Rex Orange County
Alex O’Connor a.k.a Rex Orange County’s first studio album, Apricot Princess, is a highly infectious, soul-searching ode to the trials and tribulations of British youth. A far cry from the ‘build the beat, drop, repeat’ music that all too often dominates the airwaves, Rex’s masterful layering of vulnerable vocals, fluttery guitar, spoken word and rousing brass make for a sound worth savouring. His genre meanders through jazz to R&B to indie soul. The 19 year old self-taught drummer from Surrey has been tipped for greatness by industry heavyweights such as Tyler the Creator, BADBADNOTGOOD and Mistajam.
Apricot Princess follows up his debut lo-fi album bcos u will never b free, with the unadulterated feel of that first album most definitely translating onto Rex’s latest offering. Ten tracks deep, “Apricot Princess” tells a story that starts upbeat and slowly slides into melancholy, with the fifth song, “Untitled”, acting as a turning point in the tracklist. In the song, the instrumentation is toned down, fully allowing Rex’s raw vocals take centre stage; steeped in regret, the song feels like a heartfelt apology letter: "How did I fail to give you all the love that you deserve/ when you're the only thing that's worth what life is worth". Other standouts on the new album include the final track, “Happiness”, a reflective and positive tune that ends the record on a good note, with one eye on the future. “Never Enough” is an ironically upbeat-sounding track that covers the sad topic of Rex’s grandfather’s death. When read on their own, the lyrics are moving, but paired with the high-tempo backing track the emotions seem supressed and disengaged. Nevertheless, the song excels and is debatably the best on the album. One striking observation from listening to the record is a feeling that you are engaging with a man who has nothing to hide. Through his mastery of mixing different techniques, Rex wears his heart on his sleeve, often transitioning to rap and spoken word to give a more intimate feeling to certain hard-hitting lines.
Over the past year, Rex has also released three singles that sadly do not appear on Apricot Princess. The three tracks, “Uno”, “Sunflower”, and “Best Friend”, showcase some of the best that this young artist has to offer. Zane Lowe named “Uno” as Beats1 radio’s world record in December last year, and the song recently featured in the critically acclaimed Netflix series ‘Dear White People’. “Sunflower” showcases a more positive side to Rex’s song writing, offering a realisation that perhaps life in the suburbs is not all doom and gloom. Layered vocals and a salt bae-esque sprinkling of jazz make this a go-to track to brighten up your day. Rex recently stated in an interview that this trio were left off the new album because “they were written in a different time, a different place,” and sure enough, Apricot Princess gives off a contrasting vibe.
Performing at festivals such as Glastonbury and Parklife – as well as appearing onstage with Skepta at the Mercury Awards last week – the summer of 2017 has been a big one for Rex, solidifying his place amid the forefront of a new generation of up-and-coming British artists, along with the likes of Loyle Carner, Cosmo Pyke and Steve Lacey. At only 19, there’s no doubt this guy is going places.