a cinematic drive down one of Blade Runner's endless skyways.” Color us intrigued.