For most of their life, Zzzahara has been looking backward. Raised in LA’s Highland Park neighborhood, their debut album, Liminal Spaces, confronted the changes the community has endured since Zzzahara’s childhood. That sense of loss, coupled with the persistent memories of a painful coming-of-age, led to many late night parties and an avoidant relationship with self-reflection. Liminal Spaces chronicled that ache, but these days, Zzzahara isn’t looking backward much – they’re not even looking forward. They’re just trying to be here, in the moment, as present as possible.
Zzzahara’s sophomore album, Tender, released via Lex Records, documents a period of transition following a devastating breakup. Instead of crumbling, Zzzahara began to look inward by meditating and practicing mindfulness. “If I had to describe what my life is like now, I’d say ‘consistent.’ I’m trying to be consistent with everything I do.” Consistency requires tenderness, a willingness to cradle the soft parts of yourself that often go unnoticed. To make Tender, they locked themselves in their studio and subsisted on cold brew for nine to ten hours a day. To most, this sounds nightmarish, but the monastic experience gave Zzzahara a sense of total control over the output. “I learned so much making my first record and I wanted this one to prove that.”
Tender thrives on the intimacy created in a home studio. While Tender can largely be considered a guitar rock album, opener “Dust” is a laconic song reminiscent of a mournful 1950s waltz, while the ebullient lead single “Kensington” sounds-off to the sparkling synths employed by the Cure. The immediacy of these pop songs doesn’t detract from the sincerity of Zzzahara’s lyrics. The dazzling guitar part heard on “Girls on SSRIs Don’t Cry” might hide the song’s pathos momentarily, but the chorus is an open-hearted plea to an ex. As its title purports, Tender is a sincere album, but that doesn’t stop Zzzahara, as they put it, letting their “asshole side loose.” It’s easy to recognize the faults in others, less so in yourself. On Tender, Zzzahara is unafraid of the world seeing theirs.