Sequestered in the woods of Oregon helping her mother cope with cancer, songwriter Michelle Zauner could have penned a series of stark, downtrodden tunes along the lines of Justin Vernon of Bon Iver to cope with her grief. Instead, she crafted a series of defiant, sonically rich compositions that eventually made their way onto her debut album as Japanese Breakfast. The album, Psychopomp, is a cathartic testament to the healing power of music as Zauner explores an eclectic mixture of songs — from instrumental elegies (“Moon on the Bath”) to ebullient indie-pop anthems (“Everybody Wants to Love You”) to heartfelt ballads (“Triple 7”). Allegories to her mother (who passed in 2014) are everywhere in the album, most notably in the opener, “In Heaven,” a gorgeous shoegaze number that evokes optimism over despondency, despite its heavy lyrical content. Zauner has conceded that she still has difficult moments dealing with her mother’s death, but this album feels triumphant — a demonstration that the artist has confidently embraced the challenges life has thrown her way.
Japanese Breakfast with Porches and Rivergazer, at 8 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 18 at The Independent. $16-$18; www.theindependentsf.com