Day 290: Zola Jesus – The Spoils

15 Dec

Clay Bodies

Sometimes, a record just makes you say “ew.”  It’s time for some brutal honesty: there is absolutely nothing appealing about Zola Jesus’ The Spoils.

I understand why people like it, though.  When you separate all of the different elements of this Frankenstein of a record, there are good qualities.  On paper, this record should work.  It has distorted, unconventional vocals, a fuzzy buzzy vibe, and a whole ton of reverb.  However, when everything comes together, the result is something that actually made me throw my headphones off in frustration.  And as much as I like unusual singers, I think it’s Zola Jesus’ voice that did it.

The vocals are kind of hard to describe.  They’re hidden behind tons of layers of echo and distortion, but they’re still what this album is centered around.  I think the main problem is that they sound really whiney.  I also don’t think that Zola Jesus is the world’s best singer. This wouldn’t even be a problem if she didn’t think she was a good singer—she tries to hit all these pitches that she just can’t reach, and holds eardrum-rupturing notes for way too long.

It’s a shame, because with different vocals, this is something that I could really get behind.  In fact, I kind of already have.  I couldn’t help but think of EMA’s Past Life Martyred Saints when listening to The Spoils, and the records do have their similarities.  Both are dark, distorted, electronic projects led by women with mysterious and personal lyrics.  However, Erika Anderson of EMA doesn’t really sing.  Instead, she just kind of talks at you, and it works really well.

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