Omar Apollo (Warner)
Sparse, melodic, light, intense, rhythmic, and diverse are all words that can be invoked when talking about Omar Apollo’s latest release, Ivory, an album that defines “bedroom soul” while also displaying influences from around the world. Not bad for someone who used to refer to himself as, “just a kid from Indiana.”
Back in Indiana, Apollo started amassing his influences as a pre-teen, listening to artists as diverse as Brandy and Stevie Wonder and starting to learn how to play guitar (one of many instruments he tackles on the album, including bass, drums and synthesizer), starting down the path that led to the recording studio. The result was a series of recordings, including two self-released EPs (Stereo in 2018 and Friends in 2019) that not only helped build a fan base, but also received praise from outlets like Fader and Rolling Stone, while also revealing Apollo to be a complex, sensitive and self-aware songwriter, penning tunes that dealt with his heritage, identity while also covering more traditional topics like romance and personal doubts.
Now comes Ivory, an album full of melodic tunes complemented by lush arrangements and penetrating lyrics, bringing each listener closer to Apollo. Revisiting many of the same topics of love, heartache, relationships and the realities of 21st century life, he seamlessly integrates all of his influences into a musical smorgasbord where all the flavors complement each other. Starting with the aforementioned Bedroom Soul of the very short title track, the journey heads into an almost Alt-Folk “Talk,” then the Funk-Rap of “No Good Reason” (explicit language alert!), before moving into the silky Pop of “Invincible,” featuring Daniel Caesar, all of Apollo roots are clearly traceable. Other standout tracks include the single, “Evergreen (You Didn’t Deserve Me At All)”, and a trio the come up back-to-back, “Go Away,” “Waiting On You,” and “Petrified,” all contributing to the Retro-Soul vibe, rife with modern textures. Radio is catching the vibe with KINK, 88.FM/LA, WFUV, KUTX, Indie 102.3, and WMOT leading the way.