Steve Lacy is Searching for Understanding in Apollo XXI
In his debut solo album, Apollo XXI, Steve Lacy searches for and asserts his identity with an original, rhythmic sound.
Throughout the twelve track project, Lacy’s work as both a producer and songwriter are very prominent. Every lyric is written perfectly in harmony with the accompanying note or wave of synth, creating a very cohesive sound.
Lacy is best known for being a member of the band, the Internet, and his former projects, like “Dark Red”, many of which he produced using his iPhone.
He released Apollo XXI on the week of his twenty- first birthday, a nod to the roman numeral in the title. Within the album, songs range from being over nine minutes long to only one minute and forty seconds, a decision which Lacy calls a rebellion against tradition.
And the album certainly feels eclectic: tempos vary, rhythms shift dramatically, there’s even an interlude where Amandla Stenberg plays violin. However, the album remains unified through synth, Lacy’s iconic guitar, and the question that he ponders again and again. “How many out there just like me?” Lacy asks in “Like Me”, one of the few songs that features artists other than Lacy. In this case, both Lacy and singer Daisy wonder over and over again: how many have also struggled with their identity? With changing dynamics? “That's what I'm afraid of,” Lacy sings, “I just wanna relate to everyone.” Even though he, “only feel[s] energy” Lacy opens up that he was unsure whether or not people would perceive him differently because of his bisexuality.
The album takes us through Lacy’s growth from child to teen to (now) adult. We experience the hard questions that Lacy himself had to ask as he was discovering his identity, most notably his bisexuality. But, alternately mixed in are songs that bring adventure and fun, like “Playground”. In an interview with i-D Lacy said that the album was meant to showcase his journey to find his identity, but maintain a sense of fun and lightheartedness.
For someone that was nominated for a Grammy with the Internet, all before he had graduated, it’s fascinating to watch him reflect on his past. Especially the admittance of uncertainty, and that emotion known so well to everyone growing up: doubt. To his younger self Lacy would say “You’ll be fine” as he thinks about traveling back through time in “Only If”.
Apollo XXI feels remarkable, not just for its unique sound from such a young producer and singer, but because it is an ode to discovery. Not just to newfound identity, but the ways that we get there: by growing up, making mistakes, and reflecting on the past. Lacy explores all this and more in Apollo XXI, while still maintaining levity about the situation. “How many out there just like me?” It is a painful question to ask, it is one that can convey the fear of loneliness, but at the same time, as Lacy showcases, contains the overwhelming hope for acceptance somewhere out there.