Japanese Breakfast paves the way again with third instalment in infectious torques of indie sunshine and melancholic alternatives.
Whether or not you’re a true believer in “set genres” in the world of music, Japanese Breakfast’s Korean-American Michelle Zauner is the epitome of indie pop-rock. Much like the band name itself – spunky and “exotic” much to the enthused as to what a Japanese breakfast is actually made up of – the band delivers with sound to match. From poignant moments of a “sad girl” indie starter pack with Arlo Parks-esque “Kokomo, IN” to the faster tempo of “Be Sweet” – more of a woolly Wolf Alice / St. Vincent crossover – Zauner harnesses a new infectious side to her … that is every bit joyous as it is reflective on shortcomings.
Right off the bat, we see this new slice of sunshine in opener Paprika, aptly inspired by Satoshi Kon’s movie of the same name. An introduction to Zauner’s new path of finding joy in music, in finding those tender moments as a music artist – and a successful one at that: “How’s it feel to be at the center of magic / To linger in tones and words? / I opened the floodgates and found / No water, no current, no river, no rush / How’s it feel to stand at the height of your powers / To captivate every heart? / Projеcting your visions to strangers / Who feel it, who listen to linger on еvery word.“
“Slide Tackle” makes use of an euphoric horn section before it blitzes into a funky settlement as Zauner obsesses in the dark and is certainly one of those most creative on the album that just lets go. Like an overtly satisfying Nokia ringtone, Posing in Bondage is Zauner’s first official nod to Björk’s 97’s stalwart Homogenic, as it raises the bar in pure pop electronica with depth and colour. Partnered with its unplugged alternative of Posing For Cars, it carries the weight of beautiful indie intricacies. It just so happens that PFC closes this chapter of Jubilee. But we’re not done.
While the prior albums were ladled in anguish after her mother’s passing, Japanese Breakfast embraces ambition with joy into the new decade, as big and bold ideas conjure up from the fray. From this, we get a true celebration in the alteration of time: a Jubilee. Those big celebratory ideas we see crop up time and time again on the second half of this album. From the fuzzy electro-outro of Sit (“caught up in the idea of someone / caught up in my idea of you“) to the spicy Brain-May-electrics appearing on Savage Good Boy (why isn’t this longer??), it features a few eyebrow-moments that is very much a telling of Zauner’s comfort in putting across a new Japanese breakfast on the table. Whether we choose to consume it or not, is really down to us.
This record is very much “fighting to feel” and driving home the art of ambition. Although, you wouldn’t of thought it listening to the lyrics during some of the lush moments you hear on Jubilee. “With my luck you’ll be dead within the year / I’ve come to expect it / There’s nothing left to fear, at least there’s that” is not exactly something you wish to hear on an album of such cognitive change for happiness – especially when that source is so scarce at the moment – but hey, it hones into the sorrowful beauty of Zauner’s work for Japanese Breakfast. It’s compelling storytelling every bit intriguing as its name.
It’s Zauner delicate soprano voice that weaves and swan-dives between the heaviest of arrangements on this third 10-parter record. And it’s her voice that lends as a helping hand as it carries you through the winding roads of Jubilee.
It entices you in, persuades you to sit and rejoice in the moment. And you do just that. There’s also no worry in reaching for that skip button, because you won’t need to.
TOP PICKS: Be Sweet, Posing For Cars
MOST REPEATED: Slide Tackle
< Jubilee is the third studio album by American alternative pop band Japanese Breakfast, released on June 4, 2021 through Dead Oceans. >
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