Retro Review: Painted Zeros and their must-listen LP
For those who don’t know, Painted Zeros (PZ) is an indie “dreampunk” band from Brooklyn, New York, currently signed to Don Giovanni Records. The group is the brainchild of lead singer and guitarist Katie Lau. Since the initial breakthrough of their 2014 EP “SVALBARD,” the band has steadily grown in popularity amongst the New York DIY scene. After another stellar-yet-short EP “Daylily,” the band signed with Don Giovanni and released their first full-length record in 2015, “Floriography.” The band takes the eerie dreampunk soundscapes mashed with butt-kicking punk and overcrowded-room party anthems from "SVALBARD" and re-energizes them in their first full-length album.
The opening track, “Flatline,” is a fantastic first dive, getting the band tuned up and then taking the listener on what is the beginning of another wonderful trek across PZ's musical landscapes. Grunge and warm twang, along with plenty of reverb and a good amount of controlled chaos hold it all together, not only making this track a great opener, but one of the best on the whole album. The band immediately slows things down on the second track, serenading us with "”Only You,” picking right up from where the previous track ends. The slower pace is nice, drastically changing the mood from a crazy party in your head to something much more somber. The band then transitions again with “Call Back,” a lovely, head-bopping stroll of a song. Originally released as the second single, it works very well within the larger context of the album. “Palm Tree” takes a much grungier, more hardcore turn with a pretty catchy chorus. The low-fi chaos doesn’t hold up quite as well here, catching the listener a little too off-guard, but you can’t deny those “oh’s” a listen.
“Pretty Rig” is an emotional gem to behold, with Katie's guitar arpeggios perfectly complimenting her soaring voice and intimate lyrics. This is easily the best track on the album. If you are going to listen to any song on this record, listen to this one. “JMZ” gets the grunge going again with a bit more of a surfer-feel, but suffers from the same problems as “Palm Trees,” and it’s made even worse by the fact that it follows something as good as “Pretty Rig,” making it unfortunately the weakest track on the album (but any hardcore PZ fan will still find a way to happily jam to it).
“Leave Me Be (Not Me)” contrasts the craziness of “JMZ” with a swirly, hungover cleanup effort. It almost gives you the idea the band is saying “damn, that last song was crazy, right?” The band slows things down even more with “Spring,” the most unexpected track, but delightfully so. It’s a folky song submerged in a background of synth swirls and slow guitar strums, and acts as the mid-afternoon recovery in the rocking chair on the porch. It’s something I didn’t expect from PZ, but at the same time, familiar elements of their sound are everywhere. Reverb is here, the aforementioned background watery noise and they even invited the violin back! Katie’s soft vocal lines and falsettos really give you that relief you were looking for.
“Ex Best” picks up the speed a little bit again, but still slow enough to transition nicely out of “Spring.” It’s a cool piece by itself, but floats by a little too unnoticed if you’re listening to the whole album straight through. “Flowers From Swann (Swann Song)” brings everything back to a slow drive, with Katie’s voice going up into the heavens. It’s more of an “Only You” reprise than anything else, but totally welcomed. “Closure” is also a reprise, this time of the first track, and that’s what makes it so great. A wonderful way to cap this creative, jam-packed album.
“Floriography” marked a significant step in PZ’s journey, and still holds up very well after more than three years. It’s an absolute must-listen for anyone looking for some of the most diverse, yet oh-so likable, sounds in an album that goes beyond the traditional outlines of punk and post-punk attitudes. This is something special, and without a doubt should be part of your library.
photo courtesy Painted Zeros