King of Prussia’s “Zonian Girls” Examines Two Sides of Love

11 Jun

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There are niches in this nation of ours that that have emerged as fertile soil for the formation and nurturing of bands and musical artists.

For example, Brooklyn has long been one of the hottest hotbeds of music — home to established stars such as Jay-Z, Pat Benatar and Neil Sedaka, as well as a range of indie artists including Yeasayer, The National, Dirty Projectors, Grizzly Bear, Bear in Heaven, and Bishop Allen.

Other cities with vibrant music scenes and an established “sound” include Austin, Texas; Seattle, Washington; Nashville, Tennessee; Los Angeles and San Francisco, California; and more.

But one area that may surprise you is Athens, Georgia. That’s right — Athens and Clarke County. Population just over 100,000. A college town, home to the University of Georgia. And known for its long list of bands including the B-52s, Danger Mouse, Futurebirds, Neutral Milk Hotel, Of Montreal, R.E.M., and Widespread Panic. Athens is also the home of an indie rock band by the name of King of Prussia.

King of Prussia is the brainchild of Brandon Hanick. The band released its first album of indie rock-pop to critical acclaim in 2009 and followed with another strong release in 2012.

Its latest release, Zonian Girls…And the Echoes That Surround Us All, breaks new ground. It’s an ambitious “double” album — 20 songs on a single disc that explore the two sides of relationships. Disc 1 (the first 10 songs) looks at the lighter, happier side of falling in love and building relationships. Disc 2 (songs 11 – 20) serves us “echoes” of the first 10, examining darker moments and the falling outs many couples experience. It also embraces a variety of genres — indie rock, baroque pop, folk-rock, and even one track each representing metal, blues rock, and Bowie-like modern rock.

Some reviewers focused on this dichotomy more than others. For me, while the lyrics in And the Echoes That Surround Us All may explore darker subjects than Zonian Girls, the music is not at all depressing. And the entire album has a cohesive sound.

I have far too many favorites on the 20-song set-list to detail in full. But among the ones I like the best are:

  • Track 1 “Actuary”  — a piano-driven, up-tempo romp with lots of “oh-ohs” in the backing vocals
  • Track 4 “Anna Nordeen” — Slow tempo with an intriguing backbeat rhythm, contemplative vocals, strings, and gentle background harmonies
  • Track 8 “Carolina, Carolina” — Hanick spent the better part of three years in Barcelona, Spain, and while there, he wrote all of the songs for this album and formed a European version of King of Prussia. He used both the U.S. and Spanish editions of the band to record the album. “Carolina, Carolina” is pop in the tradition of Brit pop groups of the 1960s, such as Peter & Gordon or Herman’s Hermits. One verse is in Spanish, a nod to Hanick’s multi-cultural lifestyle.
  • Track 11 “From the Vine” —Delicate, fingerpicked guitar and piano. Rueful vocals about lost romance.
  • Track 12 “A Parting, A Loss” — A simple piano progressions accompanies this ode to breakups. A little reminiscent of the Righteous Brothers
  • Track 13 “Your Condition” — Jangly tune with a nice, comfortable melody and thumping drums
  • Track 15 “Never Young” — Tight indie-rock tune with a guitar that’s a bit edgier, somewhat like you might hear on a Wilco or Autumn Defense album.

 Dividing the two contrasting song-sets is Track 10 “Old Masks.” This is a soliloquy about a bus trip with fellow musicians, delivered over dissonant electro-noise. It sounds like Hanick composed this on a real or imaginary mind trip. Interesting, but a bit strange.

If you haven’t ever heard of King of Prussia, it’s time you discovered this band. With 20 songs, Zonian Girls…And the Echoes That Surround Us All has plenty to like. Or love!

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