Made up of French musicians Matthieu Beck and Marie Merlet, South London-based duo Zooey make the type of ear-friendly noise your mother would approve of. That’s not necessarily a negative dig, it’s just a fact. Darkness is nowhere to be found in the twosome’s musical vocabulary, they prefer the sunnier side of the pop music spectrum as oppose to the more challenging avenues. Zooey’s debut album, The Drifters, released on London label Wonderful Sound, signals no change in their optimistic, idyllic vision of what pop should be. It’s a simple, inoffensive record that utilises the feathery tones of flutes, synthesisers, guitars and softened dual vocals in a bid to send the listener on a headphone holiday.
‘Time To Get Alone’ is probably the duo’s most successful stab at a retro-future hit, segueing into triumphant ambience around the halfway mark and floating off into the clouds without a hint of worry. There are also moments of genuine, effortless songwriting on The Drifters that reflect the care-free connotations of the album’s title, without free-falling through the ozone. Take the Easy listening, chill-out vibes of ‘Long Gone’, where Merlet’s vocals swoon over a bed of twinkling piano keys, delicately brushed guitar chords and crystalline production, or the evolving Beach House-like dreaminess of the duo’s strongest track Marcher ‘A La Nuite’.
It’s a real shame that in-between those brilliant moments lies a void of filler. A sizeable chunk of The Drifters feels a little smug, like it’s wholly satisfied with its nonchalance and it’s a little annoying. Some melodies creep up like the familiar face you bump into at the shopping centre, you know them from somewhere but can’t be bothered to find out where. It’s a trick that doesn’t wash easily, especially when you uncover the undeniable link to Metronomy in the tracks Jóia and La Réalite (as good as they are), which sound a bit like Joseph Mount’s test-cuts for The English Riviera. Whereas Mount is fully aware of the kitsch, comedic layers of his weird electro fiddling, Merlet and Beck seem to miss the tongue-in-cheek aspects of their leftfield vibes.
The Drifters all too often opts for the safety net over making something truly intriguing and different. As a result, you’re left with the likes of ‘When The Morning Comes’ – a B-rate soundtrack from a particularly forgettable Rom-Com and the twee 90s pop ballad drones of ‘One Last Drink’. With The Drifters, Zooey mean well, but in a world of such diverse modern musical palettes, that’s simply not enough.