By Anthony Cesario
As the music industry becomes more and more crowded over the years, it is only inevitable that numerous talents will find themselves unnoticed or underappreciated. One such talent is, sadly, Zella Day, whose newly-released Sunday in Heaven is not only a brilliant work of art, but also the best album I have heard all year.
Sunday in Heaven comes seven years after the release of Zella’s last full-length – and debut – album Kicker. It was a phenomenal debut; an impassioned collection of Lana-Del-Rey-meets-desert-rock indie pop with impressive lyricism and beautiful vocals. Yet as great as Kicker was, Sunday in Heaven is even better: the melodies even more gorgeous, the production more polished, the compositions more ambitious, the vocals more raw and powerful than ever. It is the kind of record that reminds you how stunning music can be, especially in a time when we are inundated with so much of it.
The best way to understand the beauty of Sunday in Heaven is, oddly enough, starting at the end. The album’s title track – and final song – provides a good thesis statement for the whole record. It’s about arriving in Heaven, only to find that God, Jesus, and the angels have all taken the day off. According to the singer herself, it’s the result of focusing too much on the destination and not the journey. Altogether, Sunday in Heaven is a collection of songs about heartbreak, disillusionment, circumstances beyond our control, pain, and how one chooses to cope and maintain hope amidst all of that. Sometimes it’s drugs (“Mushroom Punch”); other times, it’s dancing (“Golden”); and other times still, no solution is presented at all (“Real Life”). It’s a far-reaching and grandiose type of album, yet simultaneously incredibly intimate and relatable.
Zella’s musicmaking method on Sunday in Heaven is akin to a seasoned artist casting brushstrokes across a blank canvas. The imagery of her songs is vivid and the emotions behind them clear, but it’s up to you to interpret from there. Like on “Last Time,” which paints an inspiring picture of defiance and resilience, yet leaves the details to fill in the details themselves; or “Bunny,” which is one of the most emotionally gripping ballads I’ve ever heard, yet if you asked me to tell you what it’s about, I honestly wouldn’t be able to. Even the album’s most blatantly confessional moment – “Radio Silence,” about Zella’s life-threatening experience with an ectopic pregnancy – keeps the listener at just the appropriate distance so as to be incredibly poignant.
The record may draw heavily from the psychedelic sounds of the ‘70s and folksy ruminations of Laurel Canyon, but thanks to Zella’s lyricism and one-of-a-kind vocal performance, it is as fresh and timely as an album can be. So the next time you have a free Sunday, take a quick, 46-minute trip up to Heaven. I promise it’ll be worth every second.