Okovi is pure, unadulterated Zola Jesus

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Photograph: Jesse Draxler

Across the time of her final album, 2014’s Taiga, Zola Jesus instructed Billboard she dreamed of getting a No. 1 hit. A pair issues could be holding her again. First, there’s her voice—that gale-force, mascara-black blast of operatically skilled magnificence that overpowers industrial beats and string quartets alike. Then there’s the sheer depth of her songs, which use stark, enigmatic poetry to set off emotions of ache, sorrow, worry, and—generally—love and luxury. Even on the poppiest elements of Taiga, she’s Katy Perry as possessed by Siouxsie Sioux. And even there, some followers felt she’d already pushed it too far.


Zola’s newest, Okovi, is extra homecoming than course correction. The album marks a return to Sacred Bones after releasing Taiga on Mute, and she or he’s singing songs she wrote after returning to her native Wisconsin, then constructing a home within the woods close to her childhood tree fort. Fittingly, on opener “Doma,” she whispers “Take me dwelling” over a mild synth hum. So begins an album that’s much less rhythmic, extra intimate, and extra unfiltered Zola than its predecessor. Groaning strings exchange drums on “Ash To Bone,” whereas lighter cellos float by means of “Witness,” serving to Zola consolation a pal who’s tried suicide.

Zola once more performs lighthouse for that particular person on “Siphon,” emboldened by a booming beat and soulful hook. Themes of mortality carry over to the haunted home jam “Veka,” as Zola considers how phrases survive us once we’re gone. Lengthy after Zola has made her final report, she received’t be recognized for her many chart-topping hits. However she will probably be remembered for songs like “Wiseblood,” the place she advocates doing issues that make us “stronger” and “wiser” and pressure us to “dwell a little bit bit.” A pop star like Perry or P!nk would make it a righteous treadmill anthem. Zola simply stops you in your tracks.

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