Japanese Breakfast – Jubilee

2 July 2021 / by Tina Xia
Album reviews
Japanese Breakfast Jubilee
Released: June 4, 2021
Label: Dead Oceans
Alternative / Indie Pop / Indie Rock
Jay Som / Mitski / Soccer Mommy
Paprika, Be Sweet, Posing for Cars

Breaking their four-year silence, Japanese Breakfast has returned with their third studio album Jubilee, a showcase of vibrant, full-sounding and exuberant modern indie. Between the record’s light and bubbly effects, inordinate amount of strings and horns, no shortage of instrumental solos and everything else in the kitchen sink, 10 striking tracks attempt to deliver an unforgettable experience. If the words ‘melodic busy intersection’ stir anything within you, look no further than Jubilee as your next album on repeat.  


Japanese Breakfast’s frontman Michelle Zauner is no stranger to the grief of loss. Her past two records, Psychopomp and Soft Sounds From Another Planet, were heavily defined by the pain she felt in the wake of her mother’s death in 2014. However, with Jubilee comes a celebratory and joyous collection of music. Although Zauner continues to let the loss influence her writing, a lens of optimism and triumph touch every track. In one interview, she mentions going into this new album “confident and bombastic and ambitious and almost theatrical.” 


At its core, Jubilee is about the desperate pursuit of happiness. If that sounds multi-faceted, then that is what you can expect to find with these songs. Between its lifting brass tones and crashing cymbals, the record still grounds itself in the tackling of personal experiences through its lyricism. The album’s rosy and upbeat opening, “Paprika,” for example, features brass instrumentals and marching band feels in the chorus, all to tell a story of fame and spotlight. The sharp contrast in its writing—“Oh, it’s a rush!” which is immediately followed by, “But alone it feels like dying/ All alone I feel so much,” may surprise you. More examples of busy uplifting tracks include two of the album’s singles. “Savage Good Boy,” an upbeat and catchy commentary on the villainy of modern billionaires feature the pointing lines of “And we will be so wealthy, I’m absolved from questioning/ That all my bad behaviour was just a necessary strain” as well as an electrically charged rock solo. “Be Sweet,” on the other hand, is a groovy reflection of 80’s indie with a heavily layered chorus; the perfect road trip song. 


Zauner doesn’t shy away from deeper-sounding, slow ballads in this record either. “Tacticsis built on beautifully sullen violin and string melodies, as well as winding vocals to create a brooding symphonic feel. “Posing for Cars,” a six-minute acoustic and electric blend, brings a moonlight guitar solo, instrumental breaks, and sweet lyricism to express the rollercoaster of emotions that come with every relationship. However, a less captivating moment of this album is found with “In Hell,which is catchy, but not unique enough for an immediate connection, and blends into the background of an otherwise boisterous collection of songs. 


If you’re looking to dive into the sweet, multi-dimensional, unique sound of Japanese Breakfast, this record is a fantastic beginning to your journey with the artist. Sit back, and allow the album’s flourishing and encompassing tone to completely submerge you. Jubilee is a promise of great things to come in modern indie.