Release Date: Jun 19, 2012
Record label: Arts & Crafts
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
There’s something special about the smooth sound, catchy melodies, and luscious production British indie pop. Usually, these artists are able to capture grand emotions with electrifying arrangements and heartfelt performances. On its debut album, Language, London’s Zulu Winter do just that. The record is full of poignant, exciting, and simple yet profound songs that continue to resonate long after they conclude.
In linguistics, cognates are words that share etymological origins, like the English-language "is," which is related to "est" in French, "ist" in German, "es" in Spanish, and so on. Though cognates across languages differ in terms of spelling and pronunciation, their definitions are similar (or in the case of the "is" example, identical). This lesson in historical linguistics is inspired by British alt-rockers Zulu Winter, whose debut album, fittingly titled Language, hits on the nose of the cognate concept thanks to the influence of recent like-minded bands looming large on their sound.
There’s currently a sizeable groundswell of young British bands like Zulu Winter: ensembles proffering modern and ‘cool’ musical motifs while, ultimately, being too earnest and populist for actual bleedin’-edge cool. A few strokes of fortune might send this London quintet – or, say, Clock Opera or Fixers – towards stratospheric hugeness. You can imagine a future where debut album ‘Language’, with its nods to Echo And The Bunnymen gloom, gauzy electro-indie keyboard swirls and booming ’80s drums, went down as Zulu Winter’s mildly quirky preamble before they pulled out their Coldplay-ish big guns.
There's a fundamental disconnect between the band that London's Zulu Winter seem to be and the music that appears on their debut album. From looking at their blog and reading interviews with Will Daunt, Iain Lock, Dom Millard, Henry Walton, and Guy Henderson, they seem to be erudite guys with interests in offbeat cultural pies: forming amid a culture of Can and Beefheart wannabes at Liverpool University, citing FC Judd, Bradford Cox, Tracey Warr, Bulgakov, and Georges Méliès as influences and interests. The five-piece had nearly all the material for their debut album written and recorded before taking it to labels, giving the impression that they'd been locked away making what could be their first avant masterpiece.
Depending on which side of the critical fence—or the pond, in this case—you stand, being described as “the new Snow Patrol”, “a sort of rhythmical Coldplay”, and opening for Keane could pass for either praise or thinly veiled judgment. So far, Oxfordshire fivesome Zulu Winter have earned such comments from their countrymen, who have hailed them as the new Vaccines after the release of singles like “We Should Be Swimming” and “Never Leave” off their debut LP, Language. Whether American audiences will be as impressed remains to be seen, since the band’s swelling synthpads skirt Afrobeat just as well as any other band jostling for a foothold in an already overcrowded niche.
This debut might lack a definite individuality, but it’s promising stuff nonetheless. Ian Wade 2012 Zulu Winter have a rum old history, with two of them doing time in a tribute band called The Next Pistols (oh dear). After banging around together since they were 15, they eventually coalesced in London, formed into a band-shaped proposition last year and signed to the legendary Fierce Panda label for a few singles – which, as all indie scholars know, didn’t harm Coldplay, Ash or Supergrass.
With such an overwhelming range of bands along with countless, almost non-existent genres to choose from, it’s really very difficult to know what to listen to. In ’08 and ‘09 the popularity of indie bands like Friendly Fires and Wild Beast began to soar to new highs; attracting a snotty attitude from the particularly mainstream-loathing class of music fans. What happened next was a counter-reaction; resulting in the invention of chill-wave, and some unfathomably awful bass-wobbling that the kids call dubstep.