The Zolas Ancient Mars

The ZolasAncient Mars
Following the Zolas' cabaret-tinged debut, 2009's Tic Toc Tic, the Vancouver, BC duo employed a starker and slinkier sound for this follow-up. Organic sounds are almost non-existent on Ancient Mars, which wraps up its keyboards and electric guitars in a haunting blanket of reverb. This makes for an immersive and atmospheric sonic experience, one made all the better by the group's much-improved songwriting chops. "Knot in My Heart" boasts a dance groove and an instantly hummable chorus, while low-key standout "Cold Moon" pairs a lullaby melody with a woozy electro arrangement that sounds like it could have been pulled from Radiohead's Kid A. Elsewhere, the Zolas venture into '90s-inspired guitar rock ("Strange Girl") and quietly resigned breakup pop ("Ancient Mars"). Even the odd lyrical over-share, including a line about "coming in the sheets" (in opener "Escape Artist"), can't taint this effective blend of sharp hooks and inventive production. (Light Organ)