The New Seed by Zera Vaughan
Media in Sync / Orson / Sledge (2009) 55:00 minutes
Review by Kate Russell
Created alongside French producer/composer Cyril Morin, Zera Vaughan’s new album “The New Seed” is a time warp back to the early ’90s when moody, after-dark, trip-hop such as that played by predecessors such as Portishead, Massive Attack and Tricky was in the mainstream.
With rich, deep vocals, Zera (whose name in Hebrew means “seed”) creates a clear and compelling melody (at times reminiscent of Sarah McLaughlin and other times reminiscent of Donavon) for the lyrics to fall into.
Getting the trip-hop feel established, ‘Empty Spaces’ plays a beseeching call for company in a lonely world. ‘Where is the Love’s pretty call-response melody and ‘Lonely Seed’ with its angelic sounding, chorus hook will get stuck in your head. ‘Silent Bell’ is a sweet song, with a Sarah McLaughlin-esque vibe in the chorus. ‘Devil Must Die’ is a thought provoking piece with a unique bent and dramatic backing track. A charmingly different alternative to most love songs, ‘Black Bird’ is bird-like – the vocal range of Zera’s voice conjures well the images in the song.
It turns out that Zera is not just a singer/songwriter, but also a philanthropist. All proceeds from the sale of track three, ‘Release the Chains’ are going to Greenpeace. ‘Release The Chains’ is a real song for the planet with lyrics such as “Release the Chains/Oh the pain is insane/Release the chains/Let me heal with the rain” a prayer for not only the earth, but for all who need healing. Even the album packaging is environmentally friendly; printed on biodegradable paper with biodegradable ink.
At times, the lyrics seem a little simplistic or forced, such as in the song ‘Let’s Pretend’. The clichés alone don’t bother me, so much as the fact that they are in the context of an album with way better lyrical input overall and they seem a little out of place. Other weaker tracks on this album are ‘My Mind’, which is pretty enough but seems a significant detach from the other songs on the album and has an ending which with its ‘la la la’ outro seems somehow unfinished. ‘Was It So Bad’ was not so much bad, but pretty similar in style to ‘The Message’ and lacked a certain pizzaz present in other parts of the album.
My pick for top song on this album is ‘The Message’: Zera’s ethereal sounding spoken word is goosebump inducing. This is a truly intimate and stirring track – beautiful and exotic. Eerily foreboding, ‘One More Day’, is a close second. Sung and whispered intermittently, it gets hard to differentiate the sounds in the track from the sounds in one’s own head. The result is a beautifully disorientating vibe.
Even with a few small points for improvement, overall this is a great second CD for this singer/songwriter and an album that the majority will enjoy. For more information on Zera Vaughan’s music, live shows and background, check out www.zeravaughan.com.
Kate Russell is a singer/songwriter and busker from Vancouver, up until recently performing under the stage name Jadis Gloom (www.myspace.com/jadisgloom). Currently she is taking some time out from her solo music projects to write, listen to other styles of music and gain inspiration from other artists and their own creative journeys. Believing that to look into someone’s art is also to look inside their soul, she enjoys the intimate opportunities for understanding others in new ways that being a music critic provides.