‘Jubilee’ is the perfect pop album for calm and contemplation.


Credit: Dead Oceans / Japanese Breakfast

Jubilee wants to accompany you late at night when you’re alone with your thoughts, and remind you of what makes you happy.

The fruity shades of yellow that adorn the cover of Japanese Breakfast’s third album provide plenty of clues about what to expect. Kate Smith of Sensational Color, a site that dedicates much of its work to exploring the psychology of colour, describes yellow as “[the] optimism and the cheerfulness of a sunny day”. She also notes that it happens to be a rather divisive colour too, sometimes associated with sickness, malignment and caution. Michelle Zauner’s steely, decidedly neutral expression staring back at you from the album cover seems to carry such sentiments.

When we turn to music for support and counsel, there’s a habit of choosing tunes with a slower, more considered tones. I have an entire playlist called ‘Songs To Play Late, Late At Night’ for this exact purpose, and its tempo is very much below 120 bmp. Calm and contemplation are hard emotions to carry through the boppiness of a pop or dance record.

And yet, whichever way you look at it, Jubilee‘s palette of catchy rhythms – that range from the City Pop, Tokyo-inspired ‘Be Sweet’, to the indiosyncratic, intensely personal synth of ‘Posing In Bondage’, all the way to orchestra-backed Chamber Pop cuts like ‘Tactics’ – is a palette with “listen to me at 11:30pm and look out of your bedroom window at the city” vibes written all over.

“Japanese Breakfast want to make a home for all listeners, no matter what they’re going through.”

Pop is in an era of immense diversity at the moment, having broken free of being totally chart-centered and evolving into a style that covers all levels of the musical spectrum. Jubilee is a particularly special release within all this: a considered, explorative, fun yet honest record that exudes a welcoming confidence. Japanese Breakfast want to make a home for all listeners, no matter what they’re going through.

What makes it so special is its determination to stick to pop sentiments to achieve such ends. Rather than a being a break up album, or one to hype you up, or one to canvas your struggles against the world upon, it fits snuggly into a catch-all approach. A slice-of-life record for those moments when we’re thinking about everything us humans put ourselves through.

Better too, this project flourishes with its intimate production, every track its own flavour, yet also varnished with a warming softness. The boogier moments come beaming through just as much as the stiller ones, caressed in the right direction by Zauner’s simply beautiful voice.

“The 11pm-kind-of-vibe exuded on every minute gives the album an essential quality.”

Japanese Breakfast aren’t offering lyrics to guide you; instead, they settle for something more akin to companionship. A light-hearted yet honest set of tracks that will tell you no lies, that ask you to cherish what you care about, and are more than happy to be listened in the background. The 11pm-kind-of-vibe exuded on every minute gives the album an essential quality.

For fans of the band, Jubilee will no doubt mark a major turning point in the project’s musical narrative, letting go of the grief Zauner has dealt with on previous records and ascending into the light. What makes it so good, however, is that it doesn’t arrive at some shining moment of recovery. Its conclusion from the hardship its faced in the past is that the only way forward is to remember what makes us happy.

Yellow is both the colour of sunshine-drench happiness, yet also caution and sickness, and its bright clarity allows for a middle ground to be found. Jubilee feels birthed into that midway point, an album that understands and moves in the way your own thoughts do. There’s no dress up or re-conceptualisation here, just honest, contemplative pop goodness.

Score: 8.0/10

Listen to ‘Be Sweet’ from Jubilee and our other favourite new tunes on the Sourhouse MUSICBOX playlist.

Munro Page

Munro Page is a music blogger and former student radio host based in Cardiff, UK. Likes: thrift stores, cooking, parrots Dislikes: chain restaurants, the M25, Simply Red

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