Japanese breakfast – anniversary
Michelle Zauner is one of the rarest musicians to have a debut novel on the New York Times bestseller list at the same time as the release of her critically acclaimed third album.
Jubilee is an advancement for Zauner that records under the nickname Japanese Breakfast. The indie singer’s previous albums – 2016’s Psychopomp and 2017’s Soft Sounds From Another Planet – were meditations on the grief after her mother’s death. Her newly released debut memoir Crying in H Mart (based on her viral New Yorker essay from 2014) is based on the same grief.
The jubilee euphoric opener “Paprika” is the first sign that this is not so common for the typical shoe-gazing singer. Zauner told The Independent that with her new album crossing ’80s indebted dance, swirling alt-pop and homemade lo-fi on a tight 10-song tracklist, she “felt ready to move on for the first time.” There are pauses for breath – during which the energy falls silent to syrupy, liquid ballads on which Zauner’s voice lolls instead of bouncing – but the emotional journey always goes up.
Happiness is a hard-won feeling, she knows that. From time to time Zauner will anchor the album with careful lyrics so that it doesn’t crash into pointlessness. “I don’t mind while I’m tackling this void,” she urges “Slide Tackle”. Paragraphs could be written that decipher Zauner’s lyrics and arrangements, but for now I am perfectly content to hear Jubilee in the sunshine, knowing that she is happy after all. A
Liz Phair – sober
Many of Phair’s songs sound like they were made on night walks
The most surprising reveal in The Independent’s Liz Phair interview this week was that she was considering settling down. “It’s time to have dinner parties and go to a great Cape Cod house and drink wine and talk about literature,” she announced. “Doesn’t that sound chic and good?”
You wouldn’t believe it when listening to Phair’s latest album Soberish. Here she evokes a similar unrest as her nervous 1992 album Exile in Guyville. She is just as emotionally open and reserved. “There are so many ways to screw up a life,” she sings on “Good Side”. “I tried to be original.”
Many of these songs sound like they were written on nocturnal walks: the guitar lines meander around “Sheridan Road” and stumble tipsy down “Lonely Street”. She is more confident about “dosing” and shares her lessons from her own mistakes.
Soberish is a record of push and pull, doubt and regained confidence. “I don’t live in a world that values me,” Phair sings in her dry monotony on “Bad Kitty”. In the interview, she admitted that she was reluctant to return to this world, to give up the “isolated comfort” she was in last year. But Phair is the queen of rock reinvention, and as this album proves, she has a few lives left. ROC