Album reviews: Japanese Breakfast – Jubilee, and Liz Phair – Soberish

Japanese Breakfast – Jubilee

★★★★

Michelle Zauner is among the rarest breed of musicians, the type who has a debut novel on the New York Times bestseller list at the same time that their critically acclaimed third album is released.

Jubilee is an evolution for Zauner, who records under the moniker Japanese Breakfast. The indie singer’s previous albums – 2016’s Psychopomp and 2017’s Soft Sounds From Another Planet – were meditations on mourning following the death of her mother. Her newly released debut memoir Crying in H Mart (based on her viral New Yorker essay from 2014) is grounded in the same grief.

Jubilee’s euphoric opener “Paprika” is the first sign that this is not business as usual for the typically shoegazing singer. Zauner told The Independent that she “felt ready to move on for the first time” with her new record, which traverses Eighties-indebted dance, swirling alt-pop and homespun lo-fi across a tight 10-song track list. There are reprieves – where the energy quietens to syrupy, fluid ballads on which Zauner’s voice lolls as opposed to skips – but the emotional journey is always upward.

Happiness is a hard-won emotion though, she knows that. At intervals Zauner will anchor the album with careful lyrics, save it hurtling off into meaninglessness. “Don’t mind me while I’m tackling this void,” she urges on “Slide Tackle”. Paragraphs could be written deciphering Zauner’s lyrics and arrangements, but for now I’m perfectly content to listen to Jubilee in the sunshine knowing that, after everything, she’s happy. AN

Liz Phair – Soberish

Many of Phair’s songs sound as though they were written on late-night strolls

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Many of Phair’s songs sound as though they were written on late-night strolls

(PR)

★★★★☆

The most surprising revelation in The Independent’s Liz Phair interview this week was that she’s thinking about settling down. “It’s time to host dinner parties and get my way into some great Cape Cod house and, you know, drink wine and talk about literature,” she announced. “Doesn’t that sound fancy and good?”

You wouldn’t believe this from hearing Phair’s latest album, Soberish. Here she evokes a similar restlessness to her jittery 1992 album, Exile in Guyville. She’s just as emotionally forthright and self-effacing. “There’s so many ways to f*** up a life,” she sings on “Good Side”. “I’ve tried to be original.”

Many of these songs sound as though they were written on late-night strolls: the guitar lines meander round “Sheridan Road” and stumble tipsily down “Lonely Street”. She’s more assertive on “Dosage”, dealing out lessons learnt from her own mistakes.

Soberish is a record of push and pull, of doubt and regained confidence. “I don’t live in a world that appreciates me,” Phair sings in her deadpan monotone on “Bad Kitty”. In the interview, she admitted she feels a reluctance to jump back into this world, to abandon the “isolated comfort” she’s been in for the past year. But Phair is the queen of rock reinvention, and as this album proves, she’s got a few lives left. ROC




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