dwi Goes Where the Wild Things Are on 'Zoo Life'

Hear the Zolas' bassist's new solo LP, out today on Light Organ

BY Megan LaPierrePublished Jul 7, 2023

You may already know Dwight Abell as the bassist for Vancouver indie mainstays the Zolas, but he reintroduced himself to the world with an alt-rock solo project under the moniker of dwi — and today, has released his sophomore album, Zoo Life, on Light Organ.

Produced by Ryan Worsley at Echoplant Sound in Port-Coquitlam, BC, it's the follow-up to dwi's 2022 debut, Mild Fantasy Violence. The year prior, the Zolas released their excellent fourth album, Come Back to Life — one of Exclaim!'s 50 best albums of 2021.

Although it at times embraces a similar strain of Britpop tones, Abell is able to hone his inner child in all new ways for his solo project. Zoo Life was conceptualized as a reflection on the habits of his youth, which have proved darker and less innocent in retrospect.

"Gaming was the first thing I really remember falling in love with as a kid," the artist said of the album's inspiration. "It was an obsessive escape from everything that was going on around me. I spend a lot of time wondering why things happened the way that they did. Zoo Life serves as a mirror and seeks to gain resolve."

There's definitely a glitch in the matrix of time as Abell experiences it. Childhood nostalgia quickly warps into present-day anxiety, as evidenced by tracks like "Overrated" — which sees the musician toggling back and forth between a post-punk-stylized talk-singing and vocoder melodicism to note the glorification of both virtual reality (VR) and liquorice. Meanwhile, "PHONY" is pure Damon Albarn worship that works just as well now as it did in the '90s.

"You'll get caught red-handed / When you get creative," Abell sings on Zolas-featuring lead single "Marker," an apt mission statement for Zoo Life as a whole: the album functions to remind us that the joy of playing a game like Zoo Tycoon brought us in our younger years was not one without stress. The escape to the beautiful park is inevitably going to devolve into the reality of having to deal with animals eating guests, running out of money and piles of shit all over the place.

Vancouverites can celebrate the release tomorrow (July 8) at the Fox Cabaret, where dwi will be performing alongside Noble Son and a special acoustic Ancient Mars set by bandmate Zach Gray — hopefully harming no toenails in the process.

Listen to Zoo Life on your streaming platform of choice below.

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