Saturday, June 5, 2021

Song(s) of the Day # 2,689 Japanese Breakfast


A lush, synthetic Pop record in the way that they used to make them back in the Eighties, while all the while maintaining a contemporary sheen, Jubilee, Michelle Zauner's third album under the Japanese Breakfast moniker, on the surface  has similar DNA in some respects from Madonna, Belinda Carlisle and Cindi Lauper records from way back when. That's certainly not intended as a slur, even though these artists are hardly regulars on my own record player, because here it's all twisted into new colourful shapes that I have to say I find really exciting.

This is unashamedly Pop Music. But with an indie sensibility. The tunes are bright and boppy, the playing polished and sleek. All the time though, the lyrical themes are both yearning and reflective and by no means always upbeat in tone. Zauner has form in this respect. Her first album was largely inspired by her trouble relationship with her mother who subsequently died from pancreatic cancer. The pain is clearly still here. She's not afraid to sugar the pill when required. Here though she seems to be experiencing a genuine rebirth in search of happiness.

Perhaps the added ingredient that makes this appeal to me so much is the shoegazey texture of some of this record, transposed into a dancefloor context.  Much of the atmosphere on the record isn't actually a million miles away from the kind of thing bands like Cocteau Twins and (yes), Lush used to come up with though here the vocals are pushed considerably further upfront and you can imagine seeing it pop up on a prime time chat show or hear it in a glossy nightclub or as the backtrack to a top model making her way down a Milan catwalk. Bjork is also cleary an influence too in terms of her own rebirth when she became a solo artist and embraced dance related technology after she left The Sugarcubes.

Jubilee also reminds me of two of the best ever years for Pop Music, the ones when I personally came of age. Of 1981, and 1982, when records like Dare, Tin Drum, Sulk and Lexicon of Love were managing to achieve the magical contradiction of being simultaneously bright, immediate and commercial and say something as deep and enduring as any leftfield art classic. This record does that too, some of its surfaces textures, are almost reminiscent of Japan or The Associates at times. This might seem like I'm flailing around to make comparisons that aren't really there to anyone's ears but my own, but it often works in a similar way for me.

Anyhow, this is a record that succeeds on its own terms, whether they genuinely relate to the fanciful comparisons I've made here, and I'm more than happy to endorse it. It's one of the most exciting records I've heard this year, reminding us of Pop's rich past while standing in its own place. at one and the same time. The rhythms here are bright and glossy but it has a lyrical depth and mystery that seem likely to greatly reward further plays I suspect. Japanese Breakfast is one of the most seductive records I've heard in some time, Zauner is a genuine talent, and I'll be back soon and on a regular basis thereafter in an attempt to identify just what I like so much about it.

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