Having released two critically-acclaimed EP’s: 2018's ‘Stereo’ and 2019's ‘Friends’, Omar Apollo emerged from the Fresh Finds playlist algorithms with a Gen Z exuberance packaged in retro-referential goodness.
Part of a renascent school of young Chicano DIY artists blazing the trail, the universality and boundless aspiration in Apollo’s insular songs saw him cultivate a loyal following. ‘Apolonio’, a nine-track project, is the first body of work the Indiana-native is proud of; the outcome of a soft reboot borne out of contemplation during a period of widespread upheaval.
The bilingual ‘Apolonio’ (Omar’s middle name) centres Apollo’s deep, unwavering sense of pride in his history and bloodline as a first-generation Mexican-American. On the Corrido-inspired ‘Dos Uno Nueve’, a reference to the area code of his home state of Indiana, Omar recounts the arduous journey his parents took from Guadalajara to the US, juxtaposed against the sybaritic nature of his life now as a working musician based in LA. The sacrifices coming full circle.
Omar is a leading man on ‘Apolonio’, no more evident than on the crunchy guitar-laden ode to emotional distancing, ‘Stayback’, shifting the sonic marker ever so slightly into the realm of adult contemporary. Omar has production credits on all but one number, with writing credits on all tracks. He possesses a distinct proclivity for creating boudoir jams; summoning the smoky, suite-like experimentation of works by 70s funk monoliths, like Marvin Gaye’s ‘I Want You’ – which itself was borne out of a kind of disorienting, insatiable desire for reciprocity. ‘Hey Boy’, a collaboration with fellow Latinx polymath, Kali Uchis – criminally short at just under two minutes – is a sexy, smouldering piece of soft psychedelia, playing out a game of cat-and-mouse.
‘Apolonio’ is a showcase in searing vulnerability. Lovelorn moments are revisited through the lens of dewy-eyed nostalgia: ‘Kamikaze’s’ bittersweet recollections of a past romance bleeds through Apollo’s mournful delivery, featuring allusions to trysts with “that pretty boy (who) still hit me up on strange occasions”. On the self-produced, ‘Want U Around’ a collaboration with Australian singer- songwriter Ruel, Apollo taps into his wraithlike falsetto, stacking decadent vocal harmonies, adding palpable torment to a simple admission of needing intimacy.
‘Apolonio’ surmises Omar’s standing as an artist’s artist. This isn’t homogeneous chart fodder but the work of an artist intent on world-building: Omar imbues ‘Apolonio’ with instrumental breaks, tempo shifts, snares and scratches, wanting to get across the feeling – the immensity of feeling attached to distant vignettes that still mar the memory.
Words: Shahzaib Hussain
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