On her sophomore solo record, Asian-American singer and producer, Michelle Zauner has come through with a formidable collection of songs that are less sophisticated in context and subject matter, but more profound in ambience and texture. Soft Sounds From Another Planet blends dreamy vocals with hazy and druggy production to create a reverb-heavy, dream-pop and shoegaze fusion that kindles all sorts of intense of emotions.
Soft Sounds From Another Planet admirably chases the brand that the title implies, at times sounding straight up extraterrestrial. Zauner shows she is a master of creating a moody atmosphere and then enhancing it. Some of the brightest moments include the danceable “Diving Woman” and “Machinist”, and the euphoric “Road Head”.
“Boyish” dabbles in bedroom synth-pop, climaxing with Beach House-esque guitar riffs. Its atmosphere that makes for the perfect love-making jam after splitting a slow burning doobie with your significant other. The punkish “12 Steps”, an anthemic song about love and fate, is one of the emotional highlights. Zauner echoes the sadness of the young music community, when she opens “Till Death” with the line, “All the celebrities keep dying, all the cruelness continues to win”. This track meets the ‘less is more’ mantra: gentle horns and a soft chorus, resulting in a charming lullaby about hanging on to the precious things in life.
All in all, this is a beautifully produced album. If this project was judged strictly on ambience, it might be my album of the year. I didn’t start embracing some of the song topics and lyrics until at least 3 or 4 full listens. With that said, I find it more appropriate to approach this album as an ambient project that captures a wave of different moods and feelings because more than anything, that is the mold it fits. It’s absorbed in atmosphere and texture far more than lyrics and melody. In this case, that formula works great.
Even though these might not be the deepest, most fleshed out songs from a lyrical perspective, Michelle’s voice still sounds delightful. It’s attractive, and if you look into the song topics a little bit more, there are some thoughtful and cute concepts. It’s clear that her big focus with this album was to hatch her ideas out from a production standpoint – meaning vocals, instruments, effects all blended to form an a cohesive, yet diverse soundscape.
I also think this is an album that is especially appealing to millennials, from the procrastinating weed head to the oversensitive adolescent. Therefore, she’s scoring in a number of different markets with this project. If you like moody synths and guitars, this is your kind of album. In every sense, this is music meant to accentuate the vibe which it induces.