October 12, 2016

That Was The Show That Was: Japanese Breakfast with Porches, Rivergazer | The Sinclair | 5 Oct.

[PHOTOS: Tiffany Law for Clicky Clicky Music Blog] The reverbed keys and dense shoegazey guitars on Psychopomp, Michelle Zauner's full-length debut with her latest project Japanese Breakfast, represented a sharp stylistic pivot away from the music of her beloved and much-Clicky Clicky'd Philly indie combo Little Big League. That and the fact that Psychopomp was largely inspired by the loss of Ms. Zauner's mother to cancer provided ready-made narratives ahead of the long-player's release. But the big story for Psychopomp, which was issued last spring, has to be its superlative songwriting, which couches concise hooks and earworm choruses within expansive production. It is one of the year's more arresting releases.

Last Wednesday night at Cambridge, Mass.'s Sinclair the band ran through a tight live reworking of the record, while mixing in a number of affirmative nods to certain key influences. Among the live set's highlights were performances of widely heralded album preview tracks. Japanese Breakfast's cover of Birthday Girls' "Everybody Wants To Love You," whose sprightly indie pop guitar leads -- admittedly something of a tonal outlier on record -- practically blossomed in a live setting. Better still was the band's sparkling rendition of "In Heaven," a track that doubles as Psychopomp's thesis statement, and one that felt particularly cathartic presented on stage. Multi-instrumentalist Nick Hawley-Garner flipped between guitar and keys throughout the set, working to animate Psychopomp's lush and at times Smashing Pumpkins-indebted arrangements.

Even so, and aside from a gorgeous cover of The Cranberries' eternal teen-pop smash "Dreams," the night's biggest moment was Japanese Breakfast's set-closer, an as yet-untitled new tune touting bubbly synth and auto-tune styled vocals from Zauner. For this, she abandoned her guitar and bounced around the stage, underscoring this reviewer's hunch that the band may be heading in a poppier, and perhaps thrillingly experimental, direction. Following its show at The Sinclair, Japanese Breakfast played two sold-out "hometown" shows in Brooklyn and Philadelphia; next week the act heads across the ocean for a three-week tour of the UK and Western Europe. Stream all of Psychopomp via the Bandcamp embed below and click through to purchase the set on vinyl, cassette or as a digital download.

Popular New York group Porches headlined the night, proffering plenty of cuts from its moody, swaying Domino Records debut Pool. Bandleader Aaron Maine has grabbed headlines for taking his project in a bolder direction away from its earlier downer folk-rock. He now leads a much looser live outfit, and has become something of an enigmatic focal point: video clips now depict his slightly off-kilter delivery and dance moves. There are few indie groups out there with as strong a stage chemistry, which likely accounts for the incredible live takes on Pool highlights "Car," "Mood," and "Braid." New York alt R&B outfit Rivergazer, whose Kevin Farrant also plays guitar in the Porches live band, opened the night with tasteful numbers from its recent Only 4 U EP. -- Dillon Riley

Japanese Breakfast: Bandcamp | Facebook

Related Coverage:
Review: Little Big League/Ovlov | "Year Of The Sunhouse," "Pure Bliss Choices" b/w "The Great Crocodile"
That Was The Show That Was: Little Big League with Paws, Idiot Genes | Great Scott | 14 Nov.
Today's Hotness: Little Big League

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