Zalex – Hindsight – EP Review
Ahhhh Zalex…you and I are gonna get along just fine.
Anyone that knows me well, knows that I listen to a ton of music – but those that know me best, know it’s always going to be the projects, bands, and artists out there that have an exceptional grip on melody that are likely to penetrate this thick skull of mine & pierce this calloused heart the most successfully. Add Zalex to that list – I love what I’m hearing on every track of this Hindsight EP; it’s pretty mellow stuff – I get that it might not up the ante of a Friday night party…but hey, some of us out there, hopefully the majority of us out there for that matter, tend to seek out music for many different purposes other than simply turning up the good times. I have just about a million moods personally…and a penchant to run far, far away from social gatherings anyhow…so for me, a record like this one is pretty much perfection.
Alex Ruimy, the mind behind the music you hear…this guy is legitimately something truly special. He’s got a real gift for songwriting, an immaculate understanding of melody, and quite often, as straightforward as things may appear, you’ll find he turns left instead of right to keep you guessing in all the right ways. There were a ton of times on that first initial spin I took through the Hindsight EP that I found myself attempting to hum along with these beautiful melodies that Alex creates…call me crazy, it’s just kinda what I do sometimes…but in many cases, it’s what guides me to the heart of it all. I mean, try it for yourself going in blind one day…you’ll find that more often than not, your own natural instincts will guide you towards that next note before it even comes up…and I liked that Zalex kept going in different directions that I couldn’t quite seem to predict, revealing a different dimension of the melody in his songs that I might not have even considered, or would have known existed if he didn’t explore it.
“There’s a piece of me in Brooklyn,” Alex sings as “Pieces” opened up his brand-new EP…and man did I end up relating to that. Brooklyn stole that piece of me from Houston in the middle of 2021, proceeded to give me hope, then took it away due to injuries in the playoffs…that piece of me has a name, it’s James Harden, aka, THE beard. And nope, this song isn’t about any of that at all, so I’ll move on from my own personal issues and post-traumatic playoffs experience of playoff basketball this year. Zalex is bringing verifiable receipts and tangible frames of reference that cite specifics…or at least I think so…I found a Catherine street in Brooklyn according to Google maps, but not the “Catherine road” referred to in the lyrics of “Pieces” – maybe those semantics matter, maybe they don’t…maybe it’s somewhere else altogether, I couldn’t tell ya…I never leave the studio here. Chorus-wise, you can hear that burst of inspiration and confidence in the moment – and rightly so – “Pieces” puts the effectiveness of Zalex’s sincere sound straight into the spotlight and into your speakers, which goes on to work itself right into your heart & soul to make a permanent home for itself. Alex is a fantastic singer with a gorgeous gift for melody…to the point where it nearly rivals his songwriting ability…pretty close to even really…in any event, I could only imagine that the vast majority of you out there are gonna love what you hear from him on the mic every bit as much as I do. Impressive gateway in for sure…”Pieces” has a beautiful warm glow to its aura & atmosphere…it’s a track built on nostalgia and connecting the roots of what makes us who we are…and it’s got some of my favorite hooks to be found within this entire set. Even things as simple as having moments where Alex will sing “I walk down, I walk down” stack up super strong with a ton of sweetness in his tone and the melody of his voice…Zalex makes a fantastic first impression, 100%. From what I understand, “Pieces” was written by Alex for his mom…they should both be mighty proud in how this has come out; as many times as I’ve toured through this EP, this remained one of my favorites.
“Friend” ends up taking Zalex in a more quaint direction…at least to start. What I can tell ya, is that this song was the clincher for me…this is where I knew Alex was on completely solid ground with what he’s doing in Zalex. He knows what I’m talking about & why already – but for those of you that haven’t had a listen to this tune, believe me when I tell ya, he’s got a highlight example of how to take a good song to a great song in how he plays “Friend.” He’s kind of somewhere in between an Ed Sheeran and a James Taylor here ultimately…there’s a catchiness that comes beaming through the vocals and music, but also a genuinely comforting vibe that is extremely soothing, welcoming, and inviting to listen to. Brilliantly written as well. Like, if you’re anything like me and call music the only real friend you’ve ever had…I mean, tracks like this are entirely essential…this is where I get my communication with the outside world & what other humans are feeling – listening to this song, felt like what listening to the thoughts, feelings, and emotions of a close friend is like…and it’s a stunningly intimate, beautiful, and wonderfully realized moment in time. I can guarantee you’ll love the sound of this song right from the drop to begin with, but by the end, you’ll realize exactly how incredibly strong Alex’s connection to music truly is as he drops your jaws with the spectacular finale he’s added into “Friend.” Like I said, it was the clincher – I was already enjoying myself to that point without question – but that final transition in “Friend” is that moment that absolutely takes your breath away as you listen, sending that shiver down your spine in listening to something you can’t mistake as anything else other than completely special. You want awesomeness? How about what this song is actually about? This is a tribute to Alex’s rescued Guinea Pig named Cookie and a tale of the life, relationship, and special bond they had together. It’s as heartbreaking as it is sweet…and I mean…c’mon, there’s really not too many songs you could cite in comparison subject-wise – so not only is that in itself another appealing aspect for the originality, but you couldn’t have possibly penned a better set of lyrics or melody to make this moment connect with the sincerity & emotion it truly needed. No joke – this cut has caught me wiping tears more than a few times when I’ve been sitting here listening this week…which is real credit to Alex for the way he sings it and the words he’s written – Zalex is thriving in the innocence of this perspective & the bond of friendship unlike any other. This is kind of one of those cuts that benefits from the added context if you ask me…I was pretty much loving it to begin with, but in learning this is all based around the genuine sweetness in loving a real friend…the ability to provide a comfort that no other person ever could…pure love, fully unsolicited.
“Endless” might even arguably be a little more dialed-back in its energy than “Friend” was at the beginning, before the incredible impact of the switch in gears that song creates as it changes. “Endless” is much more towards the soft & sweet, and remains in that mood & atmosphere, thriving in the mellow vibes that shows how an artist like Alex fits somewhere right in the middle of people like Ben Gibbard of Death Cab For Cutie & Adam Young of Owl City…stellar songwriting, sincere melodies…you gotta love it. Gibbard aside – I’d be almost shocked if Alex hasn’t had a healthy exposure to Owl City at some point – a song like “Endless” is beautifully similar to the earlier material of Adam Young before he sold right the heck out and started writing about freakin’ “Fiji Water” or whatever he’s doing now. At the very beginning…at the outset…man that solo project was as pure as the driven snow and just as gorgeous – Zalex has tapped into some of that organic magic here on “Endless.” Similarly, those old Owl City tunes were often filled with meaning & heart you could connect with easily…the kinds of songs you feel like were always on the inside of you all along, and hearing them out loud becomes uniquely comforting – “Endless” is very much like that for me. Zalex has a great way of diving into beautiful melodies and insightful words in tandem…and in this track based on Alex’s perspective on life & what it’s like to live it, you get a solid dose of his endearing entertainment and his ability to charm you, in addition to giving you authentic substance to be considered, like including reincarnation into the concept of “Endless.”
As a Generation X’er, I’m probably always going to feel like an outsider no matter what massive shifts may come along throughout the years…it’s just what we were raised to believe we are, simple as that. So for me, yep – “Normal” speaks volumes on behalf of the way I feel on just about any given day – and it’s another strong highlight in this entire set-list if you ask me. Hooks-wise, Zalex might very well have the most memorable & accessible cut on the Hindsight EP right here in fact. I do think it reveals a few spots where Alex could potentially make different choices that would benefit both himself and the song – but ultimately, the sweetness & catchiness of the main hooks to be found on “Normal” are quite likely gonna win us all over no matter how we feel about the rest. Here’s my take. I’d be the last guy to ever tell y’all out there to stop expanding your tunes in one direction or another, or including things like a *gulp – bridge – into a song. I know, I know…it’s a scary word out there in modern-day music, it implies that the artist or band rocking a bridge is putting genuine thought & effort into their songs & that it might take you a more involved listen to get to the heart of it all…and I know that frightens just about everyone rocking their top-40 tunes, I get it, I get it. Don’t worry folks – like I was tellin’ ya, Zalex has a bulletproof hook in here for you to sing along with and keep your side of the sound spectrum happy as well. Anyhow. What I’m getting at here in my own rambling way, is that…as much as I’d encourage a guy like Alex to continue to explore his creativity & capabilities when it comes to the craft of songwriting & all-that…I also do agree that in certain cases, those people out there that believe ‘less is more’ can be occasionally right. “Normal” felt a bit like that to me, despite how much I enjoy it and how much I’d STILL go to bat for this tune as being one of the record’s best. When I got to the bridge and felt that pull towards the artistic side of songwriting & that natural instinct to think it’s best to change things up – what I heard personally, was the potential over-complication of a moment that would perhaps generate a stronger connection by just keeping it simple this time around. As in, with how appealing & fluid the verses & choruses of this song come out…there’s a fair chance that the bridge might be that one step too far in this particular tune, almost like tossing in an obstacle in the face of its inherent accessibility, you follow me? Some songs need that bridge for the sake of diversity – some songs don’t for the sake of cohesion – ultimately the only person that can know what they wanna get out of it all is Alex – all I can tell ya is how we experience music as listeners on the other side of the speakers. Don’t get me wrong – the bridge of “Normal” is still a well-written part of the song…I don’t think Alex is ever gonna really let us or himself down in that department…but as to whether or not it helps further the potential of this song overall is another question that merits asking. Would it have been more accessible to the masses without it? I suspect the answer’s probably yes…again, it’s up to Alex to decide if that’s the direction he wants to take his music – sheer accessibility isn’t always everyone’s number one priority or solitary goal. Anyhow…I don’t want anyone to mistake how I feel about this song – I’m just making observations out loud & theorizing is all – but when it comes right down to it, I absolutely LOVE “Normal” and if this is how it’s come out, I’m more than willing to happily accept it as is, and continue spinning it loud & proud. I ain’t saying cut the creativity out – I’d never, ever go there – but perhaps switching it up with a more palatable instrumental moment or two as a bridge instead, might keep the overall accessibility intact.
So like…I’ll be real with ya – “Origami” probably wasn’t my favorite in the set – but don’t get that twisted as me implying that it’s any kind of bad song, it ain’t – it’s just not quite as great as the rest are, fair? Ultimately, there are a ton of amazing qualities in this song…lyrically, it’s absolutely impressive, and on a songwriting level, Alex can’t seem to do anything less than stand out for all the right reasons. I look at it purely this way – even if this was my, or your, least favorite in this lineup of five, Zalex is on remarkably solid ground if that’s the case, wouldn’t you say? This is just a deeper cut is all…ain’t nothing wrong with that – I still think there’s plenty of appeal to be found here, and exceptional detail within the sound of the production on this tune as well. Hooks-wise in the chorus, I absolutely love the way that Alex sings it, and guarantee many of you out there will have no problem at all connecting to what you’ll find there. When he drops into the low-end of his vocals and comes out singing in a near whisper, it’s genuinely fantastic…he sounds incredible every time he shifts his voice in that direction throughout “Origami.” As far as what you’ll remember goes – I’d probably argue that the final transition might very well be the most memorable moment of this final cut as Alex raises the stakes with about forty-seconds or so left to go…musically, that spot makes just as much of an impression on us as the vocals do in the hooks. A song about “change and finding the best side of yourself” – there’s a stellar balance on display here when it comes right down to it – “Origami” might not quite have that one defining & memorable moment as much as you notice in the other tunes from this set, but it’s definitely not a cut you’d get up to cross the room & turn off either, you dig? Somewhere in between sounds like I’ve already compared with Zalex & bands like Faded Paper Figures, or Violet Night from our good ol’ independent scene – if it seems like I’ve been complaining whatsoever, go back & read this all over again, because I love what I hear in the music Alex makes. Anything I’ve said is merely an observation and an opinion, nothing more – leaving this guy to his own devices and allowing him to explore the potential of his ideas, music, and creativity in Zalex will lead him to all the right places & whatever definition of success he chooses it to be. Great musicianship, fantastic songwriting – highly original stuff too – and a voice that continually hits the sweet-spot with smart observations, beautiful perspective, and undeniably sincere melody – Zalex has all the right pieces required to win over hearts & minds and really carve out its own place in music. I’m stoked on this record…there’s precious little I’d advise this dude on if anything at all – sure I’ve pointed things out, but ultimately, anything I’ve said is merely a suggestion – this dude is already great enough as he is, and bound to leave a stellar impression on everyone listening to the Hindsight EP.
Find out more about Zalex from the official homepage at: https://www.zalex.band
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