Julian Fulton & The Zombie Gospel: Heart & Arms

Julian Fulton is a recent New Jersey export making his debut with the restless style-swapping of EP Heart & Arms. It’s a collection of five songs that drop in scattershot across the contemporary indie map, furnished by Fulton and accompanying Zombie Gospel with a closet full of instruments and a steady flow of elaborate harmonies. It isn’t always captivating, but it’s an auspicious introduction to Fulton’s passionate delivery, grandiose songwriting, and energetic backing band.

The songs here seem to put on a lot of costumes, but my favorite is when they’re an extra-dimensional manifestation of The Strokes, on “Kiss The Sun.” Fulton’s earnest manner contrasts the blasé you expect when you first hear the swinging beat and Hammond-type licks, and it’s refreshing. “Lie” is great, too—it starts with arpeggios over a busy bassline in a bopping 6/8, then vamps into a series of free-form chamber pop passages that are elegant and beautifully produced. They later move into psych-folk territory on “Wishing Well (A Fool’s Waltz),” a slow-burner which gives off the same eerie lightness that powers albums like Grizzly Bear’s Yellow House. Pulsing backup vocals, warbling slide-guitar, chirps of mandolin, and Fulton’s self-deprecating reverie make for an inspired and off-kilter closer.

A couple tracks are less-conclusive experiments: The desolate “And Now” sounds lonely enough, and the chorus, mingling warped chamber-choir ahs with Fulton’s distorted howl, is quite a trip. But not enough is done to push the song past its stylistic origins in cut-time blues-rock melancholy, and it strikes me as a bit middling. So does “Junkie Song,” which takes a smirking doo-wop vibe and stretches it into three progressively louder versions of the same wryly-sedate anthem of the addict’s lament. While the standouts seem to be moving towards something distinct, these tracks suggest Fulton is working to temper a broad array of influences into obedience. But it must be done—whether he finds a shoe that fits or stitches together his own, Heart & Arms is the sound of real talent in developmental action, and considering the wild creativity of its better songs, it may soon precede something truly fantastic.

In A Hyphenated Word: Identity-crisis