Take Flight with Steve Lacy’s ‘Apollo XXI’
In the 1960s, NASA’s Apollo program put a man on the moon. In the eyes of Americans, this achievement represented the dream to explore and search further. Sadly, the program ended due to budget cuts, but in the world of science fiction the mission lives on. Fictional stories that mention Apollo XXI use the mission as a setting for their outlandish fantasies. Steve Lacy’s “Apollo XXI” might be one of those fantasies. A world where Lacy is able to explore his sexual fantasies with no appraisal of his sexuality. The sphere he creates is open to the queerness that puts up a middle finger to heteronormativity.
“Apollo XXI” showcases his skills which make him unique. He employs the “Steve Lacy” formula, which consists of bringing a one-man-band approach to music. All production and songwriting are done by Steve Lacy (except for the song “Playground”). Lacy utilizes a falsetto and a single-chord guitar on all the tracks. At best, “Apollo XXI” comes off as a psychedelic, queer utopia. At worst, “Apollo XXI” is a rip-off to his influences — Prince and the Dirty Projectors. As a debut LP, Steve Lacy effortlessly shines. The album sounds like a continuation of the techniques which made his first EP, “Steve Lacy’s Demo,” so unique. “Apollo XXI” is a beautifully executed nod to the era.
As the song starts you’ll immediately be taken on a joy-ride down memory lane. The song resembles Prince’s musicality as Steve sings in a falsetto register throughout the song. Some may argue that this is a complete rip-off of Prince, however, in an interview with Zane Lowe, Steve mentioned that when making this song he was entering his “Prince Phase,” so comparisons are granted. The funkiness of the song is executed by the psychedelic guitar riff that blends perfectly together. In contrast to the upbeat and happy feeling, the lyrics are sad, as he sings “Remember all the days you left me by the phone / You love to hesitate, now you are the second place.” Steve uses this track like a diary, singing out his complaints. The ending result is a beautiful, groovy dance track.
Steve Lacy preaches his nostalgia and starts out his heartfelt album out with a passionate bang with “Only If.” Lacy evolves on his latest album, replacing the soft vocals from “Dark Red” with a wider vocal range and sonic landscape on “Apollo XXI.” “Only If” is filled to the brim with beautiful sounds that are constantly transforming. In under two minutes is a sonic journey through smooth melodies and isolated synths.
“Guide” reminds you of classic oldies while still maintaining a fresh sound. The record weaves in and out, similar to an upbeat, contemporary funk tune. Steve Lacy sings advice to a friend, “I could be your guide, know you’re gonna keep it under/I’ve been there before, you just got to get over.” The fast pace of this song represents the urgency of the request and how Steve Lacy is ready to support his friends.
This retro song will help lead the way into a sensual summer ‘19. In “Basement Jack,” Lacy maintains the retro theme, containing a consistent synth melody throughout the record. Steve Lacy takes this song as an opportunity to sing about his experiences exploring his sexuality, a common theme throughout “Apollo XXI.” He sings, “Touch me ’round my wasteland, I’ve been out the basement.” The basement represents the space where he explores his sexuality, and as Steve learns more about his sexuality, he leaves the basement in search of more.