Georgia native Jennifer Zavaleta, reinventing herself as Jen Zava for her debut solo album, is releasing the album on Friday June 2. The album, titled “Power to Change,” features 11 genre-bending tracks from the alt-rock artist, who has based in Austin since 2001. Zava will have her official album release party on the night of Thursday, June 1, at the Townsend in downtown Austin.
Review by Jackie Ruth
“Power to Change” opens with the title song, a mid-tempo track that’s slightly reminiscent of 1990s Sheryl Crow. Zava starts strong with immediate vocals and no instrumental lead-in, which makes sense given the theme of the song, which contains lyrics like “you have the power to change the world.” It leads into an upbeat track called “Heartbeat,” which has a rhythm that makes the listener want to clap along and a unique sound due to a noticeable key change. “Mountain” is a track that shows up later on the album but has a similar catchiness, despite having more of a country/folk influence and plenty of vocal harmonies.
The third track on Zava’s album is “I Love You,” which stands out because it was written and performed for the artist by her own daughter. It’s an a capella song with faint sounds of nature in the background. Zava speaks on her motherhood, as well as other aspects of her identity, on the song “Is This Woman.” That track features country & western influence in its strumming and picking and alt-rock influence with its in-your-face, loud lyrics and the only male backup singers on the album who also bring volume to the vocals. The title “Is This Woman” seems to both state who Zava is and also pose a question about what being a woman entails; the song covers feelings of not being a perfect wife or mother, sometimes wanting to be lazy, having body image issues and more.
Two tracks on “Power to Change” give off a 1970s, almost Fleetwood Mac-esque vibe: “Better Off Not Said” and the closing track, “Next to You.” The former has a calming, acoustic sound and features a tambourine, while showcasing the artist’s vocal range. The latter song features lyrics that seem to point to an internal struggle, and closes the album on a gentler note than it opened.
“Toss and Turn” and “Landing and Flying,” in addition to having parallel title structures, also seem to be the darkest songs on the album, with the first containing lyrics like “who can save me from myself?” and the second having a long instrumental lead-in with a moody sound, from drums to guitar to humming, before the vocals begin. The track “I Can’t Hear You” could be interpreted in many ways, but appears to be about making your own decisions in a life in performing and artistry. It brings a rockabilly sound, uses echoing in the background and features a capella vocals in which Zava seems to be harmonizing with herself, for a beautiful finished product. “Spent All My Money,” the record’s penultimate song, sounds almost like a lullaby and features several string instruments.
This is a strong debut from Zava and bodes well for her future projects. Her ability to blend genres and flow from one into another is impressive and makes her music stand out in an often-crowded music scene.
Originally hailing from Pennsylvania, Jackie has called Austin home since choosing to attend the University of Texas, where she graduated with a degree in multimedia journalism. She loves spending time with her dog, writing about pop culture in all its forms and spending time with friends – eating, drinking and doing trivia. You can follow Jackie on Twitter and Instagram.