Once in a while, new artists come around that completely change the game that there’s no other choice but to sit down and be captivated by what they bring to the table. For 20 year-old Arizona native, Zella Day, music isn’t necessarily a game but a reason to live. Day tells her story on her debut album, Kicker – a refreshing take on Americana and young love that can only be described as provocatively endearing.
With all of the hippie-chick nonsense floating around fashion and music blogs lately, it’s hard to take the whole flower-crown-donning Coachella crowd seriously. Finally, we have a lovely young woman who writes her own material, plays her own instruments, actually knows who the bands are at music festivals (she’s even playing a few this summer) and is educated in all things hippie culture & what it truly embodies while demonstrating how it is done to a crowd of followers. What else could you possibly need to reinstate your hope in humanity?
Ever since “Hypnotic” hit the blogospere in 2014, which could easily fit in the Top 40 charts, creating a new wave all of its own, things have kicked off for Zella Day in a cosmic way. Finally, after a long five & a half years of major label drama, which the singer had a stint in a songwriting camp, she decided to part ways with the people who told her what she should sound like. Tale as old as time, really. But the more we hear it, the more it gives us hope. It’s what separates the true artists from the, well…let’s not get sassy here.
Kicking of Day’s debut, “Jerome,” a song about a boy who undoubtedly left a trail of broken hearts, the singer brings us back to our first heartbreak and how soul-crushingly painful it was to be seventeen and in over our heads with someone who won’t even matter a decade later. Buzz single, “High,” (though I’m sure it’s been said before and to her dismay but I can’t ignore it) is reminiscent of a younger rendition of Lana Del Rey’s “Born To Die,” in the sense that love and youth can be fleeting – definitely an epic moment for the record. In “Ace of Hearts,” Day sings, “I get the feeling that I’m giving up on something I love too much,” a universal sentiment we’ve all encountered yet it feels brand new and quite possibly worse every time which she pinpoints so perfectly; all of the confusion, lust and hurt that come with things that probably aren’t good for us.
Of course with every album comes a track that cuts you to your core in the best possible way. “1965” is that track for me. An anthem for old souls everywhere, the song goes on to describe a love once felt but never conquered; back to a time when things (and love) were simple and there was no beating around the bush or fear of showing our emotions. The lyrics “I felt forever when I laid upon your chest” and “I don’t belong here” only remind me of the world I’ve been floating through for 26 years, unable to feel as if I belong.
Kicker displays the true essence of Day’s knack for storytelling with tracks like “Mustang Kids,” “Sweet Ophelia,” “The Outlaw Josey Wales,” “Shadow Preachers” and the soul-crushing “Jameson” that it disappoints me that the lyrics weren’t shared in the album booklet. Tracks like “Jameson” remind us why we turn to music in our times of need in the first place; sharing her story of falling in love with an alcoholic and the toll it takes on someone sober – a sentiment I can relate to when an ex-boyfriend turned to drugs rather than me.
Closing out the album is piano ballad “Compass.” As Day sings, “Compass points you home / calling out from the east / compass points you anywhere closer to me,” only one person comes to mind, wishing he would come home and find me. This is definitely one of those songs you basically lose it to, taking you a few minutes to compose yourself before changing albums. Judging by the little break in Zella’s voice at the very end, there’s no doubt it hit her too.
Kicker is a smashing, otherworldly debut of synth-driven pop from an old soul with the potential to inspire young women everywhere to share their chaos. After all, a life with untold stories is a life I want no part of.
Kicker is available now here.