Japanese Breakfast Credit: Ebru Yildiz

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Michelle Zauner launched Japanese Breakfast as a solo project amid massive life changes. In 2014, while fronting her Philly emo band Little Big League, her mother was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer, and Zauner eventually moved back home to Oregon to be with her family. Her mother passed away just months before Zauner wrote Japanese Breakfast’s 2016 debut, Psychopomp. That loss, along with graceful reflections on the distinct challenges of adulthood, colors the moving, slightly lo-fi indie-rock record. July’s Soft Sounds From Another Planet (Dead Oceans) retains the tranquil atmospheres found on its predecessor even as Zauner and her band go expansive (quite literally on the hypnotic opener, “Diving Woman,” which is nearly twice the length of the longest track on Psychopomp). Ambitious and slightly ungainly, Soft Sounds wins because Japanese Breakfast takes chances with its relatively calm, shoegaze-influenced sounds—“Machinist” rolls out over a sturdy dance beat, and flourishes with a funky nimble bass line and glitzy keys.   v