I have known lacey—a pseudonym for a friend who makes DIY electronica and hip hop—since middle school, and in high school, he became one of my best friends and a frequent music comrade. We shared similar tastes, created music together and both played trumpet. I heard him develop his incredibly talented and keen ear, saw his passion for jazz grow and witnessed his gradual annoyance for the trumpet.
I saw him deal with his on-and-off-again relationship, drugs and alcohol and general social anxiety. As we both went to our respective colleges, I only witnessed these things during breaks. Through breaks, I learned from him that he was playing more jazz piano—a love he began to feel during the second half of high school—and doing better, albeit still a bit depressed.
The effect creating music was having on his psyche was beautiful to see. Bogged down by academics during high school, he never seemed to have enough time to focus on what really made him happy, and with his newfound time in college and stronger desire to create, lacey poured his emotions and inner conflicts into his music, fusing them with his love for melancholy hip-hop and some of the things he was learning from jazz piano.
Over the past several months, he has been making many recordings featuring jazzy synths and auto-tuned vocals, all autobiographical. This past Friday, May 20, he released his first album, “apples.” In its twenty minutes, “apples” shares with its listeners lacey’s troubles and thoughts, which were only known to me and to a few other close friends prior to its release. While I am not usually one for slower, poppy hip-hop with auto-tuned vocals, this album drew me in and gave me a lot of insight to how my good friend was doing.
While he seems the same when I talk to him, the album shows lacey’s recognition of his problems—he is still slightly heartbroken and struggles with smoking weed too much even though he sees its negative effect on him. The courage, however, to tell his listeners these facts and transform them into hauntingly beautiful music is remarkable and shows his growth as a person and musician. Aside from the personal connection I have to “apples” and its creator, I also learned to dig the music, separate from its personal significance.
The soundscape and production lacey establishes with the first track and continues for the rest of the album is alluring in a hypnotic way, and in general, the album has a lethargic, dreamy feel. This feel is mixed with lacey’s knowledge of jazz, providing a unique sound to an otherwise more run-of-the-mill hip-hop album. With hip voicings and a loose, improvisational feel to some moments, “apples” is most definitely a poppy hip hop album with elements of jazz sneaking in.
At its first few listens, “apples” may seem cheesy or devoid of depth, but that will certainly change with an open ear and compassion for its creator. While very different from the jams lacey and I have had together, I am happy to see him being honest and creative through his music.
Favorite tracks: “white night,” “already gone,” “lovelace,” and “forsaken.” You can hear “apples” by lacey at https://soundcloud.com/nicholas-ansell-lacey/sets.