The Zolas – Ancient Mars

This duo out of Vancouver likes to call themselves progressive, but Ancient Mars is undoubtedly a pop rock record The Zolas can be proud of. Following their 2009 debut, Tic Toc Tic, this sophomore effort is as catchy as it is charming, and should gain a wide following among pop rock fans. Adding to that, it’s heavy focus on post-secondary romance should ensure this album a comfortable place on a number of campus radio stations. I can’t tell you the name of my favourite track because I just can’t decide – it changes from day to day. And yes, I have been listening to this album in its entirety almost everyday for the past few weeks. Ancient Mars just has that enviable quality local wunderkinds, Cannon Bros, achieved with Firecracker/Cloudglow – too rewarding to let rest for very long, and too engaging to stop halfway through.
I wouldn’t compare their sound, though.  Listeners will more likely hear fleeting wisps of The Shins, New Pornographers, and – strangely enough – The Zombies, along with a strong interplay of piano and guitar fleshing out The Zolas’ sound. Of course, this would be an empty list of ingredients without the memorable melodies at this album’s core. Ancient Mars is both balanced and well paced with some more straightforward rock songs (“Strange Girl,” “Euphrates and Tigris”) and tracks that are unassuming upon first listen, then come around to shine as the album’s standouts (“Observatory,” “Knot In My Heart”). So at nine songs and one bonus track, Ancient Mars is a satisfying ride, but all too brief, and will likely leave many in eager anticipation for Album Three.  If The Hype Gods are fair this year, we should hear plenty of praise for The Zolas. (Light Organ Records, Matthew Dyck

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