[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m2ELsTsqvyk&h=25] Don't you love it when the smoke clears and only the good records are left standing? Zola Jesus isn't exactly a newcomer to the (formerly) lo-fi sound, and escapes any creative redundancy here. Stridulum II benefits from clear, full production; the stage set for futuristic, symphonic movements.
The '80s-chic aesthetic hasn't gotten stale, something that Danilova's voice can take full credit for. This isn't the same linear electronic haze rampant in the saturation of samey electro-psych-pop. Looped vocals and reverb get so much use that it becomes exhausting to keep track of who's ripping off whom, but on sheer songwriting merit Zola Jesus can avoid that whole debate.
With dynamics ranging from Sigur Ros joy ("Sea Talk") to The Cure's moodiness ("Trust Me"), Stridulum II finds itself as the anthem of nostalgic melancholy. It could be the soundtrack for some emotional black and white silent film with this kind of beautiful sadness. Depressive? Maybe. But definitely worth it.