Canadian indie rock band The Zolas have taken on a different style from their previous releases with their third studio album, Swooner. The Vancouver natives released this 10-track album riddled with infectious beats, reverberating guitar, and dark lyrical undertones. The album tells the story of a band’s slowly growing recognition, and the intoxicating pleasures and troubles that come with it.
The opening track, “Molotov Girls”, originally released on their EP, Wino Oracle, back in Oct. 2015, is an upbeat and unapologetic party song that touches on drinking, dancing, and danger—a departure from the more expressive and melodic rock sound of their earlier work.
“Get Dark” takes things down a notch, expressing the homesickness that comes with a lifestyle of newfound popularity. The track makes several reverential references to Toronto nightlife, a stark contrast with their West Coast roots.
“Fell in Love With New York”, another track previously released on Wino Oracle, condenses the sentiment of the album into a classic vignette of struggling to make it in a cutthroat industry. Despite breaking through internationally, a sense of belonging in a city like New York is still just out of their grasp. The allure of the city has captivated them as they beg for it to “open, oh open the door” for them.
The second half of the album takes the tempo down with the enticing intro on “Freida on the Mountain”, leading into a chorus reminiscent of their debut album, Tic Toc Tic. The following track wraps vocalist Zach Grey’s pleading voice in minimal percussion and sporadic synthetic beats.
The project culminates at the last and most emotional track of the album, “Why Do I Wait (When I Know You’ve Got a Lover)”. The vocals have an empty, crushed tone, something uncharacteristic of Grey, which suits the lyrics about the hopelessness and cliché of lost love. This is an experimental sound for the group, but it’s executed well, and hopefully is one they’ll explore further in the future.
Although several tracks on the album seem somewhat unpolished and lyrically repetitive, they still get the job done. The band’s foray into pop music is quite a shift from the haunting, atmospheric rock of their last album. Tracks like “Molotov Girls”, “Swooner”, and “Male Gaze” are undeniably catchy, however they still leave something to be desired.
At the end of the day, what The Zolas do best is melodic, reverb-heavy rock tunes, peppered with irresistible hooks and inventive production like on “Get Dark”, “Freida On the Mountain” and “Invisible”.
Swooner combines elements of their previous albums that fans know and love, but also introduces a new pop sound they seem to be developing. Whether this sonic shift will increase their popularity remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure—straying from the sound that brought you recognition is a bold move for a band that’s not quite yet in the spotlight.