Album Reviews

Zulu Winter – Language

(PIAS) UK release date: 14 May 2012

It would be an understatement to say that Zulu Winter’s rise to prominence has been swift. Formed only in 2011, the London five-piece have been tipped by many for big things and have already received a great deal of radio play; two of the band’s songs, We Should Be Swimming and Silver Tongue, in particular.

And there’s undoubtedly substance to the hype when it comes to Zulu Winter. The pressure that comes with being the latest buzz band can often be restrictive, but listening to Zulu Winter’s debut album, Language, doesn’t suggest a band stymied. The quintet may not be earth-shatteringly radical or different, but their electro sheen and tight guitar work is an impressive and addictive concoction.

The album opens with Key To My Heart, which begins with a tribal beat and a sprawling synth before building towards its swirling conclusion. While not a bad opener, it does little to grab the imagination. It’s followed by second single, We Should Be Swimming, with Ian Lock’s seductive bass and Henry Walton’s unfurling guitars taking centre stage. It’s certainly an improvement on the opener, but there’s no doubt that the start of Language is rather safe – if not underwhelming.

However, the band hit their stride with latest single Silver Tongue, which positively bursts to life on the fist-pumping chorus with Dom Millard’s gushing synths and a reverberating guitar melody following the juttering verse. It sounds like a cross between Delphic and Friendly Fires – in a good way. Elsewhere, Bitter Moon is a Coldplay-esque grandiose anthem, with lead singer Will Daunt’s comforting vocals lifting off on the beautiful chorus as he sings: “Hey! Turn the light on/ this bitter moon is rising.”

Intelligence is evident in the arrangement of instruments throughout Language, as Zulu Winter manage to piece together their various elements without ever sounding forced. You Deserve Better slowly builds from Daunt’s delicate vocal, resting on intricate guitar work from Walton, before the chorus rushes in with a thumping beat from drummer Guy Henderson. The band sound very in-tune with each other, with Let’s Move Back To Front demonstrating their knack for charming melody, as Daunt’s vocal sounds remarkably similar to the falsetto of Wild Beasts’ singer Hayden Thorpe.

The Words That I Wield shows another side to Zulu Winter, as the throbbing beat intertwines with Daunt’s vocal, on a song that could quite conceivably be a lost Wild Beasts track. Then there’s the atmospheric and thoroughly addictive five-minute plus penultimate track, Never Leave, which turns into a mellow version of We Should Be Swimming for its final poignant minute. It leads perfectly into the blissful synth led closer People That You Must Remember, which rounds off an eclectic, but cohesive album with a sentimental moment of reflection.

Language is a strong debut, who already sound comfortable with their sound. As a result, this debut is a polished effort which manages to balance both sweeping synth pop with euphoric indie anthems. The album does have its weaknesses, namely the slow start and an occasional lack of direction. However, on the whole, Language proves that Zulu Winter are more than worthy of their ‘ones to watch’ tag. Now they just avoid the dreaded second-album syndrome.

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Zulu Winter – Language