Recommend if you like: Frank Ocean, Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, Twenty One Pilots

Expectation: Alex O’Connor, stage named Rex Orange County, is an indie-alternative artist known for his unique, genre-blending style and recent collaborations with Tyler, the Creator. Apricot Princess is his sophomore album.

TRACK-BY-TRACK

  • Apricot Princess – Rex transforms an R&B ballad into a sauntering, jazzy jam session tinged with Latin influences on a quietly shocking opening track.
  • Television/So Far So Good – The second track comes out swinging with a swagger that I can only compare to Foxy Shazam, tosses in showtune-esque romantic proclamations, a rap verse, an ethereal choir break over thick, buzzing synthesizers, and somehow this goes off without a hitch.
  • Nothing – A love letter to O’Connors influences, at different moments recalling pieces of Badu, Roy Ayers, and Frank Ocean. This is not to the song’s detriment; Rex Orange County deftly finds the common ground these sound rest upon and uses each appropriately.
  • Sycamore Girl – A great R&B duet featuring Alex’s girlfriend Thea, who fortunately has a fantastic voice.
  • Untitled – While the Frank Ocean influence is exceedingly apparent, Rex Orange County sounds completely at home in this sound, and the obviously similar subject matter is right in O’Connor’s wheelhouse.
  • 4 Seasons – I don’t know that I’ve ever heard something quite like this. A fiercely unique, yet instantly accessible song.
  • Waiting Room – Rex lifts a Cage the Elephant riff and effortlessly molds it into a jazzy, neo soul-ballad.
  • Rain Man – Just a jazz interlude, but short and pleasant.
  • Never Enough – Every time you think you know Rex Orange County’s tricks, he pulls out a clever transition or a plucky marimba to keep you guessing.
  • Happiness – A straightforward piano ballad, perhaps just to prove he can.

Overall: Rex Orange County wears his influences on his sleeve, but his montage-like song structures and effortless transitions allow him to meld these distinctly separate styles into something curiously unique. O’Connor’s instrumental palette is diverse but always appropriate, he experiments with his song structures but never lingers too long, and his singing ability is deceptively developed. While I think he has room left to mature and elaborate on his style, for now what we have from him is excellent.

Score: 8.5/10

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