New Zealand’s ‘Worst Band Name Award 2016’ recipients The Zoup released their debut album in September, and thankfully the content is far better than their name suggests. With quality production from drummer Dave Johnston (Villainy), as well as engineer Matt Keller, ‘Symbiotic’ is one of the most sonically comfortable local independent rock records in recent memory. Things kick off right with the title track, a lively tune with great chorus that’s easily the best on the album. Vocalist Jaydn De Graaf provides The Zoup with credibility, showing strong melodic awareness and a talent for scansion. Succinct vocal melodies constantly impress. Aided by Dom Mauger on guitar and bassist Tom Chou, the musicianship is eloquent and precise all round, allowing the album to flow smoothly through its 10 tracks. Songs towards the back end, such as Ethos and the acoustic We Should Have Listened, offer more considered instrumentation, developing the overall atmosphere with purpose. A downside is the slight predictability that results from such careful crafting. This, combined with gleaming production, leaves the album lacking the character that would make it special, and more likely to strike a lasting emotional connection with listeners. Regardless, The Zoup have an excellent debut release that should be welcomed by rock enthusiasts.