New Music Review: Zeus – Say Us

I don’t know about most of you, but for me, it usually takes about 3 listens or so before I can really make a qualified judgement call on a song.  This same rate applies to albums, I find.  I (usually) don’t write off a song, band or album until I’ve given it a fair chance.  If it still does zilch for me after 3 or 4 listens, I will dub it as “uninteresting” and go on with my day and not lose sleep over it.

Keep all of this in mind when you first listen to the band, Zeus.  If I had given this album only one chance, I may have put it aside for a rainy, desperate day.  After a couple spins, though, songs begin to jump out and claim their place on your aural wall-of-fame.

Or something like that.

Zeus is a Toronto-based indie band consising of four members: Rob Drake, Mike O’Brien, Carlin Nicholson and Neil Quin.  O’Brien and Drake had previously been part of Jason Collett‘s backing band, and had also been in a band with Afie Jurvanen, also known as Bahamas. With a few runs around the indie rock scene, Drake and O’Brien formed their own band, and thus Zeus was born.

This debut album, Say Us, by these indie vets is very poised, as if this was a third or fourth album in their catalogue.  While listening to Say Us, I couldn’t help but think that I’ve heard this sound before.  It was all so familiar.  After listening to the fantastic fourth track, Renegade, I was able to put my finger on it: Sloan. If you mix together Sloan‘s two best albums Navy Blues and One Chord To Another, there you have the sound of Zeus. Also, just as Sloan does, the lead vocal duties are interspersed throughout Zeus, to give you even more diversity in sound.

Ok, I’m not intentionally taking anything away from Zeus, I just want to give you a good example of their general sound.  Zeus definitely have a sound of their own, and this is best heard in the track Heavy On Me.  The intro is a pulsing beat that begins a on the softer side and builds to with a little keyboard, some bass, and eventually bursting into a great, albeit brief, guitar riff.  Once the vocals kick in, the instruments stop, except a pulsing bass and a faint keyboard.  And after two verses returns the great, albeit all-to-brief guitar riff.  They dynamics thrown into the song keep me coming back for more.

As previously mentioned, the fourth track Renegade, is rather fantastic.  At this point, I will do my best to refrain from my Sloan comparisons, but it’s oh so hard.  Led by some some simple acoustic guitar and rockin’ old-school piano sounds, this tune is one of the standout tracks.  A few brief guitar solo’s in the middle and a catchy “I’m not telling you anything, oh no, I’m not telling you anything” repeating through the chorus and outro and I’m spent.  Great stuff!

Kindergarten is their lead-off single, or so I assume, as it was an iTunes “Free Single of the Week”.  This was the first song that got me interested in this band.  Again, their sound is quite distinct in this song: fuzzy guitars, rock’n’roll piano, Beatles-esque backing vocals and a fantastic “What if it doesn’t?!” line in the chorus, that reminds me of something that I just can’t put my finger on.

Greater Times on the Wayside contains guitar tremolo that immediately reminds me of Led Zeppelin‘s Down By the Seaside.  The rest of the 1:00 long song blends into the next track, The River by the Garden seemlessly.

Along with aforementioned Renegade, Heavy On Me and Kindergarten, other standout tracks on this fabulous debut album are the opening track How Does It Feel?, Fever of the Time, and the delightful At the Risk of Repeating.

If I have piqued your curiosity with this review, I’d highly suggest picking up their album for only $3.99 on iTunes, although I’m certain that price will not remain that low for too long.  Either that, or you could purchase the 6 songs I’ve dubbed as standouts for $0.99 each, which would cost more than simply purchasing the entire album.

Your call.

With what I would call a fairly solid effort on their first full-length album, I have to give Zeus credit for penning some unique tunes, even if they encompass some familiar sounds.  Their only blemishes show on a couple songs in the middle of the album that are good, but not great.

Solid rookie effort!  This album is a 4 stars out of 5.



~ by DR on January 30, 2011.

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