Yesterday, I found out a Twitter friend was a Zero 7 fan. It was like finding a chunk of gold in a Californian river; I always assumed they were well-linked but not necessarily “popular”. So it felt good to let them know that they had a new EP out with a singer I hadn’t heard of until now (my bad but better late than never).
Shadows EP is the first Zero 7 project since 2015’s ‘EP3‘ and the British duo are joined by a new vocalist: Lou Stone. For Stone, Shadows EP is a follow-up to his 2019 solo project, ‘Fictions‘, and his vocal style and lyricism were a perfect fit for this.
The EP opens with the title track, ‘Shadows’, which I’ve had on repeat since yesterday.
“We’ve gone back to the future with Lou Stone. This song is a lockdown talk between lonely souls and shadows…Remote reciprocity…”Zero 7
The chorus feels like it’s been tattooed to the inside of my brain and I don’t regret getting it done. It’s a testament to Stone’s vocals—his soft, meaningful melisma goes a long way—and that trademark Zero 7 downtempo drums/string/electric piano/synth arrangement.
Now there’s a sun above my head
There’s a monster in my bed
Now for the longest time
But I’ve been waiting in my room
I’ve been whistling a tune
Now that I can’t describe
And I don’t know why
So if you really wanna know
I don’t think I’m gonna go
And venture out
‘Causе they keep on running through my head
Words I cannot find
And no, I can’t deny
But I’m still far from thе edge
‘Take My Hand‘ is reminiscent of ‘Pop Art Blue‘, from their last full-length album, ‘Yeah Ghost‘, with its sitting-on-a-porch banjo-led melody and shuffling beat comprised of acoustic drums and drum machine samples.
‘After The Fall‘ is an expression of love and longing, helped along by a beautiful string section that swings and swells as the track progresses. The track also features the most powerful vocal performance of the whole EP.
Ooh, I liked it when you’d call my nameChorus from ‘After The Fall’
Ooh, but I wish that you would feel the same
Guess I won’t need anyone
I won’t need anyone at all
After the fall
The EP ends with the most sombre track, ‘Outline’. Zero 7 are no strangers to music featured on adverts, TV idents, and in the background of dramas and this was made for that environment. But that doesn’t diminish its quality in any way. Stone’s voice sweeps across the melodies—another analog/digital blend but with pianos this time—like a coastal wave at dawn. It’s poignant and thoughtful and if you close your eyes, you might find the kind of closure and realisation the lyrics describe.
I can trace my outline
On the city down below
A part of you is leaving
And we both know, we both know
Releasing music during this mind-altering pandemic can fall under a few categories: making sense of it, escaping from it, inspired by it. Shadows EP finds a way to tie them all together. Zero 7 always had an uncanny knack of providing catharsis to me no matter what my mood was. Happy, sad, worried, despairing, hopeful—their music has been right there with me. This EP is no different and collaborating with a vocalist like Lou Stone is another masterstroke.
I’d love another full-length album one day but this will do for now.
(Quoted lyrics via Genius)