For his fifth album, East of Eden (released June 11 through Caballo Negro), J Hacha De Zola left the “urban junkyard” of his previous albums and slipped into a natty white suit. His look is more accessible this time around – see the dignified vibes of his latest single and album art – and his sound matches.
On his latest single, “Which Way,” the Jersey City-based artist shows off a level of maturity and thoughtfulness that can only come from the development that years of album-making brings.
Watch the video for “Which Way” below:
“This record is unlike any other I have made previously,” Hacha De Zola acknowledges. “I stayed focused on what was truly best for each song, keeping it somewhat simple – at least for me – rather than allowing myself to become overly self-indulgent in terms of running away on tangents.”
The result is an album that exemplifies the universe that Hacha De Zola has built over his four previous albums (as well as EPs that cover ground from the all-Spanish Syn Illusión to his versions of hits by female pop stars on UnPOPular), while also charting new territory.
East of Eden is some kind of place where Jim Morrison did downers instead of acid in the control room during the recording of Pink Floyd’s “The Great Gig In The Sky.” As Hacha De Zola tells it, the creation of this record was actually less frenetic than all that. “I came into the studio with a developed concept, and the songs were already written,” he says. “This time, I had a clear-cut direction ready to go. I have to be honest, I have never really been comfortable with my singing voice, and I wanted to do something that would be more challenging.”
The push pays off, as Hacha De Zola’s vocals are the focus here. Where previous records saw him vocalizing in a way that complimented the music, this time the music compliments the man. On the process behind his latest single, Hacha De Zola states:
“‘Which Way’ was written in a single sitting, which is rare for me. I never work this way. I generally use a ‘pin the tail on the donkey’-type of approach to songwriting in that I love when a song has a particular air of randomness to it. This one was more focused for me; I came to the table with a clear idea about it. It’s a response to what was happening during the lockdown. So much inequality on so many levels has been laid bare during the pandemic. People’s true colors coming out.
I generally don’t like to write topical tunes, I prefer to ‘paint pictures’ in my songs rather than tell a particular narrative. With ‘Which Way,’ never before have I felt such a departure from reality as I have during the lockdown. People dying, family, friends. Their families, dying. Never before was there this blatant defiance of all rational thought being demonstrated by those in positions of power. The population at large seemingly trapped in this slow decay.
I was angry when I wrote it. A dear friend, someone who had always been very supportive, showed up to all my shows, just someone who I really loved and thought the world of, was taken from us by COVID. When that happened, it made the pandemic real to me. That’s where the song came from.”
Purchase and stream East of Eden here.