Zoo is the brainchild of Cincinnati-based songwriter, Cory Pavlinac. Pavlinac used to major in Jazz guitar at Belmont University (Nashville) but then switched to creative writing – a logical step after many late-night drives studying the words and music of Bob Dylan and Patti Smith. That backstory is relevant for two reasons: One, the musicianship of Pavlinac has a level of complexity and depth that is marvelous. There are hints of The War On Drugs and Kevin Morby, but Zoo sounds less bombastic and more nuanced than the former and more diverse and complex than the latter. Above all, No Man’s Land is highly accessible, and full of well written folky indie rock.
Two, Zoo is the kind of record where it pays off to take the lyric sheet out, and fully experience the record while reading the lyrics. The album deals with the challenges of dealing with intimacy, isolation and empathy as an introvert, and getting married and becoming a father. The personal and heartfelt lyrics create a synergetic experience while listening to the music. Conversely, the music sets the right tone and atmosphere for the words to hit even harder. Worry is a good example of this. Pavlinac: “I wrote this song at 2a.m., laying in bed one night with all these thoughts flying around my head, unable to sleep. The song took shape immediately when the first line popped into my head (“Staring At The Ceiling In The Middle Of The Night // I Got Worry On My Mind”), and I snuck out of bed to go record it.” But there is also the anxiety of political and societal polarisation in the album’s best song Sleeping Dogs. “There is maybe a little of myself in the caricature of this person who is waiting it out, while complaining about the state of the nation all the while, and day dreaming of societal fallout,” Pavlinac explains.
No Man’s Land sounds tailor-made for the season of falling leaves, rain and wind, and the occasional indian summer day. For those shelving their records in alphabetical order, you could do much (much!) worse than having Zoo as the outer bookend of your collection. Another strong release by Good Eye Records who brought us that acclaimed Spud Cannon record earlier this year.
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