A paradox is not an impossibility. Zoo Animal, the band’s self-titled second record, reveals itself to uphold such a maxim with a sharp yet subdued sound that is informed by equal measures of classical minimalism and ‘90s grunge. This contrast is just one of many as Zoo Animal’s stark, articulate pop music vacillates between gentle and aggressive, volatile and peaceful, light and dark. It’s graceful, hushed, soul-stirring music, yet it rests atop traditional rock instrumentation – simply guitar, drums, bass – that can turn visceral at the drop of a drumstick.
The Minneapolis trio formed in the winter of 2008 as songwriter Holly Newsom shifted her reclusive solo work into a rock lexicon that now includes bassist Tim Abramson’s melodic counterpoint and the taut structures from drummer Thom Burton. Newsom gives her songs a heightened sense of conviction as her pensive words and private thoughts fold over and drape around warped pop styles and abolished rock band stereotypes. The lyrics pour out in a variety of ways – sometimes gushing forth in torrents, often crawling out in little more than a whisper – but they are always tethered to melodies that emotionally and elementally guide each song. These particular contrasts and disparities have been wrought into a definitive album which, fittingly, left the band no option but to name it after themselves. Produced by Tom Herbers (Low).