Erez Zobary Blossoms into Herself on 'To Bloom'

Erez Zobary Blossoms into Herself on 'To Bloom'
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For Toronto's Erez Zobary, making music has long been about healing. Working through debilitating vocal nodules and stage fright has all been par for the course in the 24-year-old's journey. Even without that context, her latest project To Bloom sounds like a triumph. Coming in crisply just under the 20-minute mark, it's introspective, melodic self-empowerment pop; a testament to the power of retrospect and the messy, non-linearity of growth as Zobary explores her identity in the context of relationships.

To Bloom marks the follow-up to 2019's July Clouds. Zobary made both collections alongside longtime friends and collaborators Adam Eisen and David Lipson. Two Julys later, she finds more clarity and more self-assurance, assisted by Lipson's forays into more intricate, synth-laden electronic flourishes and nuanced use of vocal effects.

Eschewing a typical heartbreak-to-new-love narrative, To Bloom begins in the thick of it on the melancholic lead single "How," a meditative piano ballad. By "Saku"— the album's funk-driven centrepiece, named after Zobary's favourite downtown Toronto sushi restaurant — she's bright-eyed with the rush of opening herself back up to love, with her childhood influences of Stevie Wonder and Amy Winehouse fully on display.

The energetic peak comes at the album's close, with the fiery disco of "Breathe You Out." After having journeyed through the flux and flow of loss and moving on, Zobary is at her most confident in spite of the new connection not quite panning out. Grounded in her sense of self is, her affirmation in the hopeful excitement of "Saku" echoes back: "I'm going to see myself in all my glory now." Marking the beginning of Zobary's next chapter, it hints at her potential to occupy similar sonic realms to Jessie Ware, Dua Lipa and other dance-pop disco-revivalists. 

While many self-empowerment anthems tend to be laborious attempts at being 'inspirational,' Zobary just is. Simply sharing her own experiences and singing her progress into existence may prompt self-reflection through the vehicle of her thoughtful songwriting and vocal delivery. This is not an escapist venture: it's the kind of music you live alongside and go through the motions with. Zobary's refrains — like the whir of "Was it the name? / Was it the mention? / Was it the sound of good intention?" on "Stair Song" — hang in the air like mantras. Likewise, To Bloom only gets better with repetition.

When Zobary closes "Saku" with "I'm getting better / but I need someone who's self-assured," one may be left to wonder whether she's referring to a potential partner or herself. To Bloom makes it feel like she's accomplished the latter after having dug through the topsoil: carving out an adaptable-yet-distinct lane of empower-pop and solidifying herself as a budding artist to watch. (Independent)