This Vancouver duo released their sophomore album Ancient Mars in October 2012 through Light Organ Records. Ancient Mars follows up The Zolas’ 2010 debut Tic Toc Tic in the same progressive style, albeit tinged with disheartened undertones. Zachary Gray puts an oddball twist on otherwise forlorn lyrics and, paired with Tom Dobrzanski’s hoppy piano chords, makes The Zolas’ sound more sing-a-long-chorus indie-pop rock than something melancholic.
The album’s first single, “Cultured Man,”effortlessly sails through no fewer than five tempo changes, each thickening up the anti- quixotic narrative. “Cold Moon” manages to convey the struggles of modern heartbreak through lines such as “I found the stomach to deny/the urge to look you up online” with disconcerting lovability rather than kitsch. The album takes a break from jangly pop-rock with “In Heaven,” which is underpinned by heavier chords and takes a turn to a synthed-out wash on the back end of the song.
At times Gray’s vocals come across as indifferent, more noticeable when the emphatic punch of instrumentals from Dobranski and supporting musicians is lacking, but for the most part, Ancient Mars offers up song writing and riffs that are appreciated for their quirky charm.