As I was driving out of Seattle a few weeks ago, bound for a brewpub in Tacoma, I had the radio in my rental car tuned to KEXP — which, other than “The End”, is really the only station Seattlites should ever listen to.
Anyways, as I was peering at the Space Needle in my rearview mirror, a song came on the radio that was so dark and haunting, I couldn’t help but become transfixed by it.
I had to wait a few more songs before the DJ came on and alerted me that the track was “I Can’t Stand” by Zola Jesus.
Naturally, one of the first things I did when I returned home from my vacation was look up this mysterious artist. Turns out it’s just one woman — Nika Roza Danilova — a Wisconsin-bred lass who relocated to Los Angeles and put her opera training to good use by channeling the darkest of old-school goth music.
She reminded me of a few artists from the ’80s. At first, I thought she sounded like the Cocteau Twins on crack — or, more correctly, depressants — but, perhaps a more apt comparison would be Siouxsie and the Banshees.
A contemporary counterpart would be The XX, but a lot darker and more gothic. Ironically enough, she will be opening for the “female chromosomes” on a tour of the U.S. this fall.
Zola Jesus put out a lot of music the past couple years, including a couple singles, three EPs, a split LP with Burial Hex and a trio of full-length albums. The last of which, Stridulum II, builds on a similarly named EP and includes several strong tracks, including the aforementioned “I Can’t Stand”, the opener, “Night”, and “Sea Talk”.