Painted Zeros’ subtly searing debut starts unassumingly enough as another charming shoegaze storm builder, but cracks in the gauze soon start to appear. Singer Katie Lau doesn’t just sound like a lost angel, she sometimes is about as tactile as one, as her voice is mixed a little too low for maximum impact, though that might be the idea. Like the bridge on This American Life where her speaking voice gets mixed and muddled up with some wave noises, and the splaying of it all, if only for 20 seconds or so, seems like an interesting way to highlight the fear just under the surface of their sound.
And then, Lau has a fit of arousal. Her singing gains confident fire, and sonic volumes dive up and down like her wing was clipped and she’s flailing for balance. The Pixies-like Polar Night and garage rocker Jaime show the band—via scrunchier guitar riffs, random vocal background yelling and Lau’s malleable moods—can reach the cascading kicks of Joanna Gruesome, though Painted Zeros are off in a somewhat cloudier atmosphere. Both those songs suddenly shift up then waft around like a jet rising above a storm front, you see sunrays and giant cumulous puffs in the distant, then back down into the storm again to land hard with a stinger, like in Jaime (which sounds like “chain me!” in the explosive chorus): “I want to take you home and tie you to my bed.”
Ending with the prettiest, meandering track that’s also bluntly tilted Too Drunk exposes a solid grasp of post-mo indie rock juxtapositions, and more of that intriguing background yelling, not to mention that odd little found sound mini-movie in the middle of the record (II. C ReE & ŠG Šek) that make this one of the more hopeful heaps of songs this year.
Maybe it’s the fact that, though a trio live, Lau sings and plays everything on this record, recording it in her bedroom, which must be the size of a Hollywood backlot for all the sweeping zeal that is intermittently attained (oh wait, she lives in Brooklyn). The individual instruments sound like the ligaments between them are torn a bit, a loose disjointedness that isn’t just the usual, fuzzy shoegaze echo-warble. What it is we’re not sure, this is only a five-song (kind of four and a half) EP after all. But whatever it is, it’s exciting.