‘Live At Electric Lady’ Review: Closer to Japanese Breakfast | Arts
A partnership between Spotify and Electric Lady Studios announced on July 13, 2021 has resulted in the release of several EPs under the title “Live At Electric Lady”. These EPs are special live cover recordings performed at New York’s legendary Electric Lady studios, performances by Patti Smith, Jon Batiste and Faye Webster. The latest EP is by rising indie rock star Japanese Breakfast, known behind the scenes as Michelle Zauner. The release of Japanese Breakfast’s “Live At Electric Lady” EP is ushered in by the hype of her acclaimed album “Jubilee” and her best-selling New York Times memoir “Crying in H Mart”, both released more early in 2021.
Zauner thrives within the confines of Electric Lady Studios, utilizing the intimate setting and talents of the exceptional resident sound engineers. In the live EP, the uniqueness of her voice is revealed as she shines through lyrics about the cracks in different kinds of love.
The opening track, “Tactics – Recorded At Electric Lady Studios”, establishes wavering feelings that Zauner follows in many directions throughout the EP. Much like the original “Jubilee,” the song begins with pumping violins. But these strings are different: louder, more convincing and fully covered thanks to the sublime hi-fi production of the album. The same goes for Zauner’s own voice.
In the song, Zauner adapts experiences with her father in a larger storyline about toxic relationships. She burns to remember beautiful moments of a past love, perhaps just to make sure that love existed: “I tried, I tried to remember, memories of peaches, the sun on my neck. In the following verses she notes attempts to fill the space left behind, “without much discretion of whom”. She argues that she should stay away from this person and not be persuaded by tales of a fictional past. The single word of “Tactical” provides a silhouette of Zauner’s pain, which is then severely shadowed by his haunting voice.
Three of the eight tracks on the EP were not originally released by Japanese Breakfast. “Lindsey,” from Zauner’s former band’s seminal album Little Big League, is the first of these. Although not a standout track, “Lindsey – Recorded At Electric Lady Studios” serves two purposes on the disc. First, he pays homage to his musical roots, and second, he plays on a common theme in his work, both on and off the EP: how traditions of heteronomative and monogamous relationships are equated with love. In “Lindsey,” Zauner personifies someone who can only show love through promises of provision and offspring; “I could earn your bread if you let me” and “I will make you desire heirs”.
Nowhere on the album is this theme clearer than in “Savage Good Boy – Recorded At Electric Lady Studios”, a stripped down version of a hit track from “Jubilee”. In it, Zauner’s lyrics shine through as she embodies a type of investment banker who believes, “All my bad behavior was just necessary restraint.” Accompanied by a singular acoustic guitar, the absurd monologue of a man who only wants to make money and raise children feels serious in a way it couldn’t in the original.
The EP’s second non-Japanese breakfast track, “Ballad 0 – Recorded At Electric Lady Studios”, is part of Zauner’s side project, “BUMPER”. It’s a little-known song that now has new life. Zauner successfully trades lo-fi vocal effects for high production to shed light on a hidden songwriting gem; It’s less stylized, but more memorable – a painful tale of the struggles of leaving a relationship you know you’ve grown out of.
The final song on the album is “Say It Ain’t So – Recorded At Electric Lady Studios”, a cover of Weezer’s infamous hit. I don’t want to spoil it, but it indeed fills its boots as a refreshed and vibrant take on a legendary track – a solid ending to a tender album that will win your attention and ultimately, your heart.