Marty Zylstra’s storytelling shines

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      Marty Zylstra

      The Dragonfly and the Spider (Independent)

      Lyrics are, for many musicians, the toughest part of songwriting. Often penned as an afterthought, the perfect phrase can be a lower priority than nailing a thumping breakdown. For Marty Zylstra, heard here on his first solo EP since he stepped down from local pop-punk outfit Sweetheart, that’s clearly not the case.

      The artist’s storytelling shines on his latest release, The Dragonfly and the Spider. Written after the tragic loss of both his mother and sister to cancer within the space of two years, Zylstra’s lyrics might not address his emotions explicitly, but the inferences illuminate his imagery. At once a love song and a tribute to his family, opener “Moon”, for instance, qualifies the chorus “I will love you to the moon/and back to the sun” with the line “Heaven is on my mind.”

      Despite its heavy context and raw emotion, though, the record is soaked with major chords and buoyant harmonies. While the first four tracks sit somewhere between Eliott Smith and Radiohead, the following two have a distinctly upbeat feel: the anthemic “(Dance) to the Beat” layers cheering crowds over the opening chords, while “Wild Ones” rests on a jaunty sing-along chorus.

      Over many years of hard graft in the industry, Zylstra has mastered the art of offering a versatile collection. His album may be built on grief, but it’s a feeling of hopefulness that prevails.

      Follow Kate Wilson on Twitter @KateWilsonSays