mp3: "In Heaven" - Japanese Breakfast

 Photo: Julian Master

Photo: Julian Master

Words: Jordan Gorsuch

Last year was a startling year for me. I lost both of my grandparents in a small space of two months. Needless to say, it was a challenging period of my life. “I’m now an orphan,” my mom told me as I was stunned in silence. My mom was drifting on a river, and no branches were to save her from the momentous pull of grief. 

The deaths and funerals themselves were immensely difficult, but there’s something to be said about the now that I currently experience. How I sometimes catch myself speaking about them in the present-tense, how my dad says “your pap loves that beer” when he sees a Miller Light advertisement, how I tell my family “I’m going to gram’s” to get something – it doesn’t belong to her anymore, though. 

Michelle Zauner started Japanese Breakfast in response to lack of inspiration she felt after writing and recording the first full-length Little Big League record, her first project. “In Heaven” is the lead single for her new album Psychopomp, it’s a beautifully gutting track about the loss of a loved one. Zauner infuses her dark lyrics with beautiful melodies and lovely piano sections; not to mention the elegant violin flourishes throughout. 

“The dog’s confused/ She paces around all day/ She’s sniffing around your empty room,” Zauner opens wide with her melancholic memories of the fallout of a momentous personal passing. Listening doesn’t get easier, as the anecdotes get more personal and raw. “I’m trying to believe/ When I sleep it’s really you/ Visiting my dreams, like they say that angels do.” It is typical to seek shelter from cruel reality with the comforts of faith in a higher order.

Zauner details the difficulties of sorting through a loved one’s left behind possessions during the mid-point of the song. My gram was a pack rat, and we still haven’t worked up the courage to sort through her old possessions. Death is at once an absence and a presence, an absence of new memories and an unrelenting flood of old ones. 

“Oh, do you believe in heaven?” Zauner asks in the first chorus. “Like you believed in me?” At least she’s asking the right questions. 

Japanese Breakfast’s Psychopomp is out April 1 via Yellow K Records. You can pre-order it here.