Japanese Breakfast's 'Machinist' Is A Melancholy Story Of Sci-Fi Love : All Songs Considered Michelle Zauner builds a body for her robot lover in the first single from Japanese Breakfast's second album, Soft Sounds From Another Planet.
NPR logo Japanese Breakfast's 'Machinist' Is A Melancholy Story Of Sci-Fi Love

Japanese Breakfast's 'Machinist' Is A Melancholy Story Of Sci-Fi Love

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We project ourselves into space, even if most of us will never rocket out of orbit in our lifetime.

"The title Soft Sounds From Another Planet alludes to the promise of something that may or may not be there, like a hope in something more," Michelle Zauner writes in a press release. "The songs are about human resilience and the strength it takes to claw out of the darkest of spaces."

Just a little over a year since Psychopomp, a debut album that powers through grief with sparkling dream-pop, Japanese Breakfast returns with an album that allows Zauner to process the trauma of losing her mother via fantasies of space.

The album's first single, "Machinist," is a gloomy piece that mines the dark drama of Vangelis and the melancholic fall-out from Kanye West's 808s & Heartbreak. Over heavy washes of synths, cold electronic beats and, yes, a cheesy sax solo, Zauner sings about a woman who falls in love with a robot with passion and despair like a Deckard who's found his Rachael — unless, of course, they were both robots all along, but digressions aside...

A story like this begs for a visual, and Zauner's quickly come into her own as a director. Here, our protagonist "hallucinates on rocket fuel and tears apart her spaceship in an attempt to build a body for her robot lover," she writes. This is her fourth collaboration with director of photography Adam Kolodny, who adds, "We were inspired by 2001: A Space Odyssey, Alien, 2046, and The Fifth Element." It's an inventive video with sets and costumes that feel DIY, but drive the narrative, especially in the brief dialog between her ("Do you trust me / Can you feel it?") and the machine ("Total control / Can't let go"). It's a startlingly intimate moment, something like feels like love — though "it could be bliss."

Japanese Breakfast is currently on tour with Slowdive. Soft Sounds From Another Planet comes out July 14 via Dead Oceans. Track list below:

Japanese Breakfast, Soft Sounds From Another Planet

"Diving Woman"
"Road Head"
"Machinist"
"Planetary Ambience"
"Soft Sounds From Another Planet"
"Boyish"
"12 Steps"
"Jimmy Fallon Big"
"Body Is A Blade"
"Till Death"
"This House"
"Here Come The Tubular Bells"