In linguistics, cognates are words that share etymological origins, like the English-language "is," which is related to "est" in French, "ist" in German, "es" in Spanish, and so on. Though cognates across languages differ in terms of spelling and pronunciation, their definitions are similar (or in the case of the "is" example, identical). This lesson in historical linguistics is inspired by British alt-rockers Zulu Winter, whose debut album, fittingly titled Language, hits on the nose of the cognate concept thanks to the influence of recent like-minded bands looming large on their sound. The quartet draws from the epic, melancholy stylings of Snow Patrol ("Moment's Drift"), the anthemic introspection of Coldplay ("We Should Be Swimming"), and the moody shimmer of Foals ("Bitter Moon"), and while Language is well executed and slickly produced, there's little to make it really reach out and command one's attention. Tracks like "Never Leave" land in the Two Door Cinema Club school of guitar/synth mixology but are short on charisma, while the subtle, hypnotic "You Deserve Better" treads Wild Beasts territory but lacks their tense, sensual punch. Not surprisingly, Zulu Winter succeed when they break out of that mold: "Small Pieces" weaves a brooding, droney guitar with blissful synth as The Waste Land-inspired lyrics like "All our sick souls require is faith and desire/To feed our whims before our eyes grow dim" reveal an old man embittered by the cruel march of time and a lack of human affection; and conversely, "Let's Move Back to Front" begins as a gentle ethereal melody but gives way to a jaunty cowbell, xylophone, and horn-inflected dance party. Language is short on originality, but Zulu Winter's polished musicianship and warm confidence may be enough to win over listeners who enjoy the bands they reference here, and when they do succeed in shaking things up it's enough to leave listeners wanting more.
AllMusic Review by Chrysta Cherrie