Japanese Breakfast's Michelle Zauner (photo by Peter Ash Lee, PR)
Why This Album Matters:
Jubilee, the third album from Japanese Breakfast, the band led by singer, songwriter, and guitarist Michelle Zauner, moves past the anguished grief of 2016’s Psychopomp and 2017’s Soft Sounds from Another Planet. The first album dealt with Zauner’s homecoming following her mother’s cancer diagnosis and her subsequent treatment. Soft Sounds from Another Planet reflected Zauner's grief following her mother’s death. Now on Jubilee, Zauner looks beyond that sadness and is in search of happiness.
In Her Own Words:
“A lot of third albums that I love are when an artist has really figured out who they are and they can kind of plow through it with newfound confidence," Zauner told FUV's Alisa Ali for a new FUV Live session. "So I was trying to sort of find that within myself, coming off a sophomore album where I had been just petrified of the sophomore slump. And so I wanted to make something sort of, like, theatrical and bombastic.”
“I think we went into the third album just wanting to be confident … and ambitious and almost theatrical," she explained to Harper's Bazaar. "We has a large palette to pull from; nothing was limited. And so I think that the arrangements are larger, they’re warmer, they’re more vibrant, there are more strings and horns. I’m always just chasing this king of lift in music. And I felt much more comfortable and confident using different types of instruments to get there.”
Why You Will Dig Jubilee:
From the album's opening track, “Paprika,” Zauner and her bandmates exude a sunny vibe. Playfully rhythmic and accentuated with bright horns, “Paprika” breaks through like an early morning sunrise breaking through closed shades. That brightness completely fills the room on the sugary gem “Be Sweet,” co-written with Wild Nothing's Jack Tatum, which hearkens back to classic Eighties pop at its finest. Elsewhere, Jubilee takes a contemplative turn on “Posing In Bondage,” with its brooding, synth-drenched melody. The smooth “Slide Tackle" trips along on electronic drums that provide the backbone of a light dance beat, interjected by sax and guitar. (This song stirred up great memories of Haircut One Hundred’s wonderful 1982 hit, “Love Plus One.”) The dreamiest moment on Jubilee comes on “Tactics,” which uses a string arrangement to create melodic perfection. There is plenty of substance that is intertwined with the sweetly addictive melodies on Jubilee. A good example of this is “Savage Good Boy" which disguises sarcastic, cynical lyrics about the dark side of capitalism within a playful pop song.
Recommended If You Like:
Cigarettes After Sex, Jay Som, Pure Bathing Culture, (Sandy) Alex G, Soccer Mommy, Warpaint
- Zauner, raised in Eugene, Oregon, is also a very successful author. In April 2021, she published her first book, Crying In H Mart, a memoir about her Korean-American identity and her journey of caregiving through her mother's illness and death, published by Knopf. It became a New York Times best seller, has received critical acclaim, and was optioned by Orion Pictures as a film with Japanese Breakfast providing the soundtrack. Crying In H Mart is an expansion on a 2018 essay Zauner wrote for the New Yorker.
- Michelle describes her band's name as being a complicated juxtaposition of Asian and American culture.
- Leading up to the recording of Jubilee, Zauner studied music theory and piano to expand her reach as a composer, producer, and arranger. She cites Kate Bush as a major inspiration for Jubilee.
- Along with Tatum, Zauner also collaborated with Alex G, Crying's Ryan Galloway, and her longtime collaborator, Japanese Breakfast drummer and co-producer Craig Hendrix, on Jubilee. Michelle also directs Japanese Breakfast's videos.
- Zauner and Hendrix are former members of the Philadelphia band Big Little League.
Listen to a brand new FUV Live session with Japanese Breakfast and host Alisa Ali on Thursday, August 12 at 1 p.m. on 90.7, streaming online and available on demand. In addition, look for the debut of the "FUV Book Club" online that same day, with Alisa Ali's review of Crying In H Mart and an audioclip of Michelle reading from her memoir.