It’s a new era for Michelle Zauner, also known as Japanese Breakfast. “How does it feel to stand at the height of your powers, to captivate every heart?” she asks on the opening song “Paprika” from her third album Jubilee. She responds with “Oh, it’s a rush!,” unleashing a wave of emotional highs that those familiar with her music may not be used to hearing.
After her 2016 album, Psychopomp, chronicled the mixed feelings of death and intimacy following her mother’s passing, and 2017’s ambient Soft Sounds From Another Planet, J Brekkie returns with a more flamboyant and eclectic sound in Jubilee, taking the album’s title seriously. On “Slide Tackle,” Zauner sings about the desire to better oneself, and closes it out with a swell of breezy saxophone beats that take the listener to a better place.
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows though. Zauner’s themes of grief, neediness, and anxiety still permeate throughout the dreamy synth, jazz and rock sounds. “With my luck, you’ll be dead within the year. I’ve come to expect it,” she sings on “In Hell.” “There’s nothing left to fear, at least there’s that.” The darkly optimistic undertones that linger in Jubilee’s deeper moments make the lows worth the visit.
Jubilee is an excellent, layered album about the terror and excitement that comes from taking steps towards the next phase in one’s life. You don’t get the sense that Zauner is particularly at peace with life’s many tribulations, but that she’s feeling more ready to face them head-on than ever before.