Steve Lacy - Apollo XXI : CASSETTE

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Import Cassette

The majority of the Internet's Grammy-nominated 2015 album Ego Death was produced by the band's newest addition, a high schooler named Steve Lacy. Word about the guitar-favoring instrumentalist quickly spread. Before he turned 21, Lacy had a hand in Top Ten pop LPs by J. Cole, Tyler, The Creator, Kendrick Lamar, Mac Miller, Solange, and Vampire Weekend, in addition to well-spent studio time clocked with fellow progressive artists including Kali Uchis, Blood Orange, and Ravyn Lenae. Lacy juggled this and more while participating in all manner of Internet (and related) projects, and in 2015 started releasing solo work. This included the "song series" Steve Lacy's Demo, six tracks recorded primarily with phone applications. Apollo XXI, his first album, is a little more refined, advancing his lazing, heartfelt mix of soul and funk with minimal varnish and no evident fuss. The rhythms have a rudimentary, still-demo-like charm, ranging from a functional plod to a hyperactive twitch. Lacy's thin but ringing vocals, often in mid-wattage falsetto, are finely matched with his pleasingly reedy guitar tone, suggesting a lovestruck stupor and other vaguely altered states. At times, he resembles the younger brother of Miguel or the introspective nephew of Van Hunt and Pharrell Williams (in N.E.R.D. fatigues). His voice is his own, brave enough to front-load his debut LP with a two-part, nine-minute number in which he writes about his gender-blindness and frets about being accepted by friends, family, and himself. That song's weight is immediately counterbalanced with the Jesse Boykins III collaboration "Playground," snappy and flirtatious funk drenched in echo, and a couple wham-bam dalliances that include the Dirty Mind-like "Guide." What follows largely sways and swoons, with Lacy's love takeovers and hangovers related in straightforward and sometimes silly terms. The chest-puffing finale verges on disposable, but it concludes by sliding into an extension of the redemptive "Exit Scott," one of Lacy's contributions to Solange's When I Get Home.

Only If 1:40
Like Me 9:04
Playground 3:33
Basement Jack 1:49
Guide 2:21
Lay Me Down 3:03
Hate CD 2:40
In Lust We Trust 2:00
Love 2 Fast 3:43
Amandla's Interlude 3:10
N Side 3:44
Outro Freestyle/4ever 6:14