The Zolas' third album, the delightfully titled Swooner, is a clean, bright collection of slightly '80s-tinged indie pop. You've got your synths, sing-along-able choruses, danceable beats — all the ingredients for some harmless radio-friendly fare.
It has its clever lyrical moments: "That incandescent girl of Incan descent" in catchy title track "Swooner"; "I play her body like a feminine Nintendo" in the fun bass and bouncy bongo-led "Male Gaze"; and "The city hangs like a chandelier, gonna swing it if it kills me" from "Fell In Love With New York." It also has a handful of modern references that you wouldn't normally consider pop music fodder: "CV Dazzle" is a nod to fashion/make-up used as a means of camouflage from modern face-detection technology, and the punchy "Molotov Girls," arguably the record's catchiest cut, is lightly inspired by Pussy Riot and which, according to frontman Zach Gray, is a kind of "anti-'Girls Just Wanna Have Fun' song about a group of girls pre-drinking at someone's apartment, ostensibly to go out dancing, but as the song goes on it becomes clear they're planning to 'set the night on fire' in a more literal way."
The oddly tropically tinged "Get Dark" pulls a Drake by setting the song in Toronto, with mention of the Parkdale bar Pharmacy, and makes it obvious that the band are not from the 6ix due to their articulation of the name ("To-ron-to" as opposed to native's "Turonno"). Album closer "Why Do I Wait (When I Know You've Got A Lover) initially seems like a boring ballad, a tired take on pining for a taken potential lover, but the track really turns around in the last half with a jingly guitar riff that brightens and injects some much needed excitement.
Swooner delivers track after track of pop tunes to get behind, stumbling only with tunes like "Freida on the Mountain" with an electronic beat that sounds like a Yamaha keyboard sampler. It's a tad disheartening that nothing else on the record is even a fraction as energetic or anthemic as "Molotov Girls." Swooner starts off with its strongest song, which is either a blessing or a curse; getting the good out first can disappoint when nothing else hits the same mark, rather than easing into it and being surprised. And yet, despite the '80s throwback nature of it seeming just a little too on the nose at times, Swooner floats along on synths and sharply produced pop tunes that all have at least a little sparkle to them. It's a feel-good, fun-driven, don't-think, just-dance sort of record. (Light Organ)