EP REVIEW: liverpool native zuzu blends science fiction and britpop in new ep "how it feels"
Drawn in by the name, stayed for the Liverpudlian accent that’s still prominent when Zuzu sings. She has this way of crafting lyrics that are relatable one second, then off-kilter the next. They tell a story by weaving narratives from normal everyday activities with projections of a six-foot rabbit no one believes she sees. A fact which doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of the song, it doesn’t alienate the listeners, even when she goes further and mentions the existence of extraterrestrials. Coupled with bouncing music that hooks you in from the first note and choruses that could be burned into your psyche for the rest of time, Zuzu has a winning combination on her hands.
Only just having jumped on the Zuzu hype train, I can’t explain how excited I was to find out I made it in time to join in with the anticipation of an EP release, her first since Made on Earth by Humans in 2018. She’s been described as Courtney Barnett meets Vampire Weekend, but I believe comparing her to other musicians takes away from the fact that she’s one-of-a-kind. Delving deeper into her world, further than the music, I find myself wanting to be Zuzu. She describes herself as ‘part Sixties siren, part Nineties grunge star,’ which is exactly the vibe I want to create. I also find myself hopeful that she’ll never lose this oddity that is apparent in both herself and her music.
As a lover of the sci-fi genre, hearing elements from that leak into the songs and finding out about her own love of the genre feels welcoming and something not entirely experienced within pop songs. At least, not as explicitly as “just like everyone else on the planet, we just fell from the sky and act as if we found it.” She also directs her own music videos and makes her own comics. Even when signing to a major label, she still recorded her EP by herself.
The EP opens with an unreleased song, "Cool With Me," a song that sets the tone for the release: introspective yet fun. It explains how she slowed a song down and “nobody wants to hear it now,” and how a crowd wants to “dance and sing, clap their hands to almost anything… if it ain’t got a beat, then it’s not interesting.” The chorus, like the title, repeats how that’s cool with her, backed with music that is both slow and interesting. It has a beat that makes you want to sway and dance, completely disregarding the content of the lyrics, but Zuzu makes it work. I also love how vulnerable it is to open an EP with a song that has the lyrics: “I don’t know what I’m doing, tryna say something through music… I’m stupid for thinking that I could be different.” She doesn’t shy away from this vulnerability when it comes to the rest of the songs either.
"Skin and Bone" has to be my favourite. It has those sci-fi aspects I’ve come to crave from her songs, it’s atmospheric, and has the infamous six-foot rabbit lyrics I can’t get enough of. She starts singing low and quiet, building up to the chorus which is big and catchy. It then ends with just her playing an acoustic guitar and singing the last lyrics mostly acapella: “You’ve got me twisted in an arm lock, you’re hurting me but you won’t stop, and you said that it would never come to this. They say my rabbit doesn’t exist.” I have yet to figure out what the rabbit is a metaphor for, or if it is one at all, but I know that I love this song. A lot.
The lyrical content of this EP is something to shout about and are especially prominent in songs "Get Off" and "Can’t Be Alone." "Get Off" was her debut single and when listening, you understand why. It’s chaotic, grungy, and infectious. Lyrics like “cross my heart and hope to die, I swear you’re sticking needles in my eyes,” make me excited to be in the middle of a Zuzu crowd, jumping around and screaming this back at her whilst we all think of that certain person who pisses us off to no end. The refrain of “I used to make a lot of sense but now I’ve got no friends,” in "Can’t Be Alone" shows the longing that is featured throughout the song, but is accompanied with a cheerful tune and her powerhouse voice, skewing the way you perceive the song entirely.
"What You Want" resonates especially hard during this weird time we’re all going through as Zuzu sings: “This is what we’re supposed to be, hopeless and carefree.” It’s a song that’s meant to be played loud, in a car full of your friends, on the way to the beach, with the windows down, and you’re all laughing. While that can’t currently happen, it’s a brilliant song to base those escapist fantasies on. It’s followed by the last song on the EP, the title track, which also has that summery vibe. How It Feels embodies what you get with Zuzu: whimsical, anthemic pop that leaves you wanting more. It closes out the EP on a high note and, once this is all over, I can’t wait to hear how these sound live.