Well worth the wait
So this is what it sounds like when a band grows up. With their second major release, appropriately titled [ITAL]The Wait[ITAL], Zox has come out with an offering that moves out of the dorm room and into the mainstream. Balanced melodies that run from relaxed to frantic highlight an album paced with more highs than lows.
Though not often heard on mainstream radio, especially locally, the band out of Providence, Rhode Island, has made a name for themselves across the country and especially around our beloved Oakland. Their high-energy shows, featuring frenetic violin and heartfelt lyrics as a centerpiece, have brought them to a national stage. Born in the basement of a Brown University dormitory, Zox has become one of the hardest-working bands in the country, playing over 200 shows yearly to work their way out of the Northeast. This includes consistent shows on the UPitt and Carnegie Mellon campuses, along with stops at the Warped Tour and opening for the Black Eyed Peas, Dispatch, The Roots, and O.A.R.
Many students may be able to recognize their music from various episodes of MTV's [ITAL]The Real World[ITAL] and [ITAL]Road Rules[ITAL] over the past two years. However, with [ITAL]The Wait[ITAL], the band has put themselves in position to jump from being background music to becoming a main stage act. A more mature sound dominates while not choking out their jam-band roots. The disc opens on a high note and takes the listener through a set of emotionally charged songs before letting up at the end. Fast-paced rock songs are balanced with slower ballads, creating a strong overall impression when the last track is finished.
A number of strong songs highlight the disc. The opening instrumental track segues into "Thirsty," which shows off the band's reggae rock roots and a nearly angry violin solo that captures much of the energy seen in live shows. "Bridge Burning," a song about ending a volatile relationship, is dark and emotional, and leaves listeners with a haunting riff at the end. "Carolyn," "Satellite," and "Spades" also build music around relationships and fuse heartfelt lyrics to them without compromising the integrity of the band by becoming whiny and repetitive.
However, the highlight of the disc is almost hidden between songs that were engineered for the radio. "A Little More Time" is an outstandingly catchy tune in which everything just seems to come together for the band. Drummer John Zox seems to channel the Beatles with a memorably simple beat, and the tune plays out into a rock song spiked with the perfect dose of violin. The end result is infectious, a rhythm that you'll be humming to yourself when you're alone.
This isn't to say that the album is all good. Fans of the band's first albums will miss some of violinist Spencer Swain's showmanship, which has been toned down in order to make the album more radio-friendly. There are no emotional solos to compare with some found on the band's first release, [ITAL]Take Me Home[ITAL], and no flagship song like the rock cover of Pachelbel's Canon found on that premier disc. Though the songs are heartfelt, in a disc with songs almost exclusively about relationships, the lyrics border on emo from time to time. In addition, the slow songs seem to be missing an element. "Anything But Fine," track number five on the disc, has a great violin riff and powerful lyrics, but it lacks the certain intangibles that can turn a slow love song into a ballad.
Despite its flaws, the final product is the band's strongest offering yet. The disc is solid throughout and its more memorable songs could find airplay on stations across the U.S. However, the best part of Zox can only be found in the energy they bring to their live shows. Keep your eyes open for the band's inevitable return to the Pittsburgh area this fall.