In an era of ultra-accessible music with a plethora of platforms that have allowed for the proliferation of independent artists, it can seem nearly impossible for any ordinary person to penetrate such a saturated market. Getting scouted by Tyler the Creator helps. That’s just what happened in the case of young Alex O’Connor, better known by his stage name Rex Orange County. At just 19 years old, O’Connor has become one of the hottest new talents on the indie scene thanks to his unapologetically unique style and silken vocals.
With two full-length releases and a handful of singles under his belt over the course of his two-year career, O’Connor has attracted fans from all sectors of the music industry. The most notable is rap icon Tyler the Creator, who reached out to him earlier this year to express interest in a collaboration on his latest album “Flower Boy.” Released on July 21, 2017, to much critical acclaim, three of the 14 tracks on “Flower Boy” feature Rex. His dreamy, searching vocals usher us between Tyler’s verses on the opening track “Foreword,” and his spritely cadence demands attention on album highlight “Boredom.” In an interview with Pigeons and Planes, O’Connor talked about how this project challenged him creatively. Specifically, on “Foreword,” Tyler told him to write his own material on the spot in-studio. He goes on to describe how this kind of pressure positively impacted his performance, with the end result being some of his most impressive lyrical work to date.
Even though this collaboration was an important milestone in the career of Rex Orange County, it’s not like Tyler the Creator plucked him out of obscurity only to thrust him into the spotlight. He had a very respectable following even before his name became attached to one of the most popular rap albums of this year; it only aided in bringing his work to a more mainstream audience.
His first album “Bcos U Will Never B Free,” released in 2016, displayed raw vocal talent and a keen ear for jazz-inspired beats in a Frank Ocean-esque style. Songs like “Paradise” and “Corduroy Dreams” stand out among the more simplistic, sleepy tracks that populate much of this album as indicators of what O’Connor is really capable of. These two tracks, and others that bear resemblance at times, embody the sunny, carefree jubilance of first love, a topic that would come to shape his latest album, “Apricot Princess.” Released in April 2017, O’Connor dedicated this album, hence the title, to his girlfriend of almost two years and fellow artist Thea.
Rex took what went right in “Bcos U Will Never B Free” and built upon this strong foundation to create a veritable masterpiece in “Apricot Princess.” This album plays like a movie. O’Connor’s half-sung, half-rapped style has a theatrical quality which spans the gamut of emotional tonality. It is a whirlwind of tempos and genres that seamlessly blends major and minor chords, making every track, at the very least, an interesting and active listening experience. “4 Seasons” embodies all these characteristics that make Rex Orange County such a special musician. It’s 8-bit chiptune opening accompanied by a childish glockenspiel riff melt into a chorus of strings that are occasionally interrupted by O’Connor delivering a nostalgic and sentimental monologue about his feelings for, presumably, his girlfriend. As you make your way through the 10 tracks, you feel can’t help but feel a sense of connection to the artist, like you just caught a glimpse of this young couple’s life together. It’s hard to describe; all I can say is to just listen.
Mitchell Clark is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.