There’s a lot of talk that Zola Jesus should be crowned the new goddess of the “goth meets synth meets delicate lady” genre — and I can somewhat understand the hype — but I don’t exactly see Zola Jesus as the Witch House Messiah that everyone is making her out to be.
Sure, she’s 21 years old and already has a full-length album (The Spoils) and three EPs under her belt (including a collaboration with LA Vampires). Sure, she wears all black and has probably one of the creepiest album covers I’ve seen this year. Sure, her music is mysterious and evocative, and her rich vocals reverberate with suggestive force.
And yet… her heavy indie pop influences makes Zola Jesus sound a little like all of the other ethereal indie female vocalists we’re seeing gain popularity (ahem, Lykke Li, Glasser, Emiliana Torrini), only with a slightly darker twist.
But let’s give credit where credit’s due. Zola Jesus is Nika Roza Danilova, a Wisconsin native who studied opera and just graduated college with a double major in French and philosophy. If that doesn’t make her intriguing enough, she’s also a member of Former Ghosts, a band that includes Xiu Xiu’s Jamie Stewart. She’s a self-proclaimed “goth girl” and in an interview with Pitchfork last year claimed she was “really into Situationism, which is basically the idea that you can live art.”
I can only assume that was the goal in mind when she was making Valusia, her newest EP that came out October 12. At only 18 minutes long, the EP is a sneak peek for what we’re to expect from the talented Danilova in the future — as well as the perfect anecdote for the changing season.
The first track, “Poor Animal,” is a descent into her underworld with steady drums and echoing lyrics. Track two, “Tower,” gets a shade more emotional, pairing heavy synth beats with angst and loneliness. She finishes off Valusia with the ghostly “Lightstick,” trailing her voice against a thundering piano.
It’s on the EP’s third track (“Sea Talk,” a re-recording of the track off an earlier album, Tsar Bomba) that Danilova really shines. Her voice pierces the sweeping anthem, crying out, “I can’t give you what you need all by myself.” Well, of course not, honey.
I can only hope that Danilova isn’t already feeling the pressures of her new stardom. She’s been cranking out her stormy music at high speeds, and went on her first proper tour this fall, supporting Fever Ray and Xiu Xiu abroad and The XX in the U.S. Danilova has also been making some awesome and eerie music videos, very appropriate for the upcoming Halloween holiday (see below). She may not be the only Goddess of Goth out there, but she sure is making her voice heard.