Zoothead – Songs for Gray Areas

Songs for Gray Areas

Songs for Gray Areas is a somewhat fitting title for this band’s second full-length album from the oddly named Zoothead. The album’s artwork is gray and smoky, and the songs are fitting, at most times. Droning, somewhat dreamy rock is mixed in with moments of improvisation and all out fuzz-rock power for an interesting and, best of all, unique mix. The drums on this album are stellar, and the trading of vocals between brothers Jared and Evan Featherstone make for a nice touch.

It’s the slower, more droning and spacey numbers that the band seems to like to focus on. But you can sit there, letting the song sway you and swirl around you, for one minute and be taken with their powerful rock the next. Because this band knows how to pile on the fuzzed-out guitars and turn up the vocals. Reminding me at times of one of my favorite bands, Mystery Machine, and their use of feedback and fuzzed-out guitars, Zoothead is like a breath of fresh – or perhaps smoky – air.

“One for Beijing” starts off gray and smoky, with soft drums, softly picked and strummed guitars, and vocals that are swirling and somewhat hazy themselves. Don’t get too comfortable, because “3:00 a.m.” rocks quickly, with a killer guitar riff and more aggressive vocals. And then “Tired” slows things down a bit, more like a cross between the first two songs, turning in some more melodic and reverb guitars with a bit more tempo than the opener. And it picks things up even more by the end, looping faster drums and heavier bass, reminding me of another favorite band, hHead. “Seasick” is another swirling, ethereal track, the drums here echoed and crisp. But “Stuttering” is my favorite track, with driving guitars, drawn-out vocals, and heavy rhythm. This one, with its fuzzed-out wailing guitars, makes me want to leap around. And you get the best of both worlds with “Hole,” which starts off dreamy and droney and gets rocking and driving. The sped-up guitars and almost punkish drums in “Overdue” really work well, especially with the double vocals. The repetitive guitar loops in “All Grown Over” mix perfectly with the drawn-out vocals. “Wide-Eyed” is another gem, especially because of the heavy guitar and vocal style, again reminding me of hHead and their dark mood. And the album finishes with another layered, moody track, “Fourth of July,” that leaves a heavy ambience.

Scattered throughout the album are these little instrumental improvisations, most very short, some even a little jazzy. Rather than distracting as these little blurbs do on some albums, they prove as nice transitions here, and they break up the songs a bit, letting you go from a rocker to a more droning track. It’s a nice touch.

Any band that can rock with those fuzzed guitars and strong vocals will do it for me. But this band can equally rock hard and soft, at times creating dreamy, swirling rock and then picking things up and turning up the power. It’s a great combination, in my book.