There's many a fresh hand that makes light work and in the case of Zero 7, the session musicians and vocalists keep the music fresh and shows maybe not so much gusto and joie-de-vivre but a sense of purpose and assertiveness.
Where I thought Henry Binns and Sam Hardaker were lacking was one or two ideas on their previous outing When It Falls, then it seldom shows here on this album. The Garden heralds no real departure from their two previous outings but a slight change in direction. It's retained the essence of the band's purpose in electronica although there's a lot more acoustic instrumentation involved now in it. Australian Sia Furler remains the only other constant contributor throughout, but now we have a first appearance of Latino born Swede Jose Gonzalez. His vocal tones are relative to Gilbert O'Sullivan and Jack Johnson, it shows in the opening track Futures while showing good fretwork on the classical guitar accompanied by some soft electronic bleeps.
You're My Flame - Official Video
Very upbeat and lyrically intriguing You're My Flame is worthy of at least 5 listens of your time as Miss Furler shows versatility in the low notes while the electronic beats have a skiffle feel about them. I've also enjoyed listened to the Gonzalez led Today, he introduces some of his Cuban rhythm loves in the song, while Crosses flows not too easily but steadily. There's more evidence that Z7 want to leave behind their downbeat character behind with This Fine Social Scene although If I Can't Have You is a reminder that not all of it is gone.
If there's any flaws on The Garden, then it's probably the instrumental Seeing Things which doesn't quite make the grade. Waiting To Die, while not necessarily being a bad tune has some rather bizarre lyrics which at first hearing takes some fathoming, "death is everybody's fate, but we've made it so far, it's time to celebrate." See what you make of it. The Special Edition has a couple of little treats however with the spinet dominated Inaminute and Sia Furler led Dreaming.
Granted that their debut Simple Things is always going to be the benchmark, The Garden was never going to overcome that tag, but this third album is by no means a shabby effort. It's airy in places and there's less personnel involved in the record. Seems to me that Zero 7 has had a brainstorming session and that everything has fallen into place at just the right time.
8 out of ten. Oh, now you have my attention, and maybe my money, time and heart.
Futures - Zero 7 featuring Jose Gonzalez. Nice abstract video by Robert Seidel.
Listen to The Garden here on Spotify
No official website, but Zero 7 have a regularly updated Facebook page on this link
Buy the album here on Amazon