Alexander O’Connor aka Rex Orange County is an artist that divides opinion. Perhaps it’s because he’s a genre straddler. Not indie enough for some people, but not quite neo soul enough for others. It’s hard to characterise his sound, and if you’re only familiar with his breakout hit Loving is Easy, then having a listen to his third album Pony will be quite surprising. While he comfortably sits astride the two afore mentioned styles, there’s also elements of jazz and alternative hip hop to contend with.
Speaking of which, the alternative hip hop tag is probably due to his singing style, which is relaxed to the point of conversational in tracks like Laser Light. His undercooked vocals have become his calling card. They are charming and save his songs from sounding overproduced. However, he still manages to pull off luxe harmonies which permeate the entire album. Combined with wind instruments, horns, and strings, these foundations for O’Connor’s vox are lush and layered. To be a bit lazy and make comparisons, think Mayer Hawthorne, or at a stretch, Frank Ocean, especially on songs like Pluto Projector.
Pluto Projector, one of the slower jams, is a highpoint. It starts off comparatively stripped back, with longing vocals before two thirds in stirring strings strike up and O’Connor drops to a baritone range. It also makes use of panning between the left and right, as do other tracks like Face To Face, another highlight with bells, hand claps, and again, those lush harmonies which, this time, flirt with gospel.
It’s Not The Same Anymore is another slow standout track, but that’s not to say there aren’t any good bops. There are! It Gets Better is good for a finger click and a few vocal acrobatics. And lead single 10/10 is an optimistic synth-laden summer jam.
This is the kind of album where you’ll find a new fave track with each listen, depending on your mood, but it will likely be your soundtrack for the sunshine as long as you can embrace a few different genres.