July 26, 2010

Song Review: Zola Jesus' "Sea Talk"


The first experience I had with Nika Roza Danilova and her stage persona, Zola Jesus, was on the debut album by Former Ghosts -- the cold wave side-project she appeared on alongside Xiu Xiu's Jamie Stewart and This Song Is a Mess But So Am I's Freddy Rupert. Danilova's soaring vocals had a way of not only pushing each song outside their limits, but filling them with a harrowing darkness and sincerity I hadn't literally felt since Mazzy Star's Hope Sandoval. While Danilova has emerged from an unlikely scene in the Midwest, she has quickly put herself at the forefront of a renaissance in haunting female musicianship, alongside the likes of Beach House and Tamaryn. Her latest single, "Sea Talk," from the upcoming Stridulum II is a reworking of an older track, but a great starting point for those unfamiliar with this emerging gothic songstress. "Sea Talk" weaves together everything that has made Zola Jesus' sound uniquely her own: Darkwave pop synths and apocalyptic drum beats that weave around her powerful vocals. As is the case in most of Zola Jesus' music, these vocals feed off lyrics about love and love lost. "Sea Talk" in particular falls under the more upbeat tunes in Zola Jesus' catalog, thanks to a more blissful and pop-laden chorus that sees Danilova willingly letting go of love instead of mourning its absence. The lyrical content is mostly a discussion between Danilova and herself, as she questions being worthy enough as a lover -- a rather mature question to face for a mere 21-year-old. Nevertheless, it's Danilova's way of making love complex and multi-faceted just as she does in a sea of sprawling keys and synth backings that make it easy to see why her Zola Jesus persona increasingly is captivating listeners. In comparison to the the original version of "Sea Talk" released in 2009 off Zola Jesus' Tsar Bombas LP, the new version's high quality production softens and glossens her gorgeous vocals and does away with the fuzz and static in her music made by previous lo-fi recording. However, the same morose heart-tugging emotions remain in tact despite all this. Much like Zola Jesus' middle-of-nowhere origin, 2010's "Sea Talk" shows that Danilova's music is like a diamond in the rough just waiting to be polished.

Zola Jesus - "Sea Talk"

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