Having seen Zykos live a time or two or thirty over the past
decade, I feel that I have a fairly good feel for what they sound
like. Their last self-titled full-length record was filled with their
signature energetic brand of rock, Michael Booher's unmistakable
vocals leading the way through a great set of songs. Having heard
three of the tracks on the new EP, Keep It Light, more than
a dozen times over the past couple years I was very anxious to hear
the newly recorded output, especially with the news that Mike McCarthy
(of Spoon production fame) was behind the faders when the EP
was recorded and mixed. I am not disappointed
The most immediately noticeable thing about the recording is that
Catherine Davis' piano is much more prominent than many times
when it gets buried in an aggressive live mix. "What You Know"
is what I would consider to be classic Zykos; throttling rhythms and
frenetic guitars held together by solid piano and Booher's edgy vocals.
This track is a brilliant cornerstone for the more recent Zykos sound,
with indie spirit and the kind of soul found on the later Jam
records (before Paul Weller ruined it all with disco). "Keep
It Light" is a slower, more deliberate track that moves from
muted drumming and echo-heavy sliding guitars to a wonderful vocal
break by Davis with a melody and softness that reminds me of the quieter
moments on The Postal Service record. "Race Rabbit"
is where the EP should have busted loose into a sonic burst of mayhem,
but instead the recording is very controlled and properly mixed
kind of a bummer. I'm so used to hearing this song simply scream live
that this well-produced and tight version leaves a little wanting.
I'd prefer about 15 extra decibels, 10 extra BPM, and a whole lot
more bass in the mix. This is by far my favorite Zykos song of all
time (thus far) and learning to like this more relaxed version has
taken a bit of time, but it is still a fine song. The EP ends with
a relatively new song, "October Rain," that lends one more
facet of diversity to the EP with its atmospheric and heavily processed
sound. Here, as never before, Booher reveals his influences a bit
more candidly, as the track reminds the ear of the early 80's post
punk movement, Gang Of Four/Wedding Present style. Soaring
guitars and syncopated rhythms anchored down by throbbing bass lines
and moog-y synths make this track a welcome treat.
The Keep It Light EP from Austin, TX's Zykos is a welcome
respite from the normal and predictable music coming from the "live
music capitol of the world." Michael Booher is showing the world
that he has grown tremendously as a songwriter and lyricist, as well
as having a band behind him that has become comfortable enough with
itself to spend some time experimenting with new sounds and textures.
This is a collection of four distinct songs that show an amazing amount
perhaps it is time for the industry and the world
to take notice of the little band from Austin that could... and does...
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