The Zincs Black Pompadour

[Thrill Jockey; 2007]

Styles: indie pop, singer/songwriter
Others: Smog, The Divine Comedy, Arab Strap

With as distinctive a baritone as Jim Elkington has, it took a few times through The Zincs' Black Pompadour before I actually realized just how great a pop-rock songwriter he is. Completely sucked in by his somber-toned voice, a funereal mood seemed to permeate the album, but with time it became clear that this was merely a trick he was playing on my ears. “Head East Kaspar,” for example, is actually a jaunty, lithe, melodic number that shows off a penchant for pleasing wordplay: “No one for miles around/ So get ready for profanity and greed/ The less I say the more some think I know.” Followed by the vaguely Western and undeniably upbeat "Coward's Corral,” one might wonder how I ever could have initially found this affair to be so downtrodden.

In my own defense, Elkington's voice is smooth, rich, and distinctive, in such a way that my fixation on it must've skewed my emotional assessments. And there are a few slower-paced tracks that do bring a sulky mood to the album, in particular the treasure of the album, “Lost Solid Colors.” It's one of three collaborations with Edith Frost where her blissful vocal timbre intertwines with Elkington's to create some truly striking harmonies. The hazy synth undergirding the song combines with the lovely, intricate guitar work to create a mildly psychedelic vibe that evokes the closing moments of a late-night stupor.

Above all else, repeated play has given me an immense appreciation for the deliberately subdued arrangements and performances of The Zincs. There's never an extraneous note or gesture, and this musical economy supports the songs perfectly. A classy affair all the way, Black Pompadour is sure to impress those who let it work its magic.

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