Album Reviews

Joy Zipper – The Heartlight Set

(Mercury) UK release date: 6 June 2005

Love or hate US teen drama The OC, it features some pretty decent music and has helped improve the profile of numerous indie acts including Franz Ferdinand and The Killers Stateside, where R&B, hip hop and middle of the road pop often dominate the Billboard 100. New York indie duo Joy Zipper have also experienced the honour of hearing their second album, American Whip, played on the show. The follow-up The Heartlight Set is poppy, melodic but cool enough to make its way into Seth Cohen’s record collection too.

For indie fans whose taste extends beyond British guitar bands that are played on Radio 1, Joy Zipper probably need no introduction. But for everyone else, they are boyfriend-and-girlfriend twosome Vinny Cafiso and Tabitha Tindale. They sound a lot like many other American indie acts, a little bit Mojave 3, a little bit Breeders perhaps, but have a distinct enough sound to stand out on their own. They are partial to hazy vocals, gentle guitar strumming and navel-gazing lyrics which all contribute to a throroughly delicious jangly guitar pop sound.

The album opens with Go Tell the World, one of the rockier tracks on The Heartlight Set, which wouldn’t sound out of place on a White Stripes album – heavy drumbeat and guitars overlaid with a simple but strong vocal from Tabitha Tindale. Next track, 1, is poppier and more melodic than its predecessor and helps demonstrate the variety of tone on this album.

The range of sounds achieved by Joy Zipper is in part attributed to the fact that the duo alternate vocals, which can radically alter the sound. Tindale’s voice possesses shades of Hope Sandoval and Tanya Donelly – sweet without becoming sickening, while Cafiso is the slightly weaker of the two vocally but expresses enough emotion to compensate. The vocal harmonies are also extremely effective.

Tindale tends to lend her vocal to the heavier tracks such as the opener and also You’re So Good, which is one of the strongest tracks on an album that is consistent throughout. Window is another stand-out song, and once again features Tindale on lead vocal. It’s fast-paced, with grumbling guitars, lovely harmonies and angsty lyrics such as “Window, looking out the window, checking on the hour.The grass has grown an inch since you have left. Counting all the times I missed you. You were all I wanted maybe I was blinded by the thought”. It demonstrates that while Joy Zipper do the soft, slow ballady type songs beautifully they are more comfortable and distinct making music with a heavier edge.

The weakest track on The Heartflight Set is possibly the final tune Holy Diver. It is a bit slow and slightly monotonous, however given the right environment, say lying naked in candlelight, while staring in the eyes of a significant other, it could take on a different meaning.

In fact the whole album is designed for life’s intimate moments. It is the sort of listening experience that is best shared with an intimate group of close friends over a bottle of wine or spliff or whatever else does it for you, in a darkened room while recalling warm memories.

It’s unlikely to reach momentous levels of success but when has that really mattered to true music fans. Joy Zipper are not the sort of act who make music to be on the front covers of the tabloids – they do it for love not money. And long may they keep on producing albums like The Heartlight Set.

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Joy Zipper – The Heartlight Set