Every Tuesday, Torontoist scours record store shelves in search of the city’s most notable new releases and brings you the best—or sometimes just the biggest—of what we’ve heard in Sound Advice.
When Zeus released their Sounds Like Zeus EP as a teaser to their upcoming full-length, it was an immediate hit and maybe even a bit of a surprise to most who were used to them being just Jason Collett’s backing band. Now that Say Us is out (on Arts&Crafts, of course), they’ve got a full classic-pop cache from which to build a brand all their own.
Riding a nostalgia soundwave can easily tread dangerous kitsch lines; Zeus are unmistakeably a band looking to pay tribute to their influences, but they manage to stay far and clear from these trappings, the ones that the sappy sounds of Halifax’s Brent Randall unfortunately fall into headfirst. Expanding the warmth and hooks that made the EP so loveable into sleepier, acoustic-laced Band jams (“River by the Garden”) and psych-y freak outs (“You Gotta’ Teller”) provide some traction on the slick pop of carry-over songs “Marching Through Your Head” and “How Does It Feel.” “Fever of the Time” (streaming above) revels in its layers of fuzzy textures and playful keys and harmonies. When the accentuated ’70s riffs of “The Renegade” take the song into a stomping barre-chord transition and from there, a spirited modern indie-pop eruption, the skilled dynamics that make Zeus more refreshing than referential are crystal clear (and oh-so irresistible).
It’s one thing to borrow sound textures from the Beatles and another entirely to cop a Sgt. Pepper aesthetic. Luckily, Zeus isn’t just pilfering vintage stores in the hopes of creating something that isn’t rightfully there. Say Us starts with a rough sketch of classic rock and completes it—Zeus style—with tons of their own decipherable personality and modern flair.