The Ever-Evolving Zella Day

With lyrics like “denim sky unbuttoned down the middle” and “can we go back to the world we had with a love so sweet it makes me sad”, American singer-songwriter Zella Day leaves an impressionable mark on new and long-time listeners.

“I felt forever when I laid up on your chest in the August light.”

Her penmanship accompanied with familial vocal intonations in songs like Jerome and Girls, means that, naturally, Zella Day has been linked to Lana Del Rey in her artistry. Musically, it makes sense that the musician features on Lana’s recent album, Chemtrails Over The Country Club, on last track For Free. In her raspy, bluesy voice, Zella Day can go in both directions – the melancholic, free-spirited style akin to Lana, and also the country-rock-pop style which she now leans to.

You’ll find hits East of Eden and Hypnotic, both from her 2015 album Kicker. This album is her only full-bodied release and also her biggest commercial success. Goldmines, or at least my favourite tracks, lay in 1965, High and Jerome. This LP stands as deeply melancholic but sung with a free-spirit with other lyrics, “you had me spinning in the midnight summer grass” next to an album cover showing a side profile of the singer in tribal-like eye makeup. Tracks like High are beautiful belters, backed up with electric guitars that would not go amiss in a Paramore or old Coldplay song. The modern rock edge of this album really helps move it towards being ‘current’ such that you can imagine hearing one of the tracks on the background of a popular TV show.

Stumbling on single Man on the Moon was a breath of fresh air, seeing the multi-dimensions of Zella in this track which is illuminous, soothing in voice and radiant festival pop.

Zella’s 2020 EP, Where Does The Devil Hide, and 2020 single also suggest a transformation from her bluesy and Americana album debut into a pop trajectory. Dance for Love is an appraisal of the feeling, depicted by shrills and the funk of the laboured bass like an overflowing cup of joy.

Tracks like Purple Haze are soft, curtailed like a ménage à trois akin to Alexandra Saviour. Zella sings of the mundane but simple pleasures in life like taking her time to go buy some apple juice because she ran out. The brilliance in this is how it soon becomes relatable to a listener and propels them into her shoes. She couples this with her Lana-Alexandra-Alex Turner-esque lyricism, “purple haze on Saturdays, smoking with no clothes on, I bet he tastes like out of space, sugar-coated ozone”. In turning passing thoughts and stream of consciousness into a track, Zella comes across as real beyond her music, and if not relatable, then provides a wistful and dream-like notion for the listener.

People Are Strangers, taken from the same 2020 EP, shows yet again another side of the artist. More calm, poised and open to a soft country-rock influence. Just as her renditions of You Sexy Thing covers all bases whilst Seven Nation Army (SNA) leaves you intrigued for more. As someone who is done with hearing SNA covers, Zella Day knows how to apply her own twist on classics and that to me, is evidence of an artist. We can then forget the comparisons to other great musicians, because Zella Day has developed her own mould and her evolving discography, and certainly her covers, stand proof to this.

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