Japanese Breakfast‘s Michelle Zauner wanted to find joy with her new album. The singer’s first two records under the moniker have been defined by difficult topics: 2016 debut ‘Psychopomp’ was written during her mother’s cancer treatment, with follow-up ‘Soft Sounds From Another Planet’ created during the aftermath of her death. Both of those albums were created within a wash of psychedelic shoegaze, escaping present troubles in whirlpools of noise and stories from lightyears away.
From the get-go, third album ‘Jubilee’ displayed higher ambitions, both for Zauner personally and in the jubilant music that these messages are transmitted through. “How’s it feel to be at the centre of magic?” she sings amid a euphoric blast of horns on opening track ‘Paprika’, a statement that sets the album’s aims in stone: this is a personal and musical breakthrough from a singer destined for far, far bigger things.
Ambition isn’t something that comes naturally in indie rock; the lingering idea that modesty is the coolest asset you could possess have persisted over the past 20 years, pulling many a band and songwriter back from the brink of fully shooting for the stars. In the future, ‘Jubilee’ may just be seen as a pivotal way station on the road to these ideas being rubbished once and for all.
“I think that you need to push yourself to care,” Zauner has said of her new album, and across its 10 songs, she lives that statement with every fibre of her being. First single ‘Be Sweet’ is a superbly catchy, ’80s-indebted pop smash, written with Wild Nothing‘s Jack Tatum. “I wanna believe in something!” Zauner sings at the end of its triumphant chorus.
Elsewhere, ‘Slide Tackle’ once again employs horns to transmit its euphoric personal breakthroughs, and will feel perfectly at home on the festival main stages Zauner is set to play next summer on the back of ‘Jubilee’. Even when things get musically darker on the shimmering alt-pop of ‘Posing In Bondage’, there remains a prioritisation of pop melody; the fat is trimmed from all 10 songs on the record, leaving perfectly formed three-and-a-half-minute pop songs that want – and deserve – to be blasting out of your radio.
After making her name writing about the most difficult topics possible, Zauner proves here that it’s within your grasp to grab joy from that pain even when it feels impossible. Let ‘Jubilee’ be your guide.
Label: Dead Oceans
Release date: June 4