Thalia Zedek’s latest release, the mini-album SIX, begins with a familiar sound: “Fell So Hard”‘s haunting viola melody and plaintive vocals wouldn’t have sounded out of place on 2013′s Via. But on the rest of the EP she tinkers with a variety of different tones, experimenting far outside of the smoldering rock sound she’s cultivated in her solo career.
The rest of SIX seeks its power from Zedek’s voice and delivery rather than the force that a full band can deliver. “Julie Said” is a sparser affair, relying solely on the tension between voice and guitar as Zedek stretches words and phrases to expressive lengths, distorting her lyrics beyond a straightforward narrative to a place where the drained tone of her voice provides more meaning than the words themselves. Although her songs skew more instrospective here than usual, they are shot through with her distinctive energy. Even with the airier instrumentation on the trancelike “Dreamalie,” she still sounds forceful, and the album-closer “Afloat” matches a single ringing guitar against her melancholy cry.
The most unusual piece here is an older one: Zedek includes her cover of Freakwater’s “Flat Hand” (rendered here as “Flathand”), which was originally released in 2007 on Thrill Jockey’s Plum compilation. She maintains the original song’s twangy blues, and harmony vocals from Fuzzy’s Hilken Mancini soften Zedek’s tone. Despite the song’s dark lyrics, Zedek manages to sound both hopeful and reflective. It’s an unusual change for someone whose voice typically sounds so weary, as if she needed to call on someone else’s songwriting skills to help her see the light.