Zero 7, Yeah Ghost (Atlantic, 2009)

Englishmen Henry Binns and Sam Hardaker have been performing as Zero 7 for over a decade now. The band is unusual in the sense that each of their albums features a rotating cast of vocalists, while Binns and Hardaker do most of the songwriting and producing and much of the instrumentation as well. Zero 7 have have uncovered some decent vocal talent over the years, including Tina Dico, Sia Furler, and José González, but for the new album Yeah Ghost they wipe the slate clean with a new group of singers. Yeah Ghost winds up having a different feel from previous Zero 7 albums as a result, and will likely please some people more than others.

The most prominent of the new vocalists is Eska Mtungwazi, who struts her stuff on songs like "Mr. McGee" and "Medicine Man" with a degree of sass not previously heard on a Zero 7 recording. The American singer Binki Shapiro chimes in with "Swing," my favorite song on the album, and Martha Tilston takes an ethereal turn on "Pop Art Blue." The male vocals are limited on Yeah Ghost, but Henry Binns steps up to the mike on "Everything Up" and hip-hop artist Rowdy Superstar supports Eska on "Sleeper." There are also a couple of psychedelic-sounding instrumentals, of which the closing track "All of Us" is particularly good.

Like a lot of Zero 7 albums, Yeah Ghost has a number of pretty good songs but nothing really exceptional that will force its way onto the radio or people's iPods. So while it's generally more beat-heavy than previous albums, I felt the end result was predictably decent.

Overall grade: B

reviewed by Scott

"Swing," featuring touring vocalist Olivia Chaney

No comments: