The world has finally caught up to Zoot Woman. Some fifteen years on, their brand of smooth yet emotional synth-pop seems to have found an audience, as evidenced by the success of their newer contemporaries Future Islands and CHVRCHES. Like those acts, Zoot Woman know what every great electronic band has always known: it’s about the tunes.
Star Climbing, their fourth album, is widely varied in sound and form, but manages to remain cohesive. “Don’t Tear Yourself Apart,” the second single, is bright and pleading, recalling Scotland’s very great Blue Nile. As if to bridge the gap between the recently rediscovered synth pop of the ‘80s and a more contemporary sound, Zoot Woman adeptly use modern digital keyboards along with more classic analog synths. The latter are often tweaked as to avoid sounding comical or nostalgic in the complex mix. Also present are acoustic instruments, which complement the proceedings without sounding intrusive.
The band lists influences as Kraftwerk, Depeche Mode, Steely Dan, and The Police, hardly a modern-day set of artists, but a highly influential lot. “Lifeline” echoes these influences with traces of each group whirling about until Zoot’s own sound emerges.
Overall, the album is grower. That is to say, songs don’t reach out and grab you on the first pass, but do plant themselves in your subconscious. Zoot Woman cleverly infiltrates and eventually conquers.
8 Zoots out of 10
PF Wilson has been writing about music, TV, radio, and movies for over 20 years. He has also written about sports, business, and politics with his work appearing in Cincinnati CityBeat, The Houston Press, Cleveland Scene, Cincinnati Magazine, Cincy Magazine, Atomic Ranch, and many more. Check out his podcast PF’s Tape Recorder available from Podbean or in iTunes.