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The defining aspect of Zach Condon’s young career has been wanderlust. From the name of his band to the rotation of exotic styles each new release strives to incorporate, he’s always got more romantic locales than Brooklyn on the brain. After two albums touring Eastern Europe and France, respectively, Condon gets his passport stamped once again with EP March of the Zapotec
, traveling to Oaxaca to record with Mexican musicians via translator. The resulting songs are packaged with a second, separate EP of tunes called Holland
(but recorded at home). The former illustrates the limits of Condon’s Epcot Center approach to songwriting, while the latter finds the adventurer settling into his own skin, if only slightly.
March of the Zapotec
seems like a backstory in search of some songs, and sounds like “Made: I Wanna be a Mariachi.” While it’s hard to fault anyone for attempting to broaden indie rock’s scope beyond a narrow list of approved Anglo bands, it’s hard to see how these songs demanded the lively brass accompaniment they’re given. Often, Condon seems content to fade into the corners, failing to put himself into a meaningful dialogue with the sounds he’s taken great pains to capture. While “The Akara” has a kinetic sensuality, Zach’s delivery is still the same heavy-lidded, old-soul croon. Would it kill him to let loose an excited “Hey!” here or there?
The second EP, Holland
, is thankfully not an attempt to grapple with the indigenous music of the Netherlands. “Realpeople” was the first name given to his bedroom recordings, so reviving it here implies a return to his own less wordly, more “real” self. He’s still an authentically dreamy travel enthusiast, it turns out (“Venice” and “Marseilles” get namechecks anyway). But less in thrall to another culture’s sound, Condon’s lovely voice is more present among the bubbling synths and pocket beats. Credibility still strains a bit: the genesis of the song about the French hooker is likely a tattered paperback rather than a sordid night out. Daydreams are a valid aspect of interior life, though. Here’s hoping this material signals an increased willingness to focus more on what he’s trying to express and less on where he’s itching to visit.