Last year, ZZYZX Project was one of my favorite discoveries. With just an acoustic guitar and a powerful voice, this duo broke the conventions of the singer-songwriter genre to bring out an in-your-face and emotional EP in Fear of Flying. That set has maintained its place in my iPod since then, confirming its place on my top 2013 list. ZZYZX Project released their new single, Walk In The Rain, earlier this year. In this go around, the pair brings in a band to flesh out their sound, and the results are no less than impressive.

zzyzx rain pic

In Fear of Flying, the EP was characterized by quiet acoustic guitar melodies that played with various tempos, leaving the volume changes to the vocal side of the music. The two never battled to be overheard, so the songs left their impact in the delivery of the lyrics. With more instruments, the same holds true in Walk In The Rain. Starting with rain patter and a simple guitar riff, the track maintains a quiet intensity in its instrumentals, from the bass guitar and drums that come in later, to the muted trumpet that highlights the vocal performance.

This interplay of soft instruments and strong vocals is the basis for “A Cheap Life,” a drum-centric mid-tempo tune with melancholy from the trumpet and strings on one side, and the dual vocal tracks on the other. The other b-side, “Squeeze,” has even more going on, adding a marching beat and frantic drums. The song can be called celebratory since you can hear the weight falling from the band’s shoulders as the number draws to a close. Not all bands know how to balance all the elements in their music to prevent them from clashing, but ZZYZX Project has managed once again to pull it off, and with more things in play.

Watching a band grow and expand is a daunting experience. Adding on new instruments, introducing electronic effects, or trying new vocal techniques can turn out badly. In the case of Walk In The Rain, ZZYZX Project exceeded my expectations. The additional instruments only serve to bring out the best the duo already had going for them; conversely, the guys were able to use the band to bring out different things in the music the two alone could never do. ZZYZX Project is amazing in more ways than one, and Walk In The Rain cements that notion.

Note: this is live, so no rain patter.

ZZYZX Project on Facebook.
ZZYZX Project on iTunes.

Contributed to McRoth’s Residence with a focus on Korean indie and hip-hop music.