Upon an initial cursory listen, Michael Zapruder's latest release can seem like a pretty straight forward album consisting of simple and minimal arrangements. However, Dragon Chinese Cocktail Horoscope doesn't reveal all to those just taking a passing glance but greatly rewards those willing to put their headphones on and dive into its depths.
With the assistance of co-producer Scott Solter and a cast of more than ten others throughout the album's eleven tracks, Zapruder builds upon the open arrangements of songs such as "Can't We Bring You Home" and "Harbor Saints". Although his songwriting is clearly strong enough to allow for these tracks to stand alone as simple guitar/vocal or piano/vocal compositions (listen to "Second Sunday in Ordinary Time" for proof of this), the addition of these layers creates corners for the listener to explore and acts as a small link to the more intricate pieces.
The real constant throughout the album, of course, is Zapruder's vocals. There's a certain quality to his vocals that gives off an air of detachment and pulls the overall mood of the album in a slightly somber direction even when paired against the noticeably more upbeat "Ads for Feelings". This pairing against the tracks fluttering flute embellishments and punch drumbeat makes "Ads for Feelings" one of the big highlights of Dragon Chinese Cocktail Horoscope.
Other tracks worth noting are the opener "Happy New Year" which quickly sets the tone of the album; "Black Wine" whose inclusion of a pair of haunting female vocals provides one of the more mysterious musical backdrops on the album; and "Bang on a Drum" which includes an unexpected drum break a little more than halfway into the song.