Fittingly released near Halloween, the Soft Moon's second album, Zeros, maintains the darkness of Luis Vasquez's first album and the Total Decay EP, but also reveals a newfound sleekness and directness to his music. Even on songs such as the album opener, "It Ends," which closes with panicked gasps and telltale heartbeats, there's a spareness that feels fresh and distinct to this album (and especially compared to Total Decay's noise-fest). Zeros' more minimal feel may or may not be due to the fact that Vasquez wrote most of these songs while on the road, later recruiting producer Monte Vallier to help flesh them out and give them more shape. Whatever the reason, this approach allows all the elements in Vasquez's music to stand out more clearly than ever before, whether it's the industrial edge to the drums on "Machines," "Remember the Future"'s snarling synth workout, or the way "Want" races to a climax but cuts off before it can be reached. Compared to the Soft Moon's previous releases, Zeros may also have the best balance of abstract pieces to pop songs -- as pop as Vasquez gets, that is. The driving basslines and whispered chants on "Zeros" and "Insides" may not be the stuff of hit singles, but they have a glowering catchiness that does their post-punk heritage proud. Somehow, Vasquez manages to make these sounds more shadowy and subtle than his forebears did; while the fury he displayed on Total Decay is sometimes missed, by the time "sdnE tI" brings the album full circle (or is that full zero?), it reveals Zeros as some of the Soft Moon's most fully realized and satisfying music.