Bay Area singer-songwriter Lindsay Olsen, using the Salami Rose Joe Louis moniker, released her new album with stunning results. The album, titled “Zdenka 2080,” follows the protagonist through an interdimensional excursion after the rich have stolen the sun’s energy and left Earth.
Everything about this is as eccentric and quirky as it sounds.
Olsen, who recently signed with acclaimed producer Flying Lotus’ record label Brainfeeder, applies her synthetic and unassuming style to an apocalyptic sci-fi narrative to create one of the most intriguing projects of 2019.
My first and only previous encounter with Olsen’s music was with her most streamed song on Spotify, “I Miss You So.” The song is a simple tune, showing off her knack for creating head-bobbing melodies with tasteful amounts of reverb, all carried by her feathery vocals.
A few months later, I came across a post via Brainfeeder detailing the fresh signee’s then-forthcoming album, and I’m glad I did. “Zdenka 2080” surpasses any expectations I could’ve had from only knowing one song by Salami Rose Joe Louis. It’s always a special thing to stumble across an excellent album from a vaguely familiar artist.
I certainly sensed Olsen’s DIY indie dream-pop sensibilities with “I Miss You So,” but her new record channels this and so much more, primarily exploring elements of nu-jazz.
For those unacquainted, nu-jazz is the fusion of electronica and jazz (aptly dubbed “jazztronica” by many). This genre tag certainly applies to “Zdenka 2080,” with improvised synth-keys and jazz-inspired percussion sewed across the 22-track album.
Interestingly, many of these songs resemble the sort of thing found in old sci-fi video games for the Sega Genesis. Her vocals, however, are reminiscent of contemporary bedroom pop born from a culture of Bandcamp demos.
Experimentation with the unfamiliar is a key aspect to “Zdenka 2080,” which sets itself apart from run-of-the-mill indie pop music. These sound palettes would fit snugly into a number of curated Spotify playlists, but Olsen doesn’t shy away from creating sonic dissonance and emphasizes narrative over the mere atmosphere.
In fact, I would argue the most compelling aspect of this project is its story. It is distinctly otherworldly but feels all too plausible.
The year is 2080, and the Earth’s ecosystems are in total collapse. The elite of the world opts to harness the sun’s energy and escape to a distant planet rather than using their resources to help. Salami, a young woman left behind, is exploring a mansion abandoned by a rich family and stumbles across an octagonal room with eight paintings on each wall.
She discovers these are interdimensional portals, and travels through them with the intent of saving her Earth.
Along the way, it’s discovered that this octagonal room is effectively the brain of the Earth, and the content of the eight paintings influences the thoughts of the “Earth creature.”
A dismayed artist named Zdenka made the paintings, with grim and gory depictions of human realities on each. Salami encourages her to pursue more positive art instead.
I don’t think any eight sentence summary can justly describe the weirdness of this narrative. While it can be goofy, the overarching theme is brilliant.
In an in-depth interview with The 405 about the album, she stated “what we're soaking up in images from the media really does affect our actions, and we should try to promote positive imagery,” which is a perfectly simple way to summarize the purpose of “Zdenka 2080.”
It’s hard not to break out in smiles over much of the dense and glimmering music found here, even with an apocalyptic setting grounding the story in a sense of urgency.
In a modern pop music culture that often avoids getting meditative about reality, this whimsical journey towards truth is refreshing.
Salami Rose Joe Louis cemented herself as an artist who will permanently be on my radar. “Zdenka 2080” wasn’t merely an unexpected album, it’s one of the most fulfilling projects of the year so far.