Releasing their first new album in six years, Zoot Woman’s “Things Are What They Used to Be” (21 August 2009) is one of this year’s biggest surprises. Comprised of brothers Adam and Johnny Blake and Stuart Price (aka Jacques Lu Cont, producing the likes of Goldfrapp and Madonna), the band is rounded off live with Jasmin O’Meara. Though the band’s line-up mirrors what would be expected of typical rock band, the use of electronic elements and production genius takes them in another direction. Sometimes standard electropop, sometimes sythnpop, what they never do is give into the current trend of 80s “rehash.” Though they cannot escape their influences, even on this album it is obvious they have heard all of the 80s, what you do get is music that is introspectively sensual.
With such an ironic name for an album, “Things Are What They Used to Be,” Zoot Woman proves that they are the band that they have always been. The long hiatus the band underwent, as they pursued side projects and the production of other artists, has only proved that all of the members came back to the table with more tricks up their sleeves. But not everything has changed. The vocals are exactly what you have come to expect: sexy and distinct. Whether in the overt “Lust Forever” or the soulful vocals of “We Won’t Break,” Johnny Blake delivers some of the most memorable vocals of the year. (Again, it is that innate ability to sell your lyrics, to make the listener feel the conviction behind the words.)
Other than the fact that music relies heavily on electronic elements there is no common thread in the sonic nature of the album. For instance, the album opens with a straight-out-and-out pop ditty, “Just a Friend of Mine,” immediately followed by “Lonely By Your Side,” which borders more on house music than pop. The third track is a definite standout on the album, “More Than Ever.” Closer to the 80s influence (especially Bowie) than any of the other songs, this track completely changes the texture and feel of the keys from verse to chorus more than any other song, while a simple guitar arrangement accents the rhythm of the song. The closing track, “Live in My Head,” is glossed from beginning to end with the classic ostianto of synthpop (that repetitive sound that never seems to end and always seems to fit in). And, as most of the songs on the album, it is dance ready as is, though Zoot Woman remixes are always interesting – like the Desire Mix of “Things Are What They Used to Be.”
Zoot Woman is one of those contemporary bands that you really should listen to. Talented and relevant, the production value of the album are unsurpassed and their collaborative ability to write music with solid hooks, but yet not rely on gimmicks to get you to listen, is a testament to strong craftsmanship. Not only have they avoided giving into today’s flavor in music, they have also avoided the hype machine. This is to their advantage; they enjoy a niche in the music scene that is theirs alone, to develop their music as artists, and not allow themselves to be reduced to generic entertainers. And if you think they are amazing as a studio band, go see them live and be really amazed.
1. Just a Friend of Mine
2. Lonely By Your Side
3. More Than Ever
5. Take You Higher
7. Lust Forever
9. We Won’t Break
10. Things Are What They Used to Be
11. Blue Sea
12. Live in My Head
Keep up with Zoot Woman at their homepage, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter.
Catch them live – for more information on tour dates and future dates, go to their homepage.
29 August – Frankfurt, Germany (Nokia Loft Beat)
19 September – Mainz, Germany (Grenzenlos Kultur Festival)
20 September – Brussels, Belgium (Botanique)
21 September – Cologne, Germany (Gloria)
23 September – Erlangen, Germany (E-Werk)
24 September – Zurich, Switzerland (Escher Wyss)
26 September – Vienna, Austria (WUK)
27 September – Hamburg, Germany (Uebel and Gefahrilch)
29 September – Berlin, Germany (Maria)
2 October – Amsterdam, Netherlands (Melkweg)
3 October – Rotterdam, Netherlands (Rotown)
5 October – London, United Kingdom (Dingwalls)