Neil Tennant once coined the term Imperial Phase to describe the zenith of Pet Shop Boys artistic output, circa ‘It’s A Sin’ / ‘Domino Dancing’. Jubilee is the commencement of Japanese Breakfast’s own journey into these same rarified creative waters. Ambitious, vital and vivid, Jubilee threads the lo-fi dream-pop flourishes of Psychopomp and Soft Sounds from Another Planet, weaving them into something far grander.
Japanese Breakfast loses none of her world-building sonic aspiration on Jubilee. Opening with the rattling undercurrent and swirling musicality of ‘Paprika’, there’s a sense of great creative inspiration at play. Even Michelle Zauner’s vocal sounds alive with the spirit of a songwriter deep within the throes of an artistic purple patch.
The scope is broader too. While Soft Sounds from Another Planet explored far-reaching soundscapes, Jubilee opens the curtains even further whilst grounding the music when it needs a defined sense of place. ‘Posing In Bondage’ contains a sparse, isolating backdrop for Zauner to bewitch the listen, ‘Savage Good Boy’ melds sonically into pulsating indie-rock, and ‘Kokomo, IN’ drifts away with hazy dream-pop shimmering. All of which gives Jubilee an over-arching feeling of a record with direction and clarity wrapped up in grandeur.
However, it’s ‘Be Sweet’ that steals the show. Japanse Breakfast’s career-best, the song blends the highly stylised production of Jubilee with Zauner’s slick songwriting. Lush in design and performance, the track also contains the lyrical and thematic essence of record, as minimalist lines like “Caught up in my feelings. Overthink the truth” carry weight within the explosive pop sound.
And so it goes, Jubilee sounds like the end of the beginning and the start of something new for Japanese Breakfast. The earlier explorations of her previous records have paid off, and now Zauner moves into her own Imperial Phase with music that’s relevant and self-defined. A genuinely mesmeric offering.