Notes: Mitski w/ Japanese Breakfast & Jay Som @ Echoplex, July 7, 2016
A sellout gig at the Echoplex on a weeknight where the choices in music around town are free and plentiful – Local Natives up on a Silverlake rooftop, Mayer Hawthorne at the Santa Monica Pier, Poolside at the Hammer – hints at the sort of fervor Mitski is stirring in certain quadrants these days.
It’s easy to be at least somewhat skeptical of alt outlet encomiums piling up for her new album, Puberty 2. She gives good interview, slipping into pull-quote-friendly think-piece-speak rather naturally. The pieces tend to touch on broader topics including things like race, gender and agency – not typical pop music chit chat. Paralleling the intellectualizing and contextualizing of her career and music, though, there’s her relatable everywoman Twitter presence – smart small observations, a comical voice, occasionally self deprecating, few caps – that has helps forge that deeply felt connection with her audience, supplementing her often diary like lyrics. Two strains of media – one verbose, one limited to 140 characters – come together around her and her music in a fairly novel way. She seems of, for and by these overmediated, overanalyzed times.
A step up in craft and execution from her young openers, the Mitski live show – a three-piece – her on bass, until the encore, an electric guitarist, a drummer – had the audience won from her mere appearance of her coming out to set up her bass. Though it’s a relief they sound excellent – loud, tight and full. They block out leaner versions of album productions, working mostly her last two of her four albums. There is a requisite unexpected cover (Calvin Harris). Sampled and synthetic sounds from the records are distilled to just the drum hits (glad to see more hit samples rather than mashing MPCs or triggering backing tracks). And it seems an obvious point, but she can actually sing. The “encore” (no leaving the stage, just her switching over to guitar saying, “these are my encore songs”) of her solo with guitar in straight folkie mode was perhaps the most compelling section of the set.
There was a sense that any banter between songs, any extra slice of personality shared, was as much savored as the actual songs. Like getting fresh Tweets in real time, in person. She didn’t disappoint, dropping nuggets like “You guys don’t know this, but I smell really good” or “I feel like anyone that had a really good prom did not become a good adult” (Ummm…?) It’s clear the audience are responding to more than just the songs, embracing Mitski, the person. What will she inspire in her audience beyond the adoration with this budding power is the question.
Japanese Breakfast, a new project by Michelle Zauner delivered short live set that only intermittently nailed the summery twee and occasional dense miasmics of her likable new record, Psychopomp (guessing that’s a bit of a JAMC nod in the title, if not completely obvious in the sound within). Backed by two bros on bass and drums (a bit loose on the rhythm) and occasional Nord Lead, Zauner on chiming guitar and sugary vocals stands out. She’s a budding front woman star in the making if, say, she goes the pop route and, for better or worse, sheds the noise and jangle.
Jay Som, the act name of Melinda Duertete, comes in with a handful of Bandcamp tunes, including a fine new pair of slowed down dreamy/noisy twee that has been scooped up for a 7″ on Fat Possum, opened with a promising solo electric guitar set. Catching her last few, the care in her writing craft is apparent, though the presentation as stripped quieter versions does not quite hold a room the size of Echoplex just yet. The talkers in the room take a lot of the blame for that.