Japanese Breakfast: 5 Albums That Changed My Life

Japanese Breakfast: 5 Albums That Changed My Life

Japanese Breakfast (a.k.a. Michelle Zauner) is out with her second studio album, Soft Sounds from Another Planet, on July 14, an album she calls “a failed science fiction concept record.” A bit different from her first record, Psychopomp, Zauner says Soft Sounds is laced with melancholy, the result of her mother dying during its inception.

The musician found some solace in the music of Mount Eerie during that time, enough so that she added Phil Elverum’s most recent release, A Crow Looked at Me, to her list of five albums that changed her life. Read up on that record and the rest below.

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Unknown Motown Compilation

I didn’t grow up with any siblings. I was an only child, and I feel like a lot of people learn about [music from their] older siblings, and I didn’t really have that opportunity. In addition to that, neither one of my parents were really into music. My mom was from Korea and…my father didn’t really listen to much music. There were probably two records in my dad’s car. I can remember one, which was a Motown compilation. That was pretty important to my musical upbringing. I would say that would be my first musical memory. I think that it was like the first time I really fell in love with music.

Fleetwood Mac, Rumours

I remember being really taken by the album artwork. I think that Christine McVie is the most timeless writer that ever lived. All the songs on this record could be on records today and still be totally timeless and great.

Elliott Smith, XO

I grew up in the Pacific Northwest and Elliott Smith was a huge influence on me and all of my friends growing up when I was in high school. I think XO is probably one of the first albums of his that I really fell in love with. He’s another amazing writer and arranger of music. I feel like he has these really great pop songs and wonderful arrangements and really sad and deep lyrics that I really connected to growing up.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Fever to Tell

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Fever to Tell was really seminal for me. It was the first time I saw a half Korean woman in a band. I just remember watching live performance videos online of Karen deep-throating her microphone and spitting water everywhere and just thinking, ‘How do I get to do that?’ It was just literally everything that I was told not to do growing up as an Asian American girl. [That album] probably had a really big part in me wanting to pursue music and feeling like there could be a place for me.

Mount Eerie, A Crow Looked at Me

I’ve actually only listened to this record one time, because I’m honestly really afraid of listening to it again — but I listened to this record a couple of months ago. This record feels so close to me because Mount Eerie is another Pacific Northwest hero of mine, and I’ve followed Mount Eerie since I was probably fifteen or sixteen years old. I think for a lot of people, Phil Elverum has always made really, really personal and vulnerable art that we’ve all really connected with, even from just the songwriting style to the recording style to personally mailing out of a lot of his merch or making a really elaborate book and crafting these incredible covers.

So, when his wife died, it felt so personal even though I obviously didn’t know her at all or their relationship. My mom passed away two and a half years ago of cancer also, and it was a really, really quick and aggressive cancer, similar to what his wife had.

[The other month], I was driving my car back from Costco and it was just one of those days. I feel like after someone in your life has died, sometimes you just have days where you…it’s not necessarily that you miss them. You just miss something, and you can’t quite put your finger on what you miss. It’s just this overwhelming feeling of just missing someone.

So I went to Costco, which is such a place that you go to with your parents, and I just felt like … It’s like holding in a sneeze where you just want it to come out and it’s not coming out. I just put on that record. I had been putting it off for a while, listening to it, because I knew it would destroy me. [I started listening and I] just had to pull over to the side of the road. I haven’t cried like that in a very long time in general — especially to an album. I’ve never heard something so personal, so vulnerable and just very sad. I related to it so much, and I felt like he expressed things and described moments between [his wife and him] that resonated with me and my own experience losing my mother.

(Photo credit: Phobymo)

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