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Music Review: Zero 7 – Yeah Ghost

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While I have never owned a single Zero 7 track, I knew of them and their reputation as mellow, downtempo electronic music standouts. When I listened to their new album, Yeah Ghost, I was quite surprised. I had a lot more fun, for lack of a better word, than I expected. Instead of moody atmospheric music, Yeah Ghost is packed with music that takes center stage and could never be confused for background sounds. The songs are infectious, mostly upbeat, and diverse.

Even with the success of previous albums like 2006's The Garden and 2004's When It Falls, Zero 7 struggled creating this album. At one point, Herny Binns was seriously considering a career in carpentry, then the duo produced the gem "Everything Up [Zizou]" marking a turning point in the album’s creation. The cool, percussion-driven track sung by Binns oozes with positive energy. With Obama-esque "Yes We Can" lyrics the track brought some much needed direction to the band's efforts. Grab a cup of coffee, listen to this track, and you may find yourself feeding off of some of those positive vibes.

Zero 7's departure from their previous work is most evident in the fun, dance-inducing tracks that the band has described as: “radically different than anything they've released”. The dance-pop track "Mr. McGee" is tough to listen to without at least tapping your foot. The upbeat track features vocals from Eska Mtungwazi who also sings on three other tracks. Eska's vocals on the the funky and soulful lead single, "Medicine Man", are especially memorable. "Sleeper" is another notable dance track with an in-your-face trip hop feel. Zero 7 credit Eska's energy in helping to strengthen the album's direction even more.

To keep things varied, Zero 7 enlisted folk singer Martha Tilston for "Swing". It's a mid-tempo track that's light and playful with steel drums and her cool female vocals. Then there's "Pop Art Blue", one of the album's best tracks and one of Yeah Ghost's true downtempo forays. It's driven by an acoustic guitar and a subdued bass. There's even an unexpected, but neat use of a banjo.

Tracks like "Ghost Symbol" and "All of Us" are more of what I expected from the album. They are mostly instrumental, heavy electronic-based songs that progress and build as they go along. Tracks like these are pretty familiar to me since I've been listening to electronic music for years. In a way, they stick out like sour thumbs sandwiched between the vocal tracks, but after a few listens the diversity becomes more familiar and works.

As an electronic music fan with no history with the artist, I enjoyed the album. Although, I would be interested to hear what long-time Zero 7 fans think of the duo's departure or progression from their previous music.  They have gained a new fan with Yeah Ghost. It's a surprisingly diverse album that encourages replays.

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