Rex Orange County, Apricot Princess | Album Review
Brit teen singer/songwriter Rex Orange County (Alex O’Connor) showcases musicianship that is transcendent of age on the brilliant Apricot Princess.
It should be noted, there are a lot of talented teenagers in the world. Yes, there are a lot of questionable perceptions about the ‘new generation’, but particularly as of late, the teens have been showing they’re “in it to win it.” Shawn Mendes, Khalid, Declan McKenna, and our superb featured artist, Alex O’Connor, better known as Rex Orange County. His second project, Apricot Princess, is an enjoyable, honest, and well-rounded album. Rex Orange County showcases musicianship transcendent of his 19 years.
“Apricot Princess” opens with lush production work, thanks to strings, vibes, and thoughtful orchestration. Rex Orange County sets the tone, which is emotionally driven. After professing his love over a slow tempo, things speed up. Rex wants to show the world that she means and is the world to him.
“Television / So Far So Good” gets off to a faster start than “Apricot Princess,” thanks to the driving groove. The harmonic progression is selling point – Alex O’Connor definitely does some interesting things. After the rollicking, rocking start, the second part of the song slows things down, incorporating lusher sounds, including electric piano and synths. The contrast is a selling point by all means.
“Nothing” featuring Marco Mckinnis has a moderately slow pace. Once more, the production work – the sound – is ear-catching. The palette includes soulful electric guitar, vibes, and electric piano. O’Connor sings about the first time. Here, he sounds sexy, delivering a nuanced, authentic performance.
“Sycamore Girl” continues to possess a soulful, throwback sound. The jazziness of the sound is incredibly mature, particularly for a 19-year old. The melody is colorful, with some unpredictability that keeps things interesting. Like the songs that precede it, this is another beautiful, authentic performance. O’Connor continues to showcase sound artistry beyond his years. Making things even sweeter, his girlfriend, Thea, adds vocals. The chemistry is awesome.
— rex orange county (@rexorangecounty) April 28, 2017
The tempo remains slow on “Untitled.” Perhaps he relies too much on the lower end of the metronome, but once again, he compels vocally. His performances continue to shine, so the balladry isn’t really objectionable. The brief “Untitled” is one of the simplest numbers from Apricot Princess. A selling point is the whistling that eventually supplants his vocals.
Rex Orange County follows one of the short songs from Apricot Princess with the lengthiest. Initially, the tempo remains slow on “4 Seasons” with a somewhat predictable script. Nonetheless, the emotion of Alex O’Connor is in full effect. Also, he surprises us, with some bars. The tempo is still a lethargic, but the shift helps to keep things moving.
O’Connor’s honesty is appreciated on “Waiting Room.”
“Our family reunion / I’d rather be anywhere but here / It’s like a pain you should ignore / But my uncle’s here to open the door and I don’t like him / This family reunion / I felt so uncomfortable, I left.”
Yes, the aforementioned is youthful – teenage to the core – but who hasn’t experienced such feelings? There’s a clear charm. “Waiting Room” goes beyond family reunions. He also explores love and God, specifically his omniscience and the final judgement. Certainly deep.
“Rain Man” lasts just 44 seconds. The feature is the saxophone solo, accompanied by piano. Like everything else, it’s lovely. “Never Enough” follows, surprisingly kicking up the tempo. From the jump, the groove is driving, propelling the record forward. Another surprise is the robustness of the guitars. This showcases more oomph from Rex Orange County. Even in the midst of rock-centricity, the harmonic progression remains captivating with some quirks.
Fittingly, O’Connor closes out Apricot Princess with a ballad, “Happiness.” Simply radiant, his dedication is authentic – quite sincere regardless of his age. Should age even factor in? Not based upon the focus and authenticity Rex Orange County shows throughout the album. Still, particularly if you’re older than O’Connor, you question if things will change, he’ll gain different experiences, etc.
Ultimately, Apricot Princess is one of the best albums of 2017. In the case of Rex Orange County / Alex O’Connor, age merely is just a number. This kid has an expressive voice filled with nuance, a knack for personal, believable songwriting, and showcases superb musicianship. Too often, we knock the kids because they’re young and inexperienced. Rex Orange County showcases he’s more than ready to be a distinct artist. Bravo.
Gems: “Apricot Princess,” “Television / So Far So Good,” “Nothing,” “Never Enough”