Japanese Breakfast’s effervescent Jubilee will give you something to smile about | Music Review | Chicago Reader

Japanese Breakfast’s effervescent Jubilee will give you something to smile about 

click to enlarge Michelle Zauner performs as Japanese Breakfast.

Michelle Zauner performs as Japanese Breakfast.

Peter Ash Lee

If you’ve ever watched someone you love struggle through a cruel illness and eventually succumb, you know that some days it can be hard to find any lightness under the crushing weight of grief. So it’s beyond inspiring that Michelle Zauner, the solo artist behind Japanese Breakfast, made not one but two dreamy indie-pop albums exploring the complex emotions she went through while caring for her mother as she underwent cancer treatment (2016’s Psychopomp) and then healing after she passed away in 2014 (2017’s Soft Sounds From Another Planet). On her third full-length, the new Jubilee, Zauner moves out of sadness into joy with a set of songs that radiate hard-won triumph. Opener “Paprika” sheds Zauner’s early lo-fi sound to adorn its buoyant pop melodies with cascading strings and horns. Some tracks, such as “Sit,” stick with the dreamy feel of Zauner’s earlier releases, but the album also makes plenty of twists and turns, and it’s often direct and playful. “Savage Good Boy” is a charming anticapitalist pop song, while the yearning “Be Sweet” and chic “Posing in Bondage” would sound just as good on a dance floor as in a rock club—the latter even bears a slight resemblance to some of Martin Gore’s slower synth ballads. But for all Jubilee’s colorful flourishes and intricate arrangements, its most crucial moments come when Zauner pulls back the curtains widest: “Posing for Cars” opens with her soft vocals over bare-bones acoustic guitar, then builds into a wistful, summer-drenched instrumental-rock arrangement that seems to float off into the sky.   v

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