Radio 1190 will not be hosting Locals Live Thursday night at Innisfree, so instead, peruse reviews of new albums from Japanese Breakfast, Bibio and Explosions in the Sky at radio1190.org.
After taking a hiatus from Little Big League and losing her mother to cancer, Michelle Zauner returned to Portland to create her version of dream-pop as Japanese Breakfast.
After three small self-released albums in three years, Zauner headed into the studio to re-record a handful of old hits and new compositions. The result is Psychopomp: Japanese Breakfast’s flagship statement is a cohesive and endearing album. The simple guitar, bass, drum, synth and vocal combo is airy and light, but carries a heavy emotional weight.
Though the production is better than her self-recorded albums, the record is by no means overproduced. At times, the synths and vocals become noisy and overpowering without overbearing the listener, but instead conveying sonically intense emotional states.
Zauner’s icy and light vocals on Psychopomp are reminiscent of Cocteau Twins and Galaxie 500, but the emotional openness and indie-pop sensibilities put her right at home with contemporary acts like Frankie Cosmos and Mitski.
In a sea of indie-pop and dream-pop acts, the originality of Japanese Breakfast’s sound makes her stand out. Out on Yellow K records, Psychopomp is Radio 1190’s CD of the Month for April.
Jennifer Keller and Chase Miller, a young duo from Broomfield, have been producing lo-fi, slow-core dream-pop as American Grandma since 2012. The ninth release, girlcult, puts the duo at their darkest and most confessional. Tracks like opener “never enough” feature intertwining guitar leads with contemplative vocals on top.
The electronic drumbeats underneath most songs have a strong similarity to hip hop or — dare I say — trap music. This may seem odd on the surface, but it works to convey the pulsing, syrupy quality of the music. What’s so profound about the music of American Grandma is the duo’s ability to sound vast and intimate at the same time. The closing, ethereal track “ruminations” is deeply confessional and vulnerable, but also dreamy and soothing. With its eerie synth pad, the lyrics depict a story of a lover who is forced by social norms to conform to hetero-normative gender and sexuality roles.
Overall, girlcult is strong and it showcases some of the best songwriting and lyrical content that American Grandma has offered to date. With girlcult, the young duo shows promise for even more stellar dream-pop albums in the future.
Though Minneapolis’ Kitten Forever is only comprised of drums, bass and vocals, the unique style of punk packs quite the punch. The seventh release, 7 Hearts, channels the feminist punk energy of Bikini Kill and the twee-pop quirks of Beat Happening.
With only two instruments and one voice, the group keeps each song fresh by alternating instruments between bandmates on nearly every track. With the fierce drums and noisy, distorted bass, at times the group sounds closer to Lightning Bolt than many guitar-based punk bands.
Though Kitten Forever doesn’t redefine the genre of punk music, the trio has unbeatable energy, great personality and the chops to make one hell of a rock and roll record.
Calvet is Radio 1190’s music director. Read more reviews: coloradodaily.com/columnists.