At just 19, Alex O’Connor aka Rex Orange County, has every record label chasing him, had a gig in Frank Ocean’s touring band last summer, performed onstage with Skepta during the Mercury Awards and is now being announced as BBC’s Sound of 2018. With two albums out already, playing with a genre-mix of jazz, lo-fi and indie-pop, Rex has placed himself as creatively brilliant through his surfy melodies which play on romance, young love and teenage emotions. Reminding us a little bit of Frank Ocean as well as Mac Demarco, outlets have described him as the vibrant and vulnerable songwriter our generation needs, I now see why.
It all started at 16, going to the music Brit School, starting off as a drummer playing all kinds of genres before picking up a guitar as well as piano, realizing he had everything to make music. Within a year, he had released the raw, lo-fi and lush ‘bcos u will never be free’ filled with synths, guitar and gentle melodies. Releasing it all on Soundcloud, it was picked up by Tyler, The Creator and this led to a collaboration on the track “Boredom”, which is the opening to Tyler’s ‘Flower Boy’.
Straight from the start of the album, we hear an orchestra blowing through emotional notes, before clapping hands and a shaker bring us to different rhythms, Rex saying “I wanna show them, How much I need her, I’m in this place again, Yeah I wanna show them, That this ain’t a fantasy, She’s my best fucking friend” – this refers to him wanting to show off his love to the world, proudly stating his love to his girlfriend and how important she is, an overall impressive track in the intricacy of its melodic direction:
Rex in his latest work ‘Apricot Princess’ talks of love, happiness alongside sadness, but wraps it up in a blanket of pulp that goes deeper than the surface such as with “Television/So Far So Good”, a two-part rollercoaster. Synths, drums and piano taking scene with lines “But if you’re looking for something new I know somebody that you could choose” before going in to a theatrical chorus of “What about me and you together?”. Switching in-between up-beat to lo-fi laid-back, changing his singing voice at different parts of the track and taking on smooth jazz-pop melodies; a highlight track of what Rex is about:
One of his biggest inspirations is his girlfriend, about whom most tracks are about, with both being madly in love, they linked up on the smooth modern jazz song “Sycamore Girl”, a beautiful honest track where both mix up really nicely. “Untitled” takes on a lovely wavy guitar reminiscent of Mac Demarco with just Rex’s voice flowing around melodies, its described as a song about the feeling when you do something you regret and you come to terms with your own choices:
Reflecting back on the album, Rex says: “I love nature, I love being outside. But Apricot is quite introverted. It’s an inside album“, to him, ‘Apricot Princess’ is about “a huge party but you feel the ups and downs of the night in one go – in 50 minutes”. Tracks like “4 Seasons” are impressive in their musical depths, starting off softly romantic with “But I hope that you can learn to love me”, before changing direction with Rex talking more than singing, with a mix of rhythm changes through using a piano and electric guitar. “Waiting Room” is another honest, raw and emotional tune about a past lover, wishing them the best and commemorates what kind of person he was before – “I’m just the boy you love”. “Never Enough” shows off that Rex can kick it up a notch with electric guitars taking center stage “Don’t tell me you’re sorry, You’re just sorry for yourself, And though you might seem, I wanna be the one to help”, showing off confidence in his words whilst letting the melodies ring out:
Having released more singles, including one alongside Benny Sings, Rex is just getting started in what he can do, constantly but flawlessly changing in-between pop, jazz, indie and hip-hop in a fusion-like style. Not only is this very difficult to do, he manages to keep direction with his tracks as well as the overall album, centering around themes of love, wishes, sorrow and happiness. Smooth melodies find themselves playing with our emotion, Rex’s pitched and poignant voice also either laying itself down alongside it or playing around it. With surf-like melodies, young love and soft romance are at the center of this album which is fruitful but hazy at the same time, especially due to the influences of jazz as well as lo-fi – Rex goes deep into these subjects, making his lyrics ones to look into to better feel his tracks. In conclusion, this is one artist I’m very much excited about, at this point in time, Rex is still discovering his sound but his musical talent is incredible, the shape of his melodies, how he plays with genres to fit his mood/need, a delight to my ears. I cannot wait to see what he has in store for us in the future and I can only hope to catch him performing live soon, I’ll most definitely have learnt all the lyrics by then.