Psychopomp (album)

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Psychopomp
Japanese Breakfast - Psychopomp.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedApril 1, 2016
Recorded2014–2015
StudioCR Ensemble; Eugene, Oregon, U.S.
Genre
Length25:11
Label
Producer
  • Ned Eisenberg
  • Michelle Zauner
Japanese Breakfast chronology
Psychopomp
(2016)
Soft Sounds from Another Planet
(2017)

Psychopomp is the debut studio album by Japanese Breakfast, the solo musical project of Michelle Zauner of Little Big League. The album was released in the U.S. through Yellow K Records on April 1, 2016, and internationally through Dead Oceans on September 19, 2016.

Background[edit]

Prior to her solo project, Michelle Zauner fronted the Philadelphian emo band, Little Big League.[1] Zauner fronted the band between 2011 and 2014, before returning to her hometown of Eugene, Oregon in 2013. Zauner made the trek back home in the wake of her mother being diagnosed with cancer.[1]

While at home, tending to her family in Oregon, Zauner began recording solo music. Zauner described the project as having much more to say following Tropical Jinx, the 2014 studio album by Little Big League. Originally, Zauner had begun to record early samples of music as a self-meditative and "instant-gratification" feeling.[2] Two years later, the solo project itself eventually became the work of Psychopomp, the debut album by Japanese Breakfast. The name of the band, according to Zauner, is a juxtaposition of Asian exoticism and American culture. Despite the name, Zauner is not of Japanese descent, but of Korean descent.[3]

Zauner described the debut album as quite "dark and heavy-handed", although she had a desire to make the music urgent[4] and "sonically upbeat."[2] In the album, she discusses regret of not being there with her mother and her decision to get married before her mother went into a coma.[2] She hopes that her work can help expose more Asian-Americans to be involved in music.[4]

Composition[edit]

Psychopomp is a dream pop,[5][6] indie pop and lo-fi album.[7] According to AllMusic's Tim Sendra, "the album has all the hallmarks of a homemade lo-fi album, but also has the feel of a wobbly '80s pop album played on a long-lost cassette." Sendra also wrote that the album's sound shifts between "guitar-lashed indie rock with swooping synths ("Rugged Country"), melancholy ballads played on tear-stained keys ("Jane Cum," "Triple 7"), driving pop/rock with pumped-up hooks ("Everybody Wants to Love You"), and bass-heavy, almost painfully heartfelt indie rock ("Heft")".[8] Nina Corcocan of Consequence of Sound wrote: "It's lo-fi heart with detailed production, the type of pop that feels homey and familiar — which is doubly surprising given Zauner’s other band, Little Big League, is full of jock riffs and chunky guitar rock."[7] PopMatters' Jasper Bruce thought that the album serves "cocktails of electronic, garage rock and lyrical vocals."[9]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
SourceRating
Metacritic76/100[10]
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic3.5/5 stars[8]
Consequence of SoundB[7]
Pitchfork7.9/10[11]
PopMatters7/10[9]
Spin7/10[6]

Upon its release, Psychopomp received generally positive reviews from music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from critics, the album received an average score of 76, which indicates "generally favorable reviews", based on 5 reviews.[10] AllMusic critic Tim Sendra, who described the record as "an impressive work by an artist well worth watching in the future", stated: "Zauner's songs don't need dressing up; time and again she and Eisenberg make the right choices that allow the melodies to breathe and the emotions to flow unhindered by artifice."[8] Consequence of Sound's Nina Corcoran commented: "Psychopomp chases joy while replicating it in the process, leaving you full of the belief that this could be your year after all."[7] Pitchfork critic Laura Snapes thought that the record "offers much more than that: at once cosmically huge and acutely personal, Zauner captures grief for the perversely intimate yet overwhelming pain it is. Long may she keep at this music thing."[11] PopMatters' Jasper Bruce wrote that Psychopomp "juggles spacy soundscapes with insistent, driving grooves. For the most part, the record pulls off this balancing act seemingly effortlessly and with style."[9] Spin critic Anna Gaca described it as "a sharp-edged exploration of how loneliness and longing form into brittle personal shields."[6]

PopMatters listed the album as number 3 on its list of "The 10 Best Shoegaze and Dream Pop Albums of 2016".[12]

Track listing[edit]

All lyrics written by Michelle Zauner.

No.TitleLength
1."In Heaven"3:50
2."The Woman That Loves You"2:24
3."Rugged Country"2:53
4."Everybody Wants to Love You"2:12
5."Psychopomp"1:15
6."Jane Cum"3:31
7."Heft"3:37
8."Moon on the Bath"1:29
9."Triple 7"4:00
Total length:25:11

Personnel[edit]

Musicians

  • Michelle Zauner – guitar, keyboards, vocals
  • Peter Bradley – bass
  • Nick Hawley-Gamer – guitar
  • Colin Redmond – percussion, clarinet
  • Ned Eisenberg – keys
  • Adam Ponto – strings
  • Sam Cook-Parrott – backup vocals on "Everybody Wants to Love You!"

Production

  • Ned Eisenberg – producer, mixing
  • Michelle Zauner – producer
  • Colin Redmond – engineer at CR Ensemble in Eugene, OR
  • Alex Santilli – mastered at Spice House Sound in Philadelphia, PA
  • Ben Pubusky – art design

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Teo-Blockey, Celine (September 15, 2016). "Interview: Japanese Breakfast's Michelle Zauner on death and 'Psychopomp'". AXS TV. 2929 Entertainment. Retrieved December 25, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c Hannah, Andy (October 18, 2016). "In the Rugged Country: Michelle Zauner of Japanese Breakfast tells Andy Hannah about the loss which brought her back to the Pacific Northwest". The Line of Best Fit. Retrieved December 24, 2016.
  3. ^ Champ, Christine (July 1, 2016). "An Interview with Michelle Zauner, The One Big Boss Lady Who Is Japanese Breakfast". Front Row Boston. WGBH. Retrieved December 24, 2016.
  4. ^ a b Gardin, Russell (June 28, 2016). "Pop Music Has A Sense of Urgency: An Interview With Japanese Breakfast". Free Press Houston. Retrieved December 25, 2016.
  5. ^ Gotrich, Lars (May 4, 2017). "Japanese Breakfast's 'Machinist' Is A Melancholy Story Of Sci-Fi Love". NPR. Retrieved May 31, 2017.
  6. ^ a b c "SPIN Overlooked Albums Report: The Goon Sax and Let's Eat Grandma Are Teenagers of the Year". Spin. July 15, 2016. Retrieved July 10, 2017.
  7. ^ a b c d Corcoran, Nina (March 30, 2016). "Japanese Breakfast – Psychopomp". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved May 31, 2017.
  8. ^ a b c Sendra, Tim. "Psychopomp – Japanese Breakfast". AllMusic. Retrieved July 10, 2017.
  9. ^ a b c Bruce, Jasper (April 4, 2016). "Japanese Breakfast: Psychopomp". PopMatters. Retrieved July 10, 2017.
  10. ^ a b "Reviews and Tracks for Psychopomp by Japanese Breakfast". Metacritic. Retrieved July 12, 2017.
  11. ^ a b Snapes, Laura (March 29, 2016). "Japanese Breakfast: Psychopomp". Pitchfork. Retrieved July 10, 2017.
  12. ^ King, Ian (December 21, 2016). "The 10 Best Shoegaze and Dream Pop Albums of 2016". PopMatters. Retrieved July 17, 2017.