Within the last five years, I have made it clear, repeatedly, that Philadelphia’s Japanese Breakfast – the pretty much solo musical project of singer-composer Michelle Zauner – has made some of my favorite music, local and beyond.
“Japanese Breakfast is all me, rooted in a female voice,” she told me in 2016. “I just got braver with time, allowed myself to tell more of my own stories. It’s like having my mother on the cover (of “Psychopomp”). That’s my identity. You don’t see that face very much. It’s just so sweet.”
“Psychopomp” from 2016 and “Soft Sounds from Another Planet” from 2017 each remain on heavy rotation in my home, with shorter, more recent projects such as the “Essentially” EP and her “Head Over Heels” cover of Tears for Fears pleader (both from 2019) coming up from behind. In 2019, Zauner also announced that the publishing rights to her memoir, “Crying in H Mart,” were purchased by Knopf, and awaiting release. Huzzah.
“I like to write a lot and am good at being a non-perfectionist,” she told me back in 2016 on the occasion of the release of Psychopomp. “That’s one of my strengths. I can forgive myself.”
Bringing us up to the present, however, is a bit sadder as – for the most part – Zauner has relocated from Philly to New York City, and, with her upcoming project co-starring Crying’s Ryan Galloway, has abandoned her Japanese Breakfast name. The new COVID-quarantine EP, from her new duo BUMPER, announced their debut EP “pop songs 2020,” which is released tomorrow, Friday, September 4.
You can see and hear the four-song EP in its entirety below…
The BUMPER project’s “pop songs 2020” is a clanging, clinking, sweetly melodic synth-pop record – very New Wave 1981 NYC, very Club Berlin – with subtly cosmopolitan bridges, the occasional awkward guitar solo and some truly heavenly vocals from Zauner.
Sorry, we lost Zauner (hopefully not for good, and hopefully she hasn’t given up the gentle menace of Japanese Breakfast), but if this is what NYC means to Michelle, it looks and sounds great on her.