“For me, a third record should feel bombastic.” That’s what Michelle Zauner aka Japanese Breakfast set out to achieve with her latest release. Unapologetically big and dazzlingly bright, Jubilee is an invigorating depiction of Zauner’s journey to finding true happiness in a testing and unforgiving world.
She is no stranger to sorrow, and her new album comes alongside the release of her memoir Crying in H-Mart, based on her viral 2018 New Yorker essay of the same name, which explores her Korean American identity and coming to terms with her mother’s death. But unlike 2014’s Psychopomp and 2017’s Soft Sounds From Another Planet, Jubilee is not an exploration of grief and loss. It’s a celebration of joy, life, colour; of embracing feeling and living jubilantly.
The four years since her last release saw Zauner enrol in music theory and piano lessons to expand her skills as a songwriter. Jubilee exudes new levels of confidence and purposefulness, with bright, joyful arrangements that serve to augment her unique vocals.
She pulls out all the stops with lead single ‘Be Sweet’, a jagged earworm rich with ’80s influence and shredding basslines, written alongside Jack Tatum of Wild Nothing. Other highlights include ‘Savage Good Boy’, a pounding and aloof track co-produced with Alex G, and slow-burning ballad ‘Tactics’, which sees Zauner return to the sweet melancholy that characterised Soft Sounds.
A veteran of capturing the pain of illness and death with her music, Zauner teaches us how to resist despair and find joy amidst tragedy – a lesson needed now more than ever.
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