Album Review: Omar Apollo – Apolonio

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Apolonio is the first official album by American singer-songwriter Omar Apolonio Velasco, formally known at Omar Apollo. After his first two projects, Stereo and Friends, both officially EPs, Apolonio marks his first album. Borne out of a creative sweep during a year in turmoil, Apollo’s album delves into his feelings of vulnerability, a personal style which is garnering attention from an ever-growing cohort of gen-Z admirers in particular.

‘‘Kamikaze’s upbeat tempo, whilst being a song about a failing relationship, lends itself to the back-and-forth of endeavouring to keep a flame alive.’

This vulnerability is an inherent quality in the songs in the album. Its opener ‘I’m Amazing’ talks about the emptiness he feels despite having recently found success. The song’s title is a front, as Apollo reminisces about when he and his lover were still together. Drifting apart from a former loved one becomes a motif throughout the album, especially in ‘Kamikaze’; back when he was younger in ‘rain drop December’, he and his lover would ‘move like tsunamis’. But now, they are strangers ‘like kamikaze’, as if Apollo’s mood has nose-dived towards depression. This drives him to the feeling that he will ‘lose it’ without his other half, as expressed in ‘Useless’.

Despite touching on the sad topic of lost love, Apollo’s songs still ooze sexiness. ‘Kamikaze’s upbeat tempo, whilst being a song about a failing relationship, lends itself to the back-and-forth of endeavouring to keep a flame alive. ‘Useless’ meanwhile, is perhaps the album’s most upbeat track, as if strumming his guitar will play the pain away.

Apolonio is anything if not minimalistic, which is plain to see in ‘Want U Around’, a perfect expression of Apollo’s longing and loneliness. This song expresses no need for complication; the word ‘you’ is repeated 36 times over the 4-minute song, whose story clearly anchors in a former partner. The empty space between each refrain gives us an impression of the void left in his heart. This emptiness is something that recurs in ‘Stayback’ as well. Now, after emotional hurt, he can treat an old relationship like a distant memory.

‘Apollo manages to create an experience of fleeting emotional flashes.’

Apollo never steers away from showing off his Chicano routes either. ‘Dos uno nueve (219)’ transports you to sunny Mexico with its guitarrón introduction. The title is a reference to the area code in which Velasco grew up in Indiana. He uses Spanish predominantly to pay homage to his Mexican upbringing, and to show how far he has come, arguably the most positive song in terms of its story.

The only qualm one could have with this project is its brevity. Despite featuring 9 different songs, the longest of his projects in that sense, Apolonio is over within 25 minutes. ‘Hey boy’ features the talented Kali Uchis, but for only one and a half minutes. Apollo teases you back in with a suave guitar progression near the end, but the song is over in the blink of an eye. Likewise Ruel’s raspingly affecting feature in ‘Want U Around’ lasts only a few lines. By doing this, Apollo manages to create an experience of fleeting emotional flashes. No sooner is one raw emotion here, than the next displaces it.

Featured Image: Omar Apollo at Brooklyn Steel in 2019, via Wikimedia Commons.

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