By Mark Moody
It’s as if the de-saturated colors of Jubilee’s arresting cover photo were momentarily absorbed into the album’s core only to be splashed back onto the listener. Michelle’s Zauner’s third album as Japanese Breakfast is clearly her finest accomplishment to date. If all Zauner had done in the nearly four years since Soft Sounds From Another Planet was to write and record opening track “Paprika,” most mortals would nod and declare it worthy of the wait. To say that Zauner, along with her primary collaborator on the album, Craig Hendrix, have concocted a head-spinningly perfect pop song is hardly hyperbole. The quick-to-blossom song is awash in horns and strings, with Hendrix’s rock steady drumbeat keeping pace. Zauner’s clear and confident vocals soar over the top as she ponders the expectations of an audience “who linger on every word.” Her simple conclusion? A cooly cooed, “Oh, it’s a rush!”
Of course there is much more to Jubilee than its opening track, all of it painstakingly crafted to perfection. “Kokomo, IN” echoes the tones of Soft Sounds’ “Boyish,” but with more developed layers. Verses slide in on top of each other before they are fully finished, strings are sawed and plinked, with a mournful slide guitar line coloring it all. Whether it’s the spongy funk-inspired bass lines of “Be Sweet” or the chilled out horns that power “Slide Tackle,” Zauner has her own satisfaction in mind. “Be sweet to me,” is swapped for “be good to me” in the latter song, but the pinnacle of the sensual side of the album arrives, not surprisingly, on “Posing in Bondage.” A Prince-worthy intro of sultry synths and drum machine beats gets things humming as Zauner imagines herself “waiting for you, done up and drunk.” By the time a chorus of “oohs” and “ahhs” accompanies her, the pace has quickened to a dance floor worthy close.
The bookend to “Paprika” arrives on the nearly seven-minute closer, “Posing for Cars.” For an album with hardly a moment of silence, “Posing for Cars” brings a few early on, but more than half the track is given over to a slow build of a meditative outro that gives Zauner time to explore an expressive solo. A punctuated close, to allay any concerns that Zauner’s next album might not also be her best. Jubilee’s 10 songs arrive fully baked, frosted with bigger beats and softer swirls, all stacked carefully on top of each other. (www.japanesebreakfast.rocks)
Author rating: 8.5/10
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