21 September 2017 (released)
It's no shocker that pop music is getting more and more devoid of melody. The genre has regularly had simplicity at its core but rarely has musicality been so abandoned as with this current crop of chart-toppers. What was once considered the height of dullardry, the four chord progression, has been replaced by single-note sub drones through the entire song. The only remaining melody is a one or two note hook, banal enough for even the most brain-bashed listener to latch on to. Blame it on the encroachment of trap on everything pop. Someday, historians will look back on these days as some of the darkest in pop culture. Luckily, not all who strive for the all-mighty hook are deficient of any harmonic talent.
Russian-born artist Zaritza spent her youth mastering the piano and the intricacies of music. Now living in the States, her latest self-titled album takes her strong, romantic ballad voice and classical piano skills and merges them with electro and trip-hop grooves. The result is a collection of pop songs with an innate musicality far beyond what you hear in the mainstream charts today, which are filled with monotonic, lifeless pap. Amidst her own tracks, Zaritza throws in a couple of 90s grunge classics, giving them her own dramatic spin, making you hear them with new ears.
The opener 'That Girl' opens over a music box incantation with bubbling synths and poppy drum machine. She sings lines of defiance backed by her enchanting piano. The first cover, her languorous drum-less rendition of Nirvana's 'Heart-Shaped Box' draws the drama and passion out of this 90s staple which despite its clear emotional rawness, was always shrouded by layers of distortion and testosterone. Zaritza's version brings out the vulnerable tension that was always brewing beneath the surface but didn't necessarily get conveyed through the airwaves of alternative rock radio.
The second arresting cover is a poignant take on Radiohead's burned-out A-Side 'Talk Show Host'. The quintessential 90s teen turmoil track from the soundtrack of the modernized Romeo and Juliet gets a treatment that it always deserved. Opening on Zaritza's lone vocal, the lines are given an augmented sense of desperation. A wavy keyboard and barren synth are all that come to join her vocals which sit perfectly in a similar range to Yorke's signature tone. A beautiful haunting rendition.
Zaritza's self-titled album is a trip through a wonderland of romantic textural auras. Although the subject matter bucks the fairy tale stereotypes in search of real and at times awkward emotions, the overall feel of the music is that of a movie princess story. The juxtaposition makes her songwriting effective. The two standouts on the album are her covers for their odd choices and arresting execution. On further listens, they should endear the listener to her style to make them fall in love with the whole album.