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The Zolas – Ancient Mars (Review)

The Zolas, Ancient Mars

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

IT WOULD be easy to label The Zolas as Canada’s answer to The Shins with a little of Ben Folds thrown in. It would also be paying them a compliment. They’re that good.

Ancient Mars, their follow-up to 2009’s Tic Toc Tic, is a real pleasure to listen to, thriving on singer Zach Gray’s amiable vocals and their winning brand of post-modern pop.

The easy-going template is laid down from the start, amid the bouncing melodies of Tom Dobrzanski’s piano chords and the alt-pop vibe of In Heaven. But it’s far from the best that the album has to offer.

Knot In My Heart, which follows, finds ghostly synths trading blows with buzzing guitars and well-realised stabs of piano to create something really charming (and tailor-made to become a single). If the verses scream out Shins, then the chorus is pure sunshine pop at its breezy best.

Title track Ancient Mars chimes along amicably bringing an outer-worldly tale into the mix, while Strange Girl is just a really fun blast of energy which finds guitar riffs and organs colliding playfully with a kick-ass chorus that’s made for singing along with. It feels like a fun mid-90s summer jam.

Escape Artist, meanwhile, slows the tempo to deliver a thoughtful, brooding slice of outsider pop that tells a vivid tale of not fitting in. It’s evidence of their ability to make you think while giving you a good time.

Observatory boasts another of the album’s cracking choruses (“this is a stick-up at the observatory”), Euphrates and Tigris rocks along as much as a song bedded by piano can and Cold Moon is just a gem of a track… instantly catchy, tight melodically and a beautiful way to round things off.

Put together, Ancient Mars whisks listeners on a great journey, from outer space to a college library to a Victorian jail cell, while keeping things grounded in a reality we can all relate to and have fun listening to.

It’s one of those great albums that’s just waiting to be discovered by anyone who wants to brighten their lives musically.

Download picks: Knot In My Heart, Strange Girl, Cold Moon, Euphrates And Tigris

Track listing:

  1. In Heaven
  2. Knot In My Heart
  3. Ancient Mars
  4. Strange Girl
  5. Escape Artist
  6. Observatory
  7. Local Swan
  8. Euphrates And Tigris
  9. Cold Moon