Thalia Zedek is an artist of immutable stature and unceasing vitality. The legendary songwriter’s fiery voice and frank lyricism give her songs both their emotional potency and their stark beauty. Zedek is able to distill complex events into simple, clear, and at times monumentally weighty moments with a singular grace. Through ballads or bluster, Zedek imbues her music with unguarded honesty. New album Perfect Vision examines the anxiety and pain of rising divisions between people both physical and ideological. On Perfect Vision, Zedek transmutes fervor and resilience into sobering laments, while her lush arrangements wrap the listener in an often complex emotional message.
Perfect Vision follows Thalia Zedek Band’s 2018 album Fighting Season, created in the midst of growing tensions across the U.S. On Fighting Season Zedek sought resistance, where on Perfect Vision Zedek searches for clarity during a time of exponential isolation and doubt. On “Binoculars,” she explores the difficulty of staying afloat, while overwhelmed by uncertainty of conflict and fear. Zedek’s simple and repetitive guitar line marches forward while longtime collaborator David Michael Curry’s viola swirls intensely around her. The pounding “Queasy” thunders and thrashes in the face of ignorance and intolerance while “Overblown” examines the strain of communicating across cavernous schisms. Every challenge and sadness Zedek forces us to see is met in equal measure by her defiant guitar and dissenting voice, a torch illuminating a path for the listener to navigate through the darkness.
Zedek composed the bulk of Perfect Vision remotely from her band. Lockdowns allowed Zedek to take more time working on arrangements as well as to collaborate remotely with artists from across the country. Zedek recorded the core of the album with the veritable rhythm section of bassist Winston Braman and drummer Gavin McCarthy (also of Zedek’s E and Karate) who brought a propulsive punch to the album. As the trio recorded at Machines With Magnets with engineer Seth Manchester, friends old and new remotely recorded their parts fleshing out Zedek vision and arrangements. Pedal steel guitarist Karan Zarkisian buoys the steady swagger of “Cranes” with sublime melodic lines seemingly in conversation with Zedek, in an intimate conversation between friends. Brian Carpenter’s trumpet harmonies punctuate the incendiary “From the Fire” with flares of Eastern European brio. On the waltzing “Smoked” and climactic album closer “Tolls,” Alison Chesley’s (Helen Money) cello bolsters David Michael Curry’s elegantly restrained lines. Mel Lederman added final touches of piano and back up harmonies in the final days at the studio.
Zedek and Manchester completed work on the album on January 6th, 2021, as the U.S. Capitol was under insurrection. Perfect Vision is an album fully willing to see, acknowledge and address the insidious forces of the modern world. Zedek brings considerable skills as a musician and as a groundbreaking advocate for both women in music and LGBTQ+ rights to face emotional and political obstacles with unblinking, steadfast determination. The sharp and diverse songs across Perfect Vision stand as profoundly reflective, moving anthems to purging malevolence.