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James Apollo’s distinct musical vision pays off in spades


This is Independent Clauses’ 2000th post! Thanks to everyone for sticking with us for 11 years!

Some of the best records are growers: stuff that doesn’t strike you immediately, but works its way into your ears and heart. On the other hand, some grab your attention immediately and don’t let go. James Apollo‘s Angelorum smacked me across the face and demanded that I pay attention. It’s the rarest of rare: a record that has immediate appeals and slowly unfurling charms past that first look.

Apollo commands attention by perfectly executing his distinct and unique vision. Angelorum is a subtle, complex record made from Motown horns, slinky cabaret vibes, Kinks-esque garage rock and unassuming instrumentals. Yet this mix never sounds uncomfortable: Apollo’s identity is strong, clear, and focused. For example, “Two Lane” is an sexy, confident track that relies on a quiet guitar line, occasional bass hits, and Apollo’s smooth vocals. The title track follows “Two Lane,” and it’s a calm tune led by piano and bass. Thanks to Apollo’s style and an excellent production job, these two songs fit perfectly next to each other.

Apollo also knows how to subvert expectations: “Neverland” opens with the rock-est guitar riff of the collection, but it’s eventually buried under bass, shakers, vocals, and vibraphone. It powers the song, but not in the direction you’d expect. “Chestlodge” starts out with a dramatic piano arrangement, then decides to just stay a dramatic instrumental. “Spinnin” throws down some ragged guitar-rock drumming, then almost entirely removes the guitar to create an impressive, interesting tune.

Angelorum is a beautiful record in its tone: it’s at turns highly romantic, tender, pleading, and calm. It’s hard to compare it to much, because Apollo’s vision is very distinct. (That’s a high compliment from a person who listens to hundreds of bands a year.) It’s definitely one of my favorite albums I’ve heard so far this year. Basically, some words aren’t convincing as the music itself will be: you just need to go listen to Angelorum by James Apollo.