Japanese Breakfast – Psychopomp
Released April 1st, 2016 on Yellow K Records
The dream of the Nineties is alive in more places than just Portland these days. With every second kid out there wearing a flannel overshirt and a fitted cap, and every second band trading in post-Dinosaur Jr. guitar crunch, one can be forgiven for thinking that they were reliving their memories of 1992. Unlike their fuzz-pedal worshipping contemporaries – Bully, Speedy Ortiz, Joanna Gruesome, the Crutchfield sisters – Japanese Breakfast takes their cues from a more esoteric place. Psychopomp is a little bit Isn’t Anything-era My Bloody Valentine, with the airy charm of vintage Asobi Seksu and a bit of the more out-there moments of Guided By Voices. “In Heaven” is a shoegaze paradise; “Everybody Wants To Love You” is a chug-along lo-fi anthem. “Jane Cum” and “Triple 7” are the highlights, soaring numbers that focus their attention on the impassioned vocals of Michelle Zauner.
Zauner is the real show here. The songs on Psychopomp are reworks of some lo-fi stuff she worked on when her old band, Little Big Leagues, was still active. She and collaborator Ned Eisenberg rebuilt them into something both strongly reminiscent of the shoegaze/dream-pop days of the late Eighties and early Nineties while retaining a vibrant mysteriousness that sets the music apart from the merely derivative. The fact that it breezes by in a scant 25 minutes only adds to it; unlike a lot of her contemporaries, Zauner knows when to call it a day. The quick runtime means that each of the songs on Pyschopomp stands out on its own as a strong contender, and lets the strengths of each song shine through, something that might have been lost in a much longer work. It’s wistful and heavy, pure indie pop at its finest.
And The Rest…
03/25/2016 on R.J.’s Electrical Connections Records
Self-produced hip hop albums can get quite self-indulgent, and Dame Fortune is no exception. The producer’s long-standing talent is there, but only in fits and doses.
03/25/2016 on Saddle Creek Records
The Portland supergroup’s strongest album in quite some time. It’s not The Body, The Blood, The Machine, but then again what is? Solid, fist-in-the-air power-pop that often edges into punk.
03/25/2016 on Domino Records
A deeply human record, all the more so for its electronic starting point. Brooklyn producer James Hinton used samples gleaned from YouTube for the vocals on this record, which is something I do that I didn’t realize was actually legitimate. Off to the DAW I go.
Open Mike Eagle
Hella Personal Film Festival
03/25/2016 on Mello Music Group Records
Like his fellow Milo on the (now-defunct) Hellfyre Club label, Open Mike Eagle twists words, scratches out lyrics, courts controversy, and lives in the interstitial zone of the black middle class in America. Like Milo, he lets his desire for alt-hip hop vibes and out-there production overshadow the songs at times.
Patch The Sky
03/25/2016 on Merge Records
Another record from a man who seemingly just can’t stop recording them, former Husker Du and Sugar frontman Bob Mould may not be Robert Pollard but he’s close. Patch The Sky is one of the best albums he’s ever released, a stripped-down collection of power-guitar songs that bring to mind what his legendary punk band might have sounded like had they allowed it to age gracefully.
03/25/2016 on Downtown Records
Solid white-boy funk and soul, Stiff is a breezy, poppy album that sounds like it’s the 1970s that have come around again, and not the 1990s. It’s the sort of album that invites you to have a great ol’ time, and then helps you get there.
03/25/2016 on Epitaph Records
An abrasive, jittery album that is secretly formed of big hooks and a lot of punk rock swagger. Like a serrated switchblade, it’ll stab right into your gut and then stay there.