If you’re not already familiar with the music of Vancouver-based band The Zolas, this Wednesday at Maverick’s is the perfect chance to get introduced. Having never seen them in concert, I’m eager to see how the technicality and energy of their most recent album, Ancient Mars, translates to a live performance.
The band’s core duo Zachary Gray (guitar/vocals) and Tom Dobrzanski (piano) are engaged song-writers whose piano/guitar based music is elevated to a level of beyond-pop with intricate instrumentation, surprising chord progressions and syncopated rhythms. Every time I listen to one of their albums my ears pick up on something new that makes me grin like it’s an inside joke between me and the band. So even though Ancient Mars was released back in 2012 it’s always a fresh and interesting listen.
Best of all: the lyrics. My god the lyrics. Check out the liner notes and you’ll see what I mean. The lyrics stand as gorgeous poems all by themselves, and juxtaposed with the comparatively up-beat music the combination gives the entire album a wonderfully melancholic quality. Plus I have a staggering admiration for their exploitation of a good vocabulary: you’ve gotta have balls, and respect for your audience, to get away with using “defenestrate”.
This is music made for music lovers. Not to say the best way to enjoy the album is to sit there analyzing the heck out of it. Compared to their first album, Tic Toc Tic, which was elegantly discordant and somewhat more sombre, Ancient Mars has an infectious upbeat dance-ability that I dare you to defy. Tempo changes should keep it interesting on the dance floor and more strophic songs (musically if not lyrically), like “Strange Girl” can make even first time listeners feel like they’re being treated to a favourite.
It’s the combination of musical sense and immediate catchiness that make the Zolas a perfect fit to set the mood as openers for Mounties (the new collaborative project between Ryan Dahle, Steve Bays, and Hawksley Workman). The energy in that room is going to be insane.
View the band’s lead single off Ancient Mars, “Knot in My Heart” below:
The Zolas, along with James Younger (who’s toured with them before), will be kicking off a night of stellar music this Wednesday April 2nd at Mavericks, 221 Rideau Street. Doors open at 8:00pm, show starts at 8:30pm. Tickets ($17.50) are available online or at Vertigo Records. Please note: this event is 19+.