ZZ Ward is exactly one soulful, spoken word line into “Love 3x” before you’re standing in the midst of the lover’s quarrel she’s describing. Cops are called, plates are tossed onto the lawn, car windows are broken. As she says, “It’s a little bit insane but it feels so right.” I couldn’t have said it any better.
Zsuzsanna Eva Ward is an artist of her own making. She was playing in a blues band at 12, and performing hip-hop by 16. Now at 29, she’s a half-decade into a career that melds together her disparate influences and infuses them with power and swagger, emotion and charm — a compelling package that came together on her 2012 full-length, Til the Casket Drops.
On her new album, Ward has told the press that she’s now in a relationship and wasn’t on her previous album, creating a war of emotions in her songwriting between feelings old and new. Thus Love and War is the title of her new EP, a quick bite meant to tide fans over until the release of her next LP, This Means War, due next March.
The aforementioned “Love 3x” makes it clear Ward is still baring teeth even if she’s no longer single. Love is funny that way, and Ward is embracing the chaos of it all. The song slowly rides a simple, windows-down hook (complete with choral posse) and is a perfect end-of-summer track. The yang to the former’s yin is “Lonely,” a darker number in which Ward confesses her inability to escape the despair of a relationship that’s not working. She sings, “I chase you like a dream that’s always running away/ How is it I love something that I fucking hate?”
Ward expresses within both songs the sort of tension found on most of her songs, ones that speak to the complexities of the heart in ways that others either ignore or attempt to force. Throughout Love and War, Ward remains grounded and expresses herself as she sees fit — poetry without a poetic approach, if you will.
The heartening refrain of “Rescue”, upon which Ward’s vocal is rightfully front and center, and the funkier “Marry Well” continue to show off more facets of this charismatic woman. “I buy my own diamonds, they don’t come with no vows,” she sings on the latter, a bluesy number that might be the gem of the bunch.
“Watch out,” she warns on “Marry Well,” but we’re quite happy to get wrapped up in the world of ZZ Ward. It’s all a little bit insane but it feels oh so right.