Zoo Animal

Zoo Animal (Holly Newsom) sings Dream On while ice skating in St. Paul. Filmed 1/13/2012.

Five things you should know about the new Zoo Animal EP:

1. The album, Departure, is already streaming in its entirety on Suntanman Records’ website. Physical copies will be available at the release show this Saturday, February 18 at the 7th Street Entry.

2. Zoo Animal has always been dominated by the voice of frontwoman Holly Newsom–both literally, in her fragile, twangy croon, and as a lyricist–but this album is even more definitively hers. She wrote the songs after the group’s original line-up broke up, and will perform them at Saturday’s show with a backing band that includes musician-about-town Grant Cutler.

3. Departure is softer and sparser than past Zoo Animal efforts, and Newsom says her mindset while creating it has a lot to do with that. “I was kind of beaten down while writing these songs,” she says. “I think that’s why it doesn’t rock as hard–when I was writing these, I was literally exhausted.” But the album came out the way she wanted it. “In the past, every record sounded like the live show recorded,” Newsom says. “For the first time, I let myself make a record and not worry about how I would do it live, but ask, ‘How do I really want this to sound?’”

4. Newsom’s subject matter has undergone a change, too: Her Christian faith has always been a major Zoo Animal theme, but if that’s present on the new record, she says, “You wouldn’t know it.” She explains that she tried to write observations rather than statements about her personal beliefs and emotions for these songs. “It’s more about human relationships and about images,” she says. “The way people metaphysically collide with each other.”

5. The release show caps off a Zoo Animal tour around the Midwest. Newsom loves everything about touring, she says: “Seeing different faces every night, I think it makes you so much more aware, and it’s kind of humbling watching all these other bands play.” One thing she’d like to see more of from the Twin Cities music scene is artists venturing out and touring the country. But that’s not a knock against the city she calls home. “I think cities are like people, and Minneapolis is easy to get to know.”

Written by Colleen Powers

See Zoo Animal live this Saturday night at the 7th Street Entry with Gospel Gossip, Is/Is, and Gramma’s Boyfriend.