When I said that this album was going to be one to watch this year, I wasn’t joking.
Zella Day (full name Zella Day Kerr) is a pop force to be reckoned with. She’s got such a Western-Indie-Pop mix to her music that is just screaming to be played in the heat of the summer, wherever you may be. Her voice is something that even though it doesn’t go octaves, it resonates something so realistic. Her music is euphoric, but etched in a realism that’s so wonderful to listen to.
I’ve had this album preordered from the second I saw it come up. I’d had her self-titled EP on loop for a full month. I’m obsessed with not just her voice, but the production behind every single track on this album. Set to be released June 2, it’s sure to have extreme success. From the album’s opener “Jerome”, you can feel the passion that she has in her lyricism. It’s pretty clear that Jerome is a bad person, but there’s such a love that she has for him and you can feel it through her voice until the very end.
Track by Track
Jerome: As I said, this a passionate, desperate love song dedicated to someone that’s maybe not the most innocent and loving toward her. This track’s production is so raw. You can hear each instrument clearly, almost like it’s being performed right there for you. That’s also one of the drawbacks. There’s so much going on that unless you’re really listening to her voice, you don’t take notice to the wonderful lyricism that’s going on throughout the track. 8/10
Favorite Lyric: “He was a quiet man/with bloodstains on his hands”
High: This is one of my favorites. The production here is something so… euphoric. It’s one of those songs that really takes you places if you just lay back and let it play. The lyrics fit right in between simple and complex. She talks about their love being a fire that could “keep burning like we’re never gonna die”. This is one of the album’s highlights. 10/10
Favorite Lyric: “As long as we keep getting high/We’ll keep burning like we’re never gonna die”
Ace of Hearts: This one feels like a filler track for me. I think it might be the production. It just feels so overdone here. If the instrumental was pulled back a little here, you could really take in everything that she’s trying to say. It feels like she’s trying to tell us a story (about Jerome?) and we’re getting more and more with each track. It would make sense to have all of these love songs written about the same person. The passion is there, and it’s captivating. 7/10
Favorite Lyric: “There’s darkness between us/The moon is a witness”
1965: This is such a sweet song. Zella’s voice is so light and airy here. It took me a while to get into it, but now that I have, it’s such a lovely song to relax and listen to. The production is drawn back and light, necessary to house to heaviness that’s in the lyrics. 9/10
Favorite Lyric: “Cut like diamonds/We were made to last”
East of Eden: This song is epic. When I say that, I mean that everything is perfect here. The verses, the chorus, and the production are all top notch. Like “High”, the production is so euphoric. This is where you can really feel the heaviness of what she’s trying to convey. The slamming bass fits so well with her almost transcendent voice. It really creates a picture.
Favorite Lyric: “Take it up with the bad man/Scribbling like the concrete fever”
Hypnotic: This is one of my favorite songs on the album. The beat is infectious, her voice is angelic, and the whole Western-Indie-Pop is turned up to its highest level. It just works here. She weaves her way through the verses, every word hitting the mark. It explodes into this intense, euphoric chorus that’s made to be someone’s ringtone. I love the attitude that she expresses in the verses and the just passion she evokes in the chorus. It’s a must listen. 10/10
Favorite Lyric: “I don’t wanna come back down/I don’t wanna touch the ground”
Mustang Kids (feat. Baby E): This needs to be a single. There’s something that just screams “summer jam” when I listen to this song. The chorus is repetitive but in a way, I don’t mind at all. There’s this rapper on the track, Baby E, who I’ve never heard of, but he fits here. The only thing that I hate is that it pulls us out of the story that I feel like she’s been telling us throughout the first half of this album. Jerome, or whoever this guy is that she’s writing about, has had such a presence and at the moment, it feels like we’re pulling away from that and I don’t know how I feel about it. This is an amazing song, but doesn’t fit in with the past six songs. 9/10
Favorite lyric: “Mustang Kids are out/Rolling over hills and the roundabouts”
The Outlaw Josey Wales: So, we’re back to Jerome now? This song is actually my least favorite on the album. It’s got this message of a mysterious guy with an even more mysterious background who doesn’t really give much of himself to anyone. What I’m getting from this is a detached man who Zella falls for, but he won’t let her in because there’s something bad from his past that still haunts him. She compares him to Josey Wales, the man who’s running from his past, but it’s always close behind: never letting him have peace. 6/10
Favorite Lyric: “There’s nothing to hold you down/It’s like no one knows where you came from”
Jameson: The only real ballad on this album so far, and it’s pretty good. I don’t know who or what Jameson is, but it’s keeping the person that Zella loves from truly being with her. I have a theory that “Jameson” is the same thing that was keeping him away from her in “The Outlaw Josey Wales”. There’s something haunting him or keeping him close that we don’t know about, but she definitely does, and she’s wanting nothing more than for Jameson to let him be free: to let him be with her. 8/10
Favorite Lyric: “I watched your fingers point at the blame/It’s the darkest of grey when you explain”
Shadow Preachers: I love this song something fierce. Her voice hits another level her. This is, from what I understand, about how “Jerome” cut her deep this time and she’s telling him to bugger off. She’s talking about how they’re both dark people, but if he wants to go – if he isn’t happy with her – he can go. But that doesn’t mean that it won’t kill her to watch him leave, because it’s extremely apparent how much she loves this man. The passion in her voice evokes the clearest on this track. I’m in love with it. I really am. My favorite on the album. 10/10
Favorite Lyric: “Maybe I don’t want you either/We’re both unsettled, nighttime creatures”
Sweet Ophelia: Now, I’ve always been curious about the meaning of this song. Is it just talking about Ophelia from Hamlet, or are we talking about something much deeper. In context with the story this album seems to be telling, it could be about the lost innocence that seem to just take over “Ophelia”. Ophelia could be Zella in this situation, her innocence taken from her far too soon by someone (possibly Jerome?). Nevertheless, this song has amazing production and her voice is top notch here. This, like “Hypnotic” were perfect choices for singles. This has the power to dominate radio. 10/10
Favorite Lyric: “When your blood escapes/Bombs that break go up up away”
Compass: Another ballad, and it’s the last song on the album. She explores her higher register here, and it does fairly well. Zella sings about seeking intimate and emotional memories to make with the person she loves. It’s such a sweet, loving song filled with passion. I love it. 10/10
Favorite Lyric: “Take me to the garden of your ecstasy/Make myself a headband from your fallen leaves”
All in all, this album is a major success and needs to peak on the charts. The production is beautiful, as is her voice. The story that this album tells is so vividly and wonderfully told that it’s almost like we’ve been through the ringer like she has. This is easily up there on my list of favorite albums.
Zella Day is one to watch this year.