Rising to prominence in 2017, Alex O’Connor, professionally known as Rex Orange County, has continued his stratospheric rise to world domination with his bright blend of hip-hop, jazz, and bedroom pop. The English singer-songwriter, primarily known for his unique sound of sweeping alternative pop songs that weave together the mundane reality of life and the epic fantasy that is teenage love, has finally released his fourth album ‘Who Cares?’ after two years of silence. Following from his raw and intelligently written third album ‘Pony’ in 2019, O’Connor has honed in on doing what he does best by cultivating catchy beats, lovely melodies and heartfelt meanings to create another beautifully crafted sonic journal.
Beginning with the jaunty, string-laden track ‘Keep It Up’, the album's opener combines heartbreaking yet positive lyrics with an uplifting and optimistic instrumental. The string overture in the introduction is reminiscent of ‘Pluto Projector’ and will have you second guessing the track before it delves straight into O’Connor's signature sound full of quirky beats and juxtaposing lyrics. As he sings about self-worth, the vocal melody is ballasted by an 80s inflected bass-line and the repeated phrase “keep it up and go on” only drives the meaning behind the song further.
Throughout the album, O’Connor's vocals steadily coincide with the melodies making each track soothing and somewhat relaxing. In ‘The Shade’, an uplifting guitar motif paired with singular dotted synth beats fall alongside O’Connor's lamenting and reminiscence surrounding his ongoing heartbreak. We hear of his simplistic longings and daydreams through the choruses while he reflects on bittersweet moments in the verses. The heartfelt track is one of many as the theme of love, whether they are about being in love or reflecting on past relationships, are also explored in tracks ‘Amazing’, ‘One In A Million’ and ‘Making Time’.
It goes without saying that this is a new era for Rex Orange County as ‘Who Cares?’ finds him on a journey of self-acceptance and healing in comparison to his previous works which found him tackling thoughts of being frustrated and trapped. The album not only delivers O’Connor's signature use of bubbly synths, electric pianos and programmed beats that instantly make you feel good, but it also serves as a lesson on learning how to heal and move on. There is something for everyone to relate to or take away from ‘Who Cares?’ and it helps that it’s not too bad on the ears either.
Words: Shannon Garner
Dig This? Dig Deeper: Benny Sings, Tom Misch, Anderson .Paak
– – –
– – –