Music Reviews

Japanese Breakfast Jubilee

(Dead Oceans) Rating - 7/10

Jubilee, the new album by Japanese Breakfast, starts off as if you’re walking in a tunnel towards a carnival. The voice of Michelle Zauner, the band’s vocalist and songwriter, starts things off on the opener Paprika, but quickly after, the music picks up the pace with marching snare drums, aquatic organs, bright horn parts, and a general sense of wonderment. “Oh, it’s a rush,” she belts, and we’re off to the races.

While much has been made of Jubilee being an album about joy—and in some ways, it is—the majority of the third Japanese Breakfast album captures a full breadth of emotions. “I want to be good, I want to navigate this hate in my heart” is sung early on, showing a complexity that lingers around even when Zauner wants to be expressing and experiencing happiness. Plenty of songs here capture this contradiction beautifully, from the shimmering, melancholic ‘80s pop of Be Sweet to the apocalyptic ballad Savage Good Boy. You could make a case for either of them being one of the best songs of the year. Kokomo, IN also stands out for its laidback energy, complete with plucked violins and a casually strummed guitar.

It’s on the backhalf of this album where things don’t click as strongly. At the center of Jubilee sits Posing in Bondage, a song that thrives on pure atmosphere without having anything in the way of memorability. You could say the same thing about Sit or Tactics, but the latter does have a solid chord structure. The end of the album is mostly salvaged by the aforementioned Savage Good Boy, which opens with cutesy pitch-shifting that almost immediately gives way to a striking adult contemporary groove. It’s fitting for a song about the apocalypse, but it’s still notable. There’s terror at the end of the world, but as Jubilee shows, there’s also something gorgeous about it.