Hailing from Pinetop, Arizona, the teenage sensation Zella Day debuted her self-titled debut EP on the 20th of October 2014. The highly anticipated EP follows up from the critically acclaimed release of her debut single “Sweet Ophelia“, via B3SCI Records in April 2014. The record “Sweet Ophelia” and its B-Side “1965” quickly soared into the top 3 of Hype Machine’s ‘Popular Chart’, sending shockwaves into the new music scene and attracting the attentions of many key critics such as Clash Magazine, The Fader, and The Line Of Best Fit among others, and since then, it has also accumulated more than 4.5 million streams on Spotify.
Pigeons and Planes proclaims that “(she) manages to take her folky, western influences and merge them with a current indie pop sound, creating a production that feels both modern and organic”, meanwhile The Line Of Best Fit declare that “at once projecting an ethereal delicacy while also asserting a kind of sinewy might – enviable qualities possessed by none other than Stevie Nicks”, and Clash Magazine asserts that, “Zella Day has an ache to her voice, a tinge of melancholy which drapes itself over everything she applies her voice to. Unashamedly pop, her pop vision is steeped in classicism, in a vision of prime Americana“.
So what’s all the fuss about?
The Arizonan was brought up in a small mountainous town with a population of fewer than 5,000; Zella’s family owned a coffee house that enabled Zella to harness her creativity from a young age, giving her and many other artists a platform in which to express themselves. The coffee house soon became a sanctuary for a myriad of aspiring musicians – this is where Day would regularly perform sets featuring cover songs from the likes of Bob Dylan and Elvis Presley and helped hone her sound into what we hear today.
It has been claimed that the backdrop of outstanding beauty in Arizona inspires her music and this is quite evident in her lyrics and choice of vocal timbres, as they seem evoke a sense natural being and tranquility, while simultaneously possessing a country-like vibe that palpably suggests the influence of her musical heroes that she idolized from her exposure of performing in the coffee shop. The 19 year old has often been described as the “happier Lana Del Rey” – her songs tend to encapsulate the underlying melancholic vibes of Lana Del Rey or Christina Perri yet its ‘poppier’ and more buoyant approach gives her a distinctive sound that has been hotly tipped to be one of the sounds of 2015.
“East Of Eden”:
The rise of the telegenic teenager can be traced back to her rendition of the White Stripes “Seven Nation Army” which is certainly anomalous to the rest of her material. Nevertheless it’s paved the way for her to encompass a more commercial route, which can be epitomised by the track “East Of Eden“. The piece is a bewitching tune with beguiling oh-oh-oh-oh’s and a propulsive drum beat interspersed with synth, swaying the listener with its catchy melodies. It is certainly a tune constructed for mass consumption, and destined for a considerable amount of daytime radio airplay. The song has already accumulated a staggering 2 million streams and peaked at number 1 on Hype Machine.
The next track is “Compass” – a piece that has a magical and pleasantly unreal quality that ghosts through each section inducing a dreamlike state for the listener, a piece to envoke daydreaming, it effectively juxtaposes ‘East of Eden’ and provides the variation that is lacking in some pop records. The penultimate piece “Hypnotic” begins with an alluring guitar motif interspersed with ah-ah-ahhs and a crisp drumbeat that captures the impetus of the record. The verses generate a mysterious, nonchalant vibe that is instantly juxtaposed by the captivating chorus where the synth and vocals come into prominence, highlighting the hypnotic opening of vocals and guitar that is strategically placed after every chorus.
The last track to feature on the EP is “Sweet Ophelia”, which is in a similar vein to “East Of Eden”, yet it has a somewhat twisted texture that is not apparent on “East Of Eden”. The execution of crunching drum machines, and her pellucid singing tone referring to the importance of human connection, while lamenting the perils of letting love to consume you – a piece that resembles Ophelia’s encounters in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. All together, Zella Day’s debut offering is an EP that is sure to propel her into instant success and is to be highly recommended.
Purchase: Zella Day – Zella Day EP (iTunes)
Words by Alex Clarke // Edited by Ayo Adepoju