The Beatles influences were almost inescapable for Zeus when their debut EP dropped last Summer. Even though it was called Sounds Like Zeus, the frantic joy of just playing music, the eclectic approach to writing and producing classic pop songs was easily recognized from The White Album-era. It was a charming debut that served as a sampler for the debut full-length, Say Us.
The EP’s three best songs have been transferred to the album while nine new songs are added, to the enjoyment of those who instantly fell in love with the unpretentious and easy-going style of this Canadian quartet. It’s nothing but a relief to hear a band totally devoting itself to the fundamental process of songwriting and performing it with a curiosity that only a debuting constellation can present. This isn’t the sound of some hungry indie rock youngsters but the sound of experienced and competent musicians rediscovering the quintessential fun to play in a band.
Just like The Beatles and many of their contemporaries, Zeus has created an album in the word’s truest sense: a collection of disparate songs, no one more important than the other. It’s utterly relieving that there’s no sign at all of any recurring theme and that each song is a new project, a new start, a new novella wrapped up in clever arrangements ranging from the stomping baroque pop of the escapism-smasher “How Does It Feel?” (“Waitin’ for your chance to get away/Planning your escape for days and days”), the dirty bluesy rocker “You Gotta’ Teller”, the brilliant faux-Americana of “River By The Garden”” (Canadicana?), and whatever snippet of influence the band might succumb to. It’s also relieving that the band has stripped the album off of all grander ambitions debut albums may often have. There’s no unnecessary tension or pretension, no strings attached and no limits.
This doesn’t mean Zeus still can’t craft evocative songs. Whether they evoke happiness, energy, dejection or just a sense of general well-being, the songs are always entertaining pop songs, catchy enough to stick around but not catchy enough to become predictable or dull. A diverse, varied, eclectic and easily enjoyable album, Say Us constantly reaffirms me time after time of its relevance in an overly self-conscious time that could be called anything but relaxed and natural. Perhaps it’s still not the strongest debut we’ll hear this year but it is certainly one of the most refreshing ones, for all its revivalism of classic pop methods and values.