“…I wanna know what love is//I really hope that it’s not you.”
Formed mere months ago, Lolawolf is already one of the most anticipated acts of the new year. Lead singer Zoë Kravitz may have inherited her father’s last name, but he has generously bequeathed her with a fiery voice and rebellious attitude. When not circulating the tabloids for allegedly locking lips with Drake, she makes unruly music with her brand new but far from naive project. Don’t be fooled, for Zoë and her brilliant bandmates have crafted their new EP with a sound entirely unique unto itself.
Contrary to what one may conjure up when they read that Zoë has an already-signed band who is about to release its first EP, there is nothing Lenny Kravitz-y about Lolawolf. In fact she has managed to beat her dad at his own game (making music whose sex appeal is inherent to it’s structure) by quite a wide margin. “Drive”, which we have on repeat in our office, possesses a chilled-out synth pop/R&B foundation and irresistibly raunchy (yet subtle) sentiments, touching on themes of fucking, drinking and avoiding emotional breakdowns (“Would you take me to the west side// would that be alright?// I could stare out your window, and fuck you tonight”). With this track, she announces to the world that she’s neither riding the coattails of her famous father, nor is she interested in playing nice, nor does she lack talent. By the end of the song we’re nodding in agreement.
“Chainz” is the danciest track of the bunch, initially hitting you over the head with 80s pop references. Yet ironically, and what saves it from campiness, or confusion with a Paula Abdul jam, is that it’s the most emotionally fraught song of the five, exploring tropes of turmoil and intimacy, falling for someone whom you perhaps loathe, the trouble with disentangling love and hate, and happiness and sadness… and…well, bondage. “I’d put you in chains if I could change you”, she intimates, yet the drum machine and looping upbeat synth melody lines obfuscate the seriousness of its tone, and in turn create a sort of tension that keeps the listener gripped all the way through.
On “Wanna Have Fun”, the band (which consists of Jimmy Giannopoulos, James Levy, and Raviv Ullman, all formerly of Cult records’ project Reputante) takes a turn for the darker. Musically, it’s the closest to straight up electronic that they get, with low, driving bass lines, fuzzy beats and heavily reverbed vocals. Conceptually it’s elusive, perfectly mirroring its more sinister aesthetic underpinnings. Once again the listener is kept on edge, with lyrics like “you and I and she just could not be”–leaving eyebrows raised.
“What Love Is” is by and far the EP’s masterpiece, which they aptly placed as the last track, pointing us toward what we should expect from a full length. Structurally it follows suit with the synthy, dance-based thematic underpinnings of the set. However we start to hear a little bit of grungier sounding bass lines toward the middle of the song that add dimension and dynamism to each verse, letting them sonically build only to delve back into purist electropop for the choruses. Lyrically it does not betray the sweet and peppy melodic conceit. Kravitz once again reveals her preternatural maturity, delivered with a deadpan, “stoned and sexy” ethos, with the lyrics “When you and I get a little bit older, I’ll get caught telling a lie // Why can’t I get a little bit older ? // I hear it happens all the time”, and in questioning her capacity to remain faithful, remarking “Feeling all your whispers soaking in my skin // would it make me faithful? Why couldn’t I be faithful?” The kicker though is the chorus, in which she sweetly croons “I wanna know what love is // I really hope that it’s not you.” It’s both a kiss off and an intimate peek into the psyche of a young person struggling with the juxtaposition of the tenderness and carnage of love. This level of honesty is rare to say the least.
All in all, their debut is a risque, rebellious exploration of losing and find love, and of lust, distortion, and discovery. There’s no shortage of bands emerging who take stabs at the whole 80’s-synth-pop vibe but few have done it as effortlessly, and with as much balance as Lolawolf has with this damn-near flawless EP.
I guarantee they will be the band to look out for in 2014. Colossal things are in store for them.
Listen to Lolawolf’s two releases, “What Love Is”, and “Drive (Los Angeles)” off their self-titled debut EP which comes out February 3rd on Innit Recordings: