Support: Radiator Hospital, Long Beard
GA standing room. All ages.
Accessible accommodations should purchase a General Admission ticket and will be taken care of at the venue day of event.
“The title Soft Sounds From Another Planet alludes to the promise of something that may or may not be there. Like a hope in something more. The songs are about human resilience and the strength it takes to claw out of the darkest of spaces.”
Michelle Zauner wrote the debut Japanese Breakfast album in the weeks after her mother died of cancer, thinking she would quit music entirely once it was done. That wasn’t the case. When Psychopomp was released to acclaim in 2016, she was forced to confront her grief. Zauner would find find herself reliving traumatic memories multiple times a day during interviews, trying to remain composed while discussing the most painful experience of her life. Her sophomore album, Soft Sounds From Another Planet, is a transmutation of mourning, a reflection that turns back on the cosmos in search of healing.
“I want to be a woman of regimen,” Zauner sings over a burbling synth on the album’s opening track “Diving Woman.” This serves as Zauner’s mission statement: stick to the routine lest you get derailed, don’t cling to the past, don’t descend. In fact, ascend to the stars; Zauner found artistic solace removed from Earth, in outer space and science fiction. “I used the theme as a means to disassociate from trauma,” she explains. “Space used as a place of fantasy.”
And yet, Soft Sounds From Another Planet isn’t a concept album. Over the course of 12 tracks, Zauner explores an expansive thematic universe, a cohesive outpouring of unlike parts structured to create a galaxy of her own design. In the instrumental “Planetary Ambience,” synths communicate the way extraterrestrials might, and on the shapeshifting single “Machinist,” which Zauner has been performing live for over a year now, she details the sci-fi narrative of a woman falling in love with a machine. “It’s pure fiction,” she explains, “But it can map onto real relationships in a relevant way.” The track, which begins with spoken-word ambience, moves into autotune ‘80s pop bliss and ends with a sultry saxophone solo, perfectly marries the experience: there’s a perceptible humanity in mechanical, bodily events.
Within its astral production, much of Soft Sounds From Another Planet stays grounded. “Road Head” is the last chest compression in attempt to resuscitate a doomed relationship, while the penultimate track “This House” is an acoustic dirge that honors Zauner’s chosen family. The baroque pop “Boyish” has a haunting, crystalline clarity that recalls the pathos of a Roy Orbison ballad, while “Body is a Blade” embraces the dark intimacy of Zauner’s Pacific Northwest heroes Elliott Smith and Mount Eerie.
With help from co-producer Craig Hendrix (who also co-produced Little Big League’s debut) and Jorge Elbrecht, (Ariel Pink, Tamaryn) who mixed the album, Zauner recontextualizes her bedroom pop beginnings, expanding and maturing her sound. The sheer massiveness of the big room production on Soft Sounds From Another Planet introduces listeners to a new Japanese Breakfast. Zauner’s familiar, capacious voice will serve as their guide.
“Your body is a blade that moves while your brain is writhing,” she sings. “Knuckled under pain you mourn but your blood is flowing.” There’s discernible pain in the phrasing, Zauner recognizing limitation, a lack of control, but then subverting the feeling, creating her own musical language for confronting trauma. Where Psychopomp introduced the world to Japanese Breakfast, Soft Sounds dives deeper. It builds space where there is none, and suggests that in the face of tragedy, we find ways to keep on living.
, Psychopomp. The album explores Zauner’s experimental interests and hosts a wide range of sound: jarring anime samples, minimalist ballads, rhythms and synths reminiscent of Tango in the Night-era Fleetwood Mac paired with the moody intimacy of Mount Eerie. After the foundation of the album was built, Zauner enlisted Ned Eisenberg to coproduce and embellish the record. Eisenberg helped with the mixing and production of the album. Psychopomp revisits and revamps lo-fi tracks and adds chilling new songs to fall in love with.
We are a rock band of rockers who love to rock. We also can be just one person who is much quieter but still loves to rock.
The cover image of Long Beard’s debut album, Sleepwalker, is a single yellow and orange hued lampshade in the foreground with silhouetted trees and the final moments of dusk in the background. The lampshade, under closer examination, is decorated with paisleys and floral patterns. The twilit night is starless yet clear as the final tinges of light are washed out of the sky. These elements, when laid out side by side, do a pretty good job of presenting a visual representation of what the debut album from Leslie Bear, aka, Long Beard is about. That is to say, there’s a limited palette at work on this album, these songs and the instruments assembled to articulate their beauty employ a strict sense of what is permissible and avoid what will only muddy the contrasts and moods.
In this sense, the orange and the paisley are Leslie’s hypnotic and drifting vocal style. The blacks and the blues are the guitar tones and rhythm section employed by producer Chris Daly the band (Devin Silvers on bass and Stefan Koekemoer on drums). Calculated to a degree that’s reminiscent of early Kranky Records acts like Labradford, Magnog or Bowery Electric as well as the constructions of groups like The Pale Saints, Cat’s Miaow or Lush, the sonic restrictions present on Sleepwalker make it singular in vision and thus intense to the ear. It spooks, it grows cold, it lifts up with tremendous beauty and then it turns so dim it becomes impossible to discern from the sounds of night.
This is the result of Leslie Bear’s four year journey to make the album, crafting songs from her home in New Brunswick NJ but avoiding the final execution until the rules of the album were articulate and of a singular vision. The Long Beard debut touches lyrically on themes that one often associates with the transition into adulthood in modern America: growing apart from those you were once close to, premature nostalgia and a sense of time passing, how seasons and cycles create the clock of poetry and song despite the modern world’s efforts to extinguish this timeless truth.
It’s day and night, light and dark, the loud and the quiet, the lush and the colorless; these are the ingredients that result in one of the year’s most beautiful and mesmerizing releases. Making the point that less is more, it does so not by employing minimalism, but rather by finding the perfect guitar tone, the perfect vocal effect and the perfect song and adding those elements to the mix while ignoring the temptation to flower it up with anything more. Disciplined and focused, Sleepwalker is the record you play when twilight is upon you, when night has set and you find yourself alone and witness to the dramatic and profound beauty of a simple phenomenon like the end of a day or the soft glow of an electric bulb.