on January 7, 2015
Photo by Jeff Elstone

Photo by Jeff Elstone

If I dated girls, I would totally try to hook up with Zola Jesus. We have a ton in common and she’s hot. My first introduction to this powerful voice was on the Orbital (my favorite duo) track “New France,” a song off their Wonky album. I listen to that song at least once a week, so when I was assigned her album for review, I was ecstatic to find out more. Born Nika Roza Danilova, Zola was raised in Wisconsin (I’m a nice midwestern girl too), studied French and Philosophy as an undergrad (same), studied opera/classical singing, and applied to Julliard at age ten (uh, I can’t read music, but the buck doesn’t stop here).

If she had gotten into that school, I would hope that we would still have the five albums (by age 25!) from her that we do now. The latest, fifth album Taiga, means boreal forest in Russian. Fitting, as she is Russian and it perfectly encapsulates her tenacity. Seeking solace in the Pacific Northwest (likewise for me), Vashon Island became her muse. It was here that Zola gave herself permission to remove any self-made or suggested boundaries, and the result is mammoth.

Did I already mention her amazingly powerful, rich and velvety voice? Think Lady Gaga, but much, much, much better. And the album is perfect to listen to now, throughout these rainy, winter days. Taiga takes her past work and wrings it out like wet laundry. When Taiga was done it seemed brand new: a pop album of sorts, one in which all songs were written acappella first, before co-producer Dean Hurley finalized instrumentals behind them. The stand-out track is “Lawless,” and it expresses this big idea of trying something new and owning it: “Sever the ties before they weigh you down/You either run or you take it.” I’ll go ahead and generalize her sound as electro art pop, but with a classically trained voice and gothic rock, experimental, post punk influences. She is anything but general, in fact, the opposite. My girl crush continues… »

– Kelly Kovl

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