Welcome to the Painted Zeros party.
Parties have a pattern. There’s the quiet start, when those who still think “fashionably late” is a thing haven’t arrived yet, and others are still warming up with their first beer. Then the first *right* song comes up on the playlist, and the worry of, “Will this night be fun?” starts to float away. Something strange probably happens to slow things down, but it’s over before you finish shotgunning a beer. Maybe next you start chatting with the cutie you’ve been making eyes with all evening, hopefully followed by some smooching. By the end of the night, arms are slung over the shoulders of friends old and new, the drunken shout-a-longs start and “too drunk to function” nears reality (drink responsibly, y’all.)
Painted Zeros’ debut EP Svalbard is like a condensed party score, pushing through all those ups and downs, sexy twists and drunk turns in just five songs. Opener “This American Life” has the same comforting breeze as The Spinanes’ sunset-driving “Kid In Candy”, and Katie Lau’s warm voice welcomes you into the party while handing you a drink. But this sunniness is only on the surface, and Lau confesses the darkness of dealing with depression: “Morning slips into my bed / Wake up so tired and I feel dead / Obsessive thoughts in my head / And I’ve already taken all my meds”. Lau plays all the instruments on the record and mixed the EP, though Painted Zeros performs live as a three-piece, based in Brooklyn. Lau does her best to shake it off on “Polar Night,” kicking up the crunchy guitars and repeatedly shouting “It’s okay, yeah it’s alright” over riffs, like the moment your buzz sneaks up on you. The 30-second-long “II. C ReE & SG Sek” is a wacky interlude which jumbles sweet guitar plucking, flowing water and braking cars as clips of movie dialogue and a stubbornly confused Siri almost converse. Kinky “Jaime” is when the flirtation proves successful, and you know it’s on. Lau’s so overcome by lust she doesn’t even care how she’s articulating her desire: “Jaime, I want you every way / I want you so bad, it sounds like a cliché”. She trades the warmth in her voice for seduction and playfulness, putting it all out on the line: “Jaime, don’t be so cruel / You know your love turns me into a fool”. Closing track “Too Drunk” is exactly what you hope it might be — descending into messy shouts of “too drunk of function”, as if the song is becoming more inebriated as it continues on. Like the opening track, the jolly drunken shouting is a cover for an existential crisis over the toll partying is taking on her life. She’s tired of wasting days hungover and making choices she’s no proud of: “It’s not any fun going home with someone when I wake up the mistake”/ That “I’m never drinking again” thought is only too relatable, as is all of Svalbard. Lau’s working through with her personal demons and desires, and life doesn’t unfold as predictably and perfectly as a teen movie house party montage. And that’s totally okay, because we have this great record to help cope.