Synthwave, Indie-Pop Band Japanese Breakfast Play Sold Out Show At Barracuda
Japanese Breakfast: Indie Pop / Synthwave solo project fronted by Michelle Zauner and filled out with live drums, synth, and bass, took the stage at Barracuda last Sunday. The air was thick as people squeezed together at the sold out, unairconditioned seventh street venue. The Oregon-based project is supporting New York, dark-wave band, Porches on their U.S. tour through October.
Zauner, a forceful vocalist, fought the monitors, trying to showcase the demanding, airy vocals that drive the powerful emotion in Psychopomp, the project’s debut album, released April 1st of this year on Yellow K records. Unfortunately, her voice was barely audible throughout her 45 minute set at Barracuda Sunday evening, a product of ignorance as the house engineer left her track turned down.
Zauner unleashed her most popular tracks, “Everybody Wants to Love You” and “In Heaven,” to open her set. The former track, a major key and uptempo dance track, elicited dances from the audience while the latter, a synthpop minor key ballad, explored struggles with her mother’s passing. The Oregon born vocalist commanded the stage. Zauner let emotions pour out through her facial expressions. She belted into the microphone, occasionally overcoming guitar and synthesizer with the sheer force of her diaphragm.
Zauner has always been a commanding vocalist. Her last project, Little Big League was rising to indie-pop prominence when Zauner left the band to move to Oregon shortly after her mom was diagnosed with cancer. While in Oregon, the newly solo’d musician reworked previous solo demos her current husband. Over the next year, the Zauner wrote new tracks exploring different vocal styles and indie pop structures with her husband on bass, eventually creating Japanese Breakfast.
The dreamy pop album addresses loss, insecurities, and self exploration, but all of the tracks have a consistent theme – strength. Zauner expressed these delicate themes in her performance Sunday. Manipulating her body and face, Zauner illustrated the internal battle she has had with each track. Her emotions resonated with the audience, capturing attention, as the room was overcome with her stories.
Just before closing their set, Japanese Breakfast covered “Dreams” by The Cranberries, a quintessential track to showcase Zauner’s incredible vocal power. The audience erupted with a roar of applause.
Following the positive reaction of the crowd, Zauner played one last song. The barely taller than five foot, energetic front-woman jumped off stage, taking her microphone with her as she swayed though the crowd. Zauner joined the audience as they all danced to her infectious indie pop, shoegaze melodies.