Michelle Zauner is the solo artist behind the eclectic, multifaceted Japanese Breakfast and a former member of the American emo band Little Big League. Japanese Breakfast’s sophomore album, Soft Sounds from Another Planet, is exactly what the title implies as Zauner’s nostalgic, almost wistful voice dances over 12 tracks of a visionary odyssey. Think Johnny Cash meets Weezer meets Julia Stone — except cooler (and weirder).
Sounds from Another Planet cannot be contained by the “indie rock” label, however, as the album’s vibe maintains a heavy cosmic influence and balance between synthetic beats and organic instruments. The first single, “Road Head,” opens with a tantalizing guitar riff and lyrics Zauner described to NPR as “a really ugly moment when you try to do something sexually wild to save a relationship, only to make it more painfully apparent that it’s not going to work.”
This pure vulnerability warps into outer space love stories on songs like “The Machinist.” Meanwhile, the outro of “Road Head” is crucial to note because of its transition into “The Machinist” that sounds like ocean waves, a reminder that the album is a fluid, cohesive art piece.
The record is experimental and it’s put-together. It’s electronic and it’s old-school. Dualism, fragility, and restlessness oozes throughout the album, paving a way for Japanese Breakfast to continue making music from out-of-body experiences. Sarah Armendariz
8 p.m., Friday, Sept. 22, at Starline Social Club. $13-$52; starlinesocialclub.com
2017’s biggest up-and-coming artist is straight out of El Paso, Texas, and he’s featured on songs by Calvin Harris, Logic, and Lorde. Arguably, Khalid’s big break came when his hit single, “Location,” played in the background of a Snapchat story Kylie Jenner posted in January.
The rest is history. His addictive youthfulness and innocence landed Khalid — a 19 year-old in the middle of his American Teen tour — an MTV Video Music Award for Best New Artist less than a month ago. It’s his debut tour, by the way, and it’s worldwide.
Aside from his boyish smile and distinctive hairstyle, Khalid is proving himself to be a serious artist. On top of being a featured writer on all 15 tracks of his debut, both Rolling Stone and Complex dubbed American Teen one of the 50 beast albums of the year. Tracks like “Saved” and “Another Sad Love Song” contain a simplicity in their lyrics that sets them apart from mainstream popular music in a way that’s reminiscent of material you’d hear from crooners in the 1960s.
In a recent interview with Genius, Khalid states that he “loves songs that don’t have too much, so you focus on the words a lot more,” and this principle translates seamlessly with each ballad featured on the record. His premiere has made it clear that Khalid is not just an artist to hear, but an artist to listen to. Sarah Armendariz
8:00 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 21, at The Masonic. $40-$200; sfmasonic.com
In 1996, the Finnish cello metal band Apocalyptica released Plays Metallica By Four Cellos. Reworking guitar-heavy epics like “Master of Puppets” and “Wherever I May Roam” for strings, Apocalyptica tapped into a melodic, emotional side of Metallica’s music that many people never knew existed. Lars Ulrich and company seemed to take note, too: Metallica recorded its 1999 live album, S&M, with conductor Michael Kamen and the San Francisco Orchestra.
The band met while students at Helsinki’s Sibelius Academy, where cellists Eicca Toppinen, Paavo Lötjönen, Max Lilja, and Antero Manninen found a shared love for Metallica. By the time Apocalyptica released its second record, Inquisition Symphony, in 1998, its members had expanded their scope of covers to include tracks by Faith No More, Sepultura, and Pantera alongside a fresh crop of Metallica compositions. Their catalog is now eight records deep and includes many original works as well as songs with vocal components.
Notably, Apocalyptica had the chance to play alongside Metallica in 2011, allowing it to push past the boundaries of being “just” a cover band and into something else entirely. To conceive of chamber music as something to mosh to is to understand that master composers like Mozart and Beethoven were the original heavy-metal groups. The crash of cymbals and slice of bow against string at an Apocalyptica show bring all the musical pyrotechnics one would expect from James Hetfield and his bandmates. The instruments may be different, but the raw, fiery energy is just the same. Zack Ruskin
8 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 26 at the Fox Theater. $29.50-$39.50; thefoxoakland.com
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