Japanese Breakfast's third studio album, Jubilee, is a paradox: simultaneously strong and delicate. It satisfies like a Shakespearean comedy; it welcomes listeners in with a bloom like dawn, goes on to break your heart, and then with meticulous care puts you back together. Grander and more cinematic than 2016's Psychopomp and 2017's Soft Sounds from Another Planet by virtue of its strings and horns, this album is Michelle Zauner's invitation to throw caution to the wind and bask in unapologetic happiness.
It’s quite a jolt listening to Jubilee, Japanese Breakfast's third album, for the first time. By now, Michelle Zauner, who pretty much is Japanese Breakfast together with her husband Peter Bradley, has (probably unfairly) been firmly pigeonholed as part of the ‘sadcore’ movement. With both of her albums, and a memoir, exploring her mother’s death from cancer, there’s a sense on this record of packing the past away and learning to start again.
Gathering her signature range of relaxed indie-rock, shoegaze, and pop music, Jubilee stands as an earnest declaration built around growth and self-discovery. Yet, even beneath its exceptional songwriting, one of the biggest takeaways is perhaps Zauner herself - gently reminding us that no matter the hardship we're likely to face, we're more than capable of coming out on the other side swinging. It's never easy to recover from trauma.
It's as if the de-saturated colors of Jubilee's arresting cover photo were momentarily absorbed into the album's core only to be splashed back onto the listener. Michelle's Zauner's third album as Japanese Breakfast is clearly her finest accomplishment to date. If all Zauner had done in the nearly four years since Soft Sounds From Another Planet was to write and record opening track "Paprika," most mortals would nod and declare it worthy of the wait.
This spring, somewhere between her memoir Crying in H Mart debuting at No. 2 on The New York Times' Best Sellers list and her turn as a vampiric sugar baby to an ex-Soprano in a self-directed video, it officially became Jbrekkie Season. Michelle Zauner, the musician, author, director, and food enthusiast behind Japanese Breakfast, had seemingly planned it that way, holding her ambitious third record--and first in four years--until the pandemic eased.
Many words can be thrown at Japanese Breakfast's third album, 'exuberant,' 'joyous,' 'poppy,' to name just a few, but I think 'healing' would be most apt. 2016's 'Psychopomp' and its follow up saw Zauner combining elements of shoegaze and dream pop to help come to terms with her mother's cancer diagnosis and eventual death, an artistic grieving process that's been solidified with her outstanding debut memoir Crying In H Mart. 'Jubilee' sees Zauner fully unshackled for the first time, keeping the emotive core of her songwriting and marrying it with boundless energy and ambition.