Jubilee, the third album from Japanese Breakfast, sees Michelle Zauner seeking out a happy future.
With two albums already under her belt, Michelle Zauner – the face behind Japanese Breakfast – seems to have turned some kind of corner with new record, Jubilee. First album Psychopomp saw her wrestling with her mother’s cancer treatment and dealing with the anguish it created whereas follow up Soft Sounds From Another Planet at times dealt with the grief of her mother’s death. The music created through this turmoil, although fantastic, was heart-breaking for Zauner. It’s great to see her moving on and searching for happiness in the new material.
Kicking off with Paprika, slowly building synths are eventually joined by drums and infectious bass that feels bright and airy. It’s still the same Japanese Breakfast in essence but with added zeal. Zauner is ready to try happiness from the off and the later cinematic feel to the track suits her vocals well. Following track, Be Sweet focuses on a delicious walking bass line against an 80s indie vibe that flows well, carrying the vocal track on a dreamy soundscape of energy that refuses to let go. The intermittent funky guitar is the icing on the cake to the well-thought-out and perfectly layered build-ups.
It’s good to stress here that Jubilee is an album not about being happy, but with a focus on trying to be happy. There are many of us striving for happiness, and Jubilee frequently reminds those people they’re not alone. Slide Tackle beautifully portrays this element, with an upbeat pace and rhythm threading the needle perfectly as Zauner sings of her hopes to be a more content person: “I want to be good, I want to navigate this hate in my heart somewhere better”. Posing In Bondage then slows things down with a more thoughtful, synthy dreamscape that allows the artist to contemplate her life and build towards fuzzy overlays and bassy beats.
As you work your way to the second half of the record, the tone appears to build in a wider array of arrangments – a lot more than those used on previous records. Zauner continues to process her quest for happiness on tracks such as the dark and fuzzy Sit where she opens herself up to others (“caught up in the idea of someone, caught up in the idea of you”) or the more upbeat and sunny disposition of Savage Good Boy (“I want to take care of you when everybody’s gone”). It’s Zauner opening up and she wants the world to know.
As we get to the closing cuts we delve into a more contemplative and life-affirming sound that works well. Tactics is heavy on the strings before sliding into a settled bassy drone and light bells to counteract its malice. The record then ends on the stripped-back opening and sultry sentiments of Posing for Cars, building into a crescendo of sound and energy before finishing on the whine of feedback.
Jubilee from Japanese Breakfast is a delight to listen to, not just because the songs are immaculately created and produced, but because we’re also seeing Michelle Zauner strive towards happiness. This is the most settled and playful we’ve seen the artist to date and she suits a record that slowly unfurls like a delicate flower.