On debut album ‘Apollo XXI’, Compton-born pin-up Steve Lacy lavished post-adolescent tales of gender fluidity and lusty hangovers over sauntering cosmic funk. On the slicker follow up, ‘Gemini Rights’, Lacy traces the aftereffects of a defining breakup, saturating songs with emotion as he tries to find a measure of selfhood in the wake of inner turmoil. ‘Gemini Rights’ is an open invitation to indulge in a summer of pleasure-seeking thrills – to seek out coves of your choosing – but as the listener gleans throughout, the heady high of hedonism is only ever fleeting and it never really fills the void.
Living up to the album’s namesake, Lacy swivels between binaries and personalities, finding comfort in ephemeral company; the result is an experience that is as much loose and illusory as it is yearning and in search of lucidity. On the sensory cloud burst ‘Cody Freestyle’, Lacy lists all the same-sex paramours he could fornicate with over ambient static – an acid-tonged comeback against the ex-lover whose shadow looms large over ‘Gemini Rights’. Switching positions from opener ‘Static’, where Lacy lays out his intention to find security in the heteronormative – brazenly asserting that he’s “looking for a bitch cos I’m over boys” – on closer, ‘Give You The World’, Lacy reins in the dusky heat for a misty-eyed tribute to past and future love.
Still only 24, Lacy is a high-volume collaborator, both as an in-demand producer for the likes of Solange and Kendrick Lamar and the anchor of future-soul outfit The Internet. For over a decade Lacy has been an enquiring student of music lore, and on ‘Gemini Rights’ his roving approach to create something profuse with the spiritual approbation he has for his influences, at times overshadows his own zany impulses.
It’s also where the album’s strengths lie and the result is more often than not ineffably faithful. Lacy taps into the legacy of ‘The Love Below’-era André 3000, puncturing crunchy abrasions in sound with soft symphonic passages, as on ‘2Gether’ or the gospel deliverance of ‘Amber’ where Lacy skilfully toys with clarity and cadence, inhabiting each style because he is the archetypal old soul. His guitar-hero compositions move through eras with the legerdemain of a musician beyond his years; Lacy endears himself to sunlit psych and bossa nova on album highlight ‘Mercury’, repurposing lilting Mac Demarco-esque soft rock on ‘Bad Habit’ into a regret-laced anthem that serves as a balm for ambivalent times.
Steve Lacy fervently channels the musical touchstones of yesteryear into something reachable for a generation exploring more than ever before concepts of personal autonomy and identity. ‘Gemini Rights’ expands Lacy’s emotional terrain into panoramic view, a voyeuristic collection of love(sick) songs that rarely compromises on impact or cohesion. The execution doesn’t always match the scale of its creator’s ambition but ‘Gemini Rights’ is a time capsule of Lacy’s metier right now, and you get the sense he’s one or two masterstrokes away from a classic that will be distinctly his own.
Words: Shahzaib Hussain