CD Review – The Zolas – Ancient Mars
The Zolas – Ancient Mars
Released: October 2, 2012
by Jade Sperry
After debuting with Tic Toc Tic in 2009, The Zolas climbed the precipice of cult status across Canada, thanks to a very loyal fan-base carried over from Zach Gray (vocals, guitar) and Tom Dobrzanski’s (piano) earlier years as Lotus Child. With Ancient Mars, The Zolas are set to continue their legacy of postmodern pop. Armed with poetic lyrics, Ancient Mars trades in the cabaret glitz of Tic Toc Tic for reverbed pianos and hard, minimalist beats. In each song, Zack Gray builds a skeleton of a setting for a song – from outer space to a college library to a Victorian jail cell – and tells stories fleshed out with the listener’s own history.
If John Lennon and Kanye West met later tonight at a hotel bar, “Escape Artist” is the song they would write. It’s these kinds of pairings that Ancient Mars is full of: The Zolas write classic pop songs and then fuck them up until the hooks have to fight to get out. In October, The Zolas teamed up with Winnipeg’s The Liptonians to release a 7” split single “Cultured Man”, a quixotic snack in between the two full-length albums.
Tom Dobrzanski is the band’s on-board producer, having worked with names in indie-rock royalty like Said the Whale and We Are The City. But for Ancient Mars, the production duties were handed over to Chuck Brody (Tegan and Sara, Ra Ra Riot, Yoko Ono, Phantogram, Wu-Tang).
The track listing for the CD is as follows:
1. In Heaven
2. Knot In My Heart
3. Ancient Mars
4. Strange Girl
5. Escape Artist
7. Local Swan
8. Euphrates and Tigris
9. Cold Moon
10. Cultured Man (Bonus Track features The Liptonians)
I’ve been a fan of The Zolas since their debut in 2009. In the past years, Zack has played in a number of other bands in the Vancouver area (Henry and the Nightcrawlers) and has done solo sets opening for his friends’ shows (David Vertesi of Hey Ocean!). Tom Dobrzanski is a brilliant artist in his own right – from producing to recording to piano man – he gets the job done. Tom also has his own studio called VERTICAL STUDIOS here in the Vancouver area and does well for himself. These are 2 artists that have a lifetime of talent between them; and possibly more.
This is a solid 10 song CD. “In Heaven” is an odd but interesting song. The music is slightly out of key and is in the minors but it has an excellent melody which gives it a moody feel. The guitars, pianos and drums all blend together quite well, and the song itself gives off a life of its own. It’s a well written song that has character. “Knot In My Heart” has a really cool melody and groove. This song changes from mid-tempo to uptempo in the bridges and the chorus. It’s a well written song that’s mixed well. “Ancient Mars” has a mellow vibe and is in 3/4 time. I particularly like this song as it’s got a personality in the melody. “Escape Artist” has a nice flow throughout its 2:42 of life. The song starts with pianos and then it begins to build with the other instruments in a short period time. Awesome! The other standout songs are “Local Swan” (Montreal setting with a girl who may or may not remember a meeting), and “Cold Moon” (a ballad type song that flows well stripped down).