Photo: Valerie Chiang
To say it has been a minute since the last Japanese Breakfast album would be a severe understatement. Since the release of Michelle Zauner's 2017 sophomore album Soft Sounds From Another Planet, fans have been treated to a Japanese Breakfast-themed video game, a handful of singles, news that the band would be making the soundtrack for an indie game, and even a memoir Zauner, titled Crying In H Mart, which is soon to be adapted into a movie!
For the next step in what must be a very busy year, Japanese Breakfast returns this spring with Jubilee, their third studio record. Preceded by three genre-bending singles, Jubilee sees Japanese Breakfast's signature brand of eccentric alternative-meets-indie-pop soaring to new heights.
The record's ten tracks blur the lines of indie pop by cross-contaminating with varying genres and styles, with the result sounding like a medley between Grimes and Radiohead in one moment and like a Panic! At The Disco deep cut the next. Despite this interesting blend of genres, Jubilee remains consistently in a lane of its own, never feeling weighed down by its tendencies for self-exploration and experimentation.
One of the most common comparisons regarding Jubilee is the parallel between Japanese Breakfast's Zauner to Kate Bush, a parallel that becomes immediately apparent on the album's opener, "Paprika." Synthesizing the delivery of Bush with a vocal performance more akin to a Mitski or a Lucy Dacus, Zauner absolutely crushes just about every moment on Jubilee. Whether on the bright and shimmering '80s glitter of "Be Sweet" or the punchy electro-pop percussion of "Slide Tackle," Zauner's vocals and the band's production is just as tightly polished as ever.
There is definitely an increased sense of risk-taking this time around as well, but somehow every left field musical choice seems to make perfect sense. The vocal layering of Zauner's impassioned "Be sweet to me baby, I wanna believe in you" on "Be Sweet" evokes comparisons to mid-80's dance-pop groups like The Jets but with a distinct musical register that is somehow both forward-thinking and nostalgic.
Speaking of forward-thinking, few moments on Jubilee resonate quite like the album single "Posing in Bondage." The track begins as an ethereal and experimental synthesis of witch house and indie pop but soon evolves, shedding its ethereal outer shell to expose an abrasive grunge center. Other sentimental tracks like "Kokomo, IN" sound like they could have been pulled from Pretty. Odd. (there's the P!ATD comparison), as they stand out from the rest of Jubilee by being much more acoustic and string-laden than other album cuts. Though "Tactics" is also chock-full of moments brimming with astonishing vocal and string arrangements, fans of all musical styles will find something to like on Japanese Breakfast's newest offering.
Jubilee is everything fans have been waiting for since 2017. Intentional and thoughtful at every turn, varied and dynamic in style, and above all else, bursting at the seams with indie-pop anthems to listen to as we bid spring a solemn adieu. Though normally this is where I might look to the future, writing hopeful and doe-eyed speculation on when we may next hear or see from the artists whom we admire, it seems like Japanese Breakfast may have a lot on her plate at the moment. Between an upcoming film, a video game to write for, and an upcoming tour with Bright Eyes, Lucy Dacus, and Waxahatchee, it seems like fans won't have to wait long for more Japanese Breakfast.
Listen to Jubilee below: