By Cassidy Segovia
Not even two months after appearing on the New York Times’ Best Sellers list for her heartfelt memoir, Crying in H Mart, singer/songwriter Michelle Zauner recently launched her third studio album, Jubilee, under her indie-pop project Japanese Breakfast.
From the release of her first two albums to her new book, Zauner’s well-deserved recognition from the media automatically placed the new album at a high value. Music enthusiasts worldwide were ecstatic to hear the bright vocals and profound lyricism Zauner always brings to the table, which is exactly why a Jubilee review is crucial right now in music media. The strong correlation between the grief & losses in her personal life within her music plays an important role in what makes Japanese Breakfast.
Let’s just hope that Zauner kicks it up a notch on Jubilee with a cross-over of colorful lyricism and instrumentals with just a dash of the tone that listeners are familiar with so far in Zauner’s discography.
The first track titled “Paprika” introduces an arrangement of horns, drums and synths that welcome the listener with open arms. The lyrics state, “How’s it feel to stand at the height of your powers to captivate every heart? Projecting your visions to strangers who feel it, who listen, who linger on every word? Oh, it’s a rush!” Zauner proclaims her thankfulness to those who find relatability in her music and discusses her influence as an artist. As a usual fan of Japanese Breakfast’s releases, it is refreshing to hear a warm and inviting opening track solely dedicated to the listeners.
“Be Sweet” is the second track on the album, but it was the first single released. Zauner shows off her versatility with this 1980’s inspired pop track with catchy lyrics, “Be sweet to me baby, I wanna believe in you, I wanna believe…” This is one of my favorite tracks off the album due to how lively and fun it is. It is a great track to put on when you want to sing along to the lyrics of being in a rocky relationship, or when you just want to have a good time.
Another track that follows in the same pattern is titled “Slide Tackle.” This song brings back the early indie-pop sound of the 2010’s with a bassline heard in bands such as Future Islands, Two Door Cinema Club and Phoenix. Although this song has an urban/chic feeling to it, the lyrics are much darker in comparison. Zauner has the ability to make her music upbeat and vivacious along with intense lyricism such as, “Don’t mind me while I’m tackling this void… This weight feels like I’m wrestling in my head, obsessing in the dark.” Satirical lyrics come into play on tracks such as “Savage Good Boy,” a song that revolves around the end of the world and being seduced by an elitist man who wants to provide for a woman.
Zauner’s lyric patterns in these few tracks are vastly different, but that is something I look forward to while listening to any album; Zauner is not afraid to show sides of her that are vulnerable, poetic, dark, or even zany.
There are some tracks off the album that follow the same theme, such as “Kokomo, IN” and “Tactics,” which discuss the topic of nostalgia. “Kokomo, IN” has beachy/folk-like influences like bands such as The Beach Boys, while “Tactics” delivers a slow tempo ballad; but both revolve around missing a loved one. Zauner succeeded in her attempt to turn a subject so saudade (such as missing someone) into a reason to be loving and happy, and that is such a beautiful thing to execute.
Some songs were inspired by lo-fi and shoegaze genres, with “Posing in Bondage” showing off alluring one-word lyric intervals, and “Sit” featuring hazy electric guitar instrumentals and synth beats. Zauner’s musicality in both “Posing in Bondage” and “Sit” bring back memories of her 2017 album titled Soft Sounds from Another Planet which mainly consists of songs inspired by 1990’s indie rock.
On the eighth track titled “In Hell,” Zauner talks about “[hell] finding someone to love and I can’t have you.” Zauner brought me to tears with this theme of seeing a loved one slowly depart from the world.
Another track that evoked emotion was the concluding song, “Posing for Cars.” Not only did Zauner provide soft vocals and slow acoustics, but she concluded the last three minutes of the song with an arrangement of acoustic guitars, drums, strings, and a surprising electric guitar solo. The instrumentals give listeners something to ponder on and left me wanting a replay of the entire album yet again.
Jubilee is a wonderful portrayal of how talented Michelle Zauner is as an artist. Not one song by Japanese Breakfast holds the same aesthetic, although it may hold the same theme. From Zauner’s recognizable bright vocals to incorporating the use of a drumline and violins, Jubilee was a joy the whole way through. I long for more songs like “Be Sweet” which showed off the quirky pop side of Japanese Breakfast, and “Savage Good Boy” which played on comical lyrics.
I believe that Zauner can give us more of that in the future, but for now, Jubilee is the album that will give music fanatics everything they need.
Check out Jubilee, available on all platforms now!