Local band The Zoltars called their new record Walking Through The Dark (out this week). It’s an apt title, especially seein’ as how we’re in that time of year when the days are getting shorter at every turn. But there’s something subtle hiding in that name. It implies that there’s some sort of end to the journey through the dark. Even on the record’s cover, you see a solitary figure making his way through the shadows into the light. The same goes for the songs within. The Zoltars revel in the sonic chiaroscuro of dark doom and hopeful light.
Singer Jared Leibowich leads the band. He grew up in Florida, and came to Austin after finishing up college at the University of Chicago. The Zoltars played their first show in Austin back in 2009. In 2011 The Zoltars tune “Embarrassed” made it onto the second volume of local garage-punk compilation Casual Victim Pile. That same year, they released their debut, self-titled EP. In 2012, they put out their first full-length Should I Try Once More?, a record that hums with lo-fi, punky, garage-psych electricity. Through the crackle, the band’s knack for fractured, demented pop shines through. The band goes even deeper into White Light/White Heat territory on their Live Like Dragons EP, released this past spring.
The Zoltars upped the fidelity for Walking Through The Dark, and on tunes like album opener “Here In My Room,” it only enhances the band’s subtle ability to shift moods almost on a dime. “I’m here in my room, surrounded by gloom, the gloom and the doom, it’s here in my room,” sings Leibowich. At first nip, those lyrics aren’t particularly interesting, but as the band wells up behind them–fuzzy guitars with plenty of noise, rolling drums, and simple sweet notes pounded out on a piano in a brisk staccato–the paranoia rises. The lyrics are simple, but then again, they aren’t. They’re probably what would be rolling around the brain of a person suffering from some serious cabin-fever crazies. It comes in waves. They let off some steam in little early-Beatles-y pop touches like the “Oh-whoa-wa-ays” at the tail end of the verses. When it finally crests into the chorus, the band opens a door–Wizard of Oz style–into a world of technicolor, paisley flower-power. The shift isn’t even just musical. “When I go outside I feel alright,” repeats Leibowich, before leaving us with the obvious question “So do I decide to stay inside?” and going back to the nervy verse. Leibowich is inviting the listener into the mind of his messed-up protagonist as his (or her–there’s no real gender-specifics here) psyche splits in twain. In the end, it seems as though he’s staying inside, but it’s unlikely that the internal battle between impulses dark and light will ever abate.
The Zoltars are celebrating the release of Walking Through The Dark with a show Friday night (Nov. 15) at Hotel Vegas.