Elizabeth and the Catapult is a trio lead by Elizabeth Ziman, who has a gorgeous, smooth voice and a wide vocal range. Their sound falls into that ambiguous category of pop-rock-indie-folk—layered pianos, acoustic guitars, banjos, a myriad of clattering percussion instruments, male and female vocalists—and they have interesting interpretations of the popular sub-genre. The vocalist and guitarist attended the Berklee School of Music, so you know they are talented.
However, their latest effort, “The Other Side of Zero,” is lacking. Some songs sound similar to tracks on Lindsey Buckingham’s “Gift of Screws” and The Hush Sound’s “Like Vines.” But they do not have Buckingham’s raw talent or The Hush Sound’s infectious hooks that climax into satisfying refrains. Most songs start off well— for example “Julian, Darling” has a catchy, piano driven verse, but it does not build into anything more substantial.
The lyrics are cliché. They paint broad strokes that are neither thought provoking nor arouse a genuine emotional response. In “The Horse & The Missing Cart,” Ziman warns us that we should not “live by too many morals” or “preach” ourselves “out of too much life.” Not bad advice, but there is nothing relatable to back it up. Ziman settles for vague metaphors like “enjoy the first sip before you finish the bottle.” These abstract, impersonal statements pervade almost every track.
Yet the album does have some memorable songs. A banging piano and bass drum give “(Time) We All Fall Down” a catchy marching feel that works well with Ziman’s impressive vocal display. In “Dreamcatcher,” Ziman delicately hits high notes and there is an unusual twinge of urgency in her voice. The song also features slick instrumentation—banjos and guitars intertwine with a minimalistic, but lively clapping percussion. Ziman’s voice soars over a gentle string section and soft, low piano chords in the beautiful “Do Not Hang Your Head.”
Overall, “The Other Side of Zero” is not great, but it is worth checking out to see where a potentially great band is heading.
William McAuliffe may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“The Other Side of Zero” by Elizabeth and the Catapult
Rating: 2.5/4 stars
Label: Verve Forecast
Released: Oct. 25