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The Zolas

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There’s something happening on the west coast. Whether it’s in the air, the water, or the drugs, a pool of talent has formed around the notion that you can have your pop and eat it too, with brainy, prog-influenced weird-beards like Bend Sinister and arcane psycho-confectioners Mother Mother demonstrating that musical complexity can still be hummable. Commercial, even.

Throw the Zolas into the picture and dammit – you might even call it a scene! Not that it’s ever been a concern to long-term musical partners Zach Gray and Tom Dobrzanski, who established their gifts for intricate songcraft three years ago under the name Lotus Child.

Since then, the duo has finessed its formula into something even busier yet no less direct, filling their new album Tic Toc Tic with hairpin turns, schizoid tonal shifts, multiple parts, and a sort of cabaret strut.

Miraculously, between New Pornographers vet Howard Redekopp’s unfinicky production and the clarity of Gray and Dobrzanski’s vision, Tic Toc Tic works like a charm. Complex without being alienating, it aims equally and with dead-eyed precision for the head, heart, and groin.

Guitarist-vocalist Gray hits on the twin poles that define Tic Toc Tic when he reveals an equal passion for the visceral Scandinavian dream pop of Mew, whose influence is obvious, and the classic music hall rag of the Kinks, whose influence is anything but. Not on first listen, anyway, though the presence of Ray Davies is felt in Gray’s lyrics. Particularly when he turns his attention to the mundane, like the character in “You’re Too Cool” who wrestles with his vulnerability at Vancouver’s hipster HQ the Biltmore.

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