I don’t remember when I first heard Japanese Breakfast, but I think it was sometime in 2017. Soft Sounds From Another Planet came out close to the release of The Japanese House’s “Saw You In A Dream” single, and for the longest time I got them confused with one another. Then I saw Japanese Breakfast perform at Pitchfork in 2018 and that erased any uncertainty I had and I haven’t made that mistake since.
This year Michelle Zauner became a best-selling author, with her memoir Crying In H Mart, and released the best Japanese Breakfast album to date. She’s not taking any well-deserved rest on her new tour. In fact, her performance at Thalia Hall was exponentially better than my only previous experience hearing Japanese Breakfast live.
One thing I think it’s easy to overlook is how complicated Japanese Breakfast songs can be. On the surface they sound simple enough, but if you pay attention there’s a lot going on. I was pleasantly surprised to see the live setup feature more than a couple synths, some horns, an organ, plus the gong that gets used so well in the album opener (and concert opener), “Paprika.” As one of those people who enjoys watching what’s going on all around the stage, not just what the singer is doing, I enjoyed Adam Schatz of Landlady working with multiple instruments and helping create the huge soundscape of Jubilee.
If you haven’t heard the new album, it’s full of synthy hooks and nods to 80’s icons like Madonna and Cyndi Lauper. The whole crowd at Thalia Hall was grooving and dancing (fully masked, of course) and having a great time. The songs find the elusive balance between fun and powerful, making it a great record to hear live and very rewarding to listen to at home where you can be a bit more focused on the sounds and words without being distracted by the shiny lights.
Speaking of the lights, this was one of the best-lit club shows I’ve seen in years (leaving out the year and a half with zero shows). If you like any of the photos below, give thanks to the people working behind the scenes to make sure everything looked good on the stage.