ConatusAlbum | Zola Jesus By Stewart Mason
Goth kids of the 2010s, meet your leader.
Earlier releases by Zola Jesus -- not so much a group as singer and multi-instrumentalist Nika Roza Danilova and whoever else happens to be around -- were intriguing exercises in chilly synthetic neo-goth that didn't quite cohere into fully satisfying albums. Third LP Conatus raises the stakes considerably: in opposition to the lo-fi fuzz of New Amsterdam and the slightly more sonically presentable The Spoils, these 11 songs are bell-clear. But it's not just a matter of fidelity; the songs themselves are simply better, both in their structure and their arrangements, than before. The Wisconsin-based Danilova's greatest strength has always been her captivating voice, but a surer sense of control that reins in some of her earlier tics shows how much she's grown as a singer. There's an inescapable comparison to Siouxsie Sioux's dusky lower register, but on ballads like the haunted closer "Collapse," Danilova sounds entirely like her own woman. The spacious and largely electronic settings fit perfectly with Danilova's vocals and darkly poetic lyrics, creating an album that echoes the golden age of goth while remaining defiantly of the moment.