Kicker is a debut album that belies the age of Zella Day. The young singer-songwriter from Arizona gives us a showcase of her ability to write vocal-centric pop tracks that sound pretty massive with the right production. Although reverberating four-chord sequences and heavy beats are friendly to the ear on a basic level, it’s Zella’s stellar voice that is sure to turn heads.
Back in September of last year, Day released a self-titled EP which was received to critical acclaim and put her on many people’s watch list. Interestingly, each of the four tracks from Zella Day can be found on Kicker in their original form. East of Eden appears first at track number 5, showing a sweeter side to Day’s voice, followed by the aptly named Hypnotic which is confident and free flowing. The gritty Sweet Ophelia and the lyrically beautiful and intimate Compass are also grouped together to close out the album.
The thing is, these four tracks are the strongest that the album has to offer, or at least, there are none that surpass them in my opinion. The more stripped back Jameson is on par, featuring clean acoustic fingerpicking and some distant pedal steel guitar to forge a more personal connection with the listener. Ace Of Hearts also stands out for its evocative vocals. When the line “I think that I’m broken when I try to be open” is sung, there is a real sense of devastation brought forward by the decisively shaky delivery.
The remainder of the tracks are not bad though, they’re just not as memorable and are out-shined by those that have already been released before. Jerome and High for example are not outstanding (comparatively) as the album’s opening, so it takes a few tracks to realise something special is going on, rather than roping you in from the get go.
As a whole though, wow! It’s really quite exciting listening to what Kicker brings us because Zella Day’s vocals are something to marvel at. You can’t help but feel that in the not-too-distant future there aren’t going to be many people in the musically-inclined population who won’t know her name.