AUDIO JUNKIE: Japanese Breakfast is like sunlight

Published July 10, 2021, 10:19 AM

by Punch Liwanag

The band is a recent discovery and has become a fast favorite.

The band is singer-songwriter Michelle Zauner, guitarist-keyboardist Peter Bradley, multi-instrumentalist-drummer Craig Hendrix and bassist Deven Craige.

With two previous albums called “Psychopomp” (2016) and “Soft Sounds from Another Planet” (2017).

The band specializes in indie rock, lo-fi pop and an experimental mash of styles and sounds. It’s all that and more on their new album titled “Jubilee.”

Opening track “Paprika” sets the stage as it builds up to a crescendo. The lyrics feel autobiographical. It’s Zauner appreciating where she’s currently at and the things she can do, especially as songwriter as she sings, “How’s it feel to stand at the height of your powers, to captivate every heart? / Projecting your visions to strangers who feel it, who listen, who linger on every word / Oh, it’s a rush.”

Retro-wave sounding “Be Sweet” with its 80’s style beats is head bobbing and immediately brings a dance feel to the proceedings.

From there, Japanese Breakfast jumps to “Kokomo, IN,” a country-tinged song with melancholy strings and lap steel guitar sounds and a vibe that finds Zauner yearning to see a dear once more as she croons “If I could throw my arms around you for just another day.” She sings it to someone who has gone but is accepting of the fact. “If you ever come back / wherever you find your way to / and though it may not last / just know that I’ll be here longing.”

But other than that rather emotional instance, the album is about joy.

Zauner said in an interview that “It’s feels really fitting that an album has come out called ‘Jubilee’ because It’s been such a year of release for a lot of people, so even just going out and seeing people for the first time is already overwhelming and exciting,” and that releasing her new record (among other things) is it “feels like such a release on so many levels for me.”

In another interview she said: “I felt like I’d done the grief work for years and was ready for something new,” referring to past album themes in which she grieved the loss of a parent. But as she also made clear, this time around she’s ready to “celebrate feeling.”

And that can be heard on songs on “Slide Tackle,” an indie pop tune punctuated by cheery sax and horns.  There’s the catchy, Gorillaz “Plastic Beach”-era styled synth pop of “In Hell” which ironically, Zauner describes as “one of the saddest songs I’ve written.”

Upbeat “Savage Good Boy”  equally interests, as does atmospheric “Posing In Bondage.”  A clear highlight would be the lullabye-like love song “Tactics” and “Posing For Cars.” The latter starts out acoustic but eventually builds up into a beautiful and lengthy thing with a rising guitar solo by Zauner wherein she just let’s it rip.  

But the main reason we like Japanese Breakfast? Michelle Zauner. The singer-songwriter-guitarist is such a creative force.  Besides the albums she wrote (and co-wrote), she also recently released a New York Times-bestselling memoir “Crying In H-Mart.”  

As for “Jubilee”? This is Japanese Breakfast’s version of sunlight. Like waking up with the thought in your head and heart that everything is alright. 

 
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