Monday, February 17th, 2020

Rex Orange County – Face to Face

Unfortunately, we don’t give bonus points for colored vinyl…


Michael Hong: Once an underground indie cult hero and Tyler, The Creator collaborator, now a certified cornball, Rex Orange County turns to a house of mirrors to fill his track but the echoes don’t mask the emptiness of the poorly laid-out musings or the clinking toy-ish production.

Kylo Nocom: Dubiously named “bedroom pop” remains one of the most underrated current movements, definitely due to the algorithmic paranoia that comes with it as well as the lack of any critical legitimacy to support the opinions of those that do like it. As the scene begins to wilt, it’s shocking to see who’s surviving; namely, Rex Orange County’s top five songs on Spotify don’t include a single song off his recent album. He’s an easy target, and often worthy of being shat upon for being corny, but for the most part the best things he does are some of the most competent “indie pop” music of the last half of the decade. “Face to Face” imitates the way that crowd-pleasing vocal harmonies develop, as in “Best Friend” and “Sunflower,” but Rex notably takes on more rap-like cadences. This is a fault, because he sucks at rapping. Yet the overwhelming ethos of modern bedroom pop remains: nothing can actually be so inoffensive it’s offensive, so make the safest thing you can and let the pleasure come naturally. I can agree with that.

Scott Mildenhall: Conversational and exposed without ever reaching cloying, “Face to Face” fares well from its emotional cascades. It’s dreamlike in several senses: hazy, disconnected and beautified yet awry. Thus it’s hard to tell if addresser and addressee ever share the same space in the events described, but preferable to imagine that they all happen with the pair on separate continents, even intimate moments mediated by distance; the obvious irony of a face-to-face from opposing sides of the world. The intermittently ornate arrangement is therefore suitably restrained, like a memory of romantic cliché. It’s not expansive, but trapped.

Josh Langhoff: Mraz’s style of winsome porkpie jive-puke faded with the rise of the Sheeran Season, but examples of it persist today. In one particularly gruesome instance, a horde of disembodied arched eyebrows staggered across the land, insisting the line “we speak face to face from the head” constituted wordplay.

Alfred Soto: I suspect he thinks “I grew up/you grew down” is an aphorism for the ages as much as the glockenspiel, rhythm guitar, and the hip hop-influenced folk rock tempos impressed A&R men (do they still exist?). He’s passive when not required, cruel when unnecessary, and oatmeal-voiced when this trend is disappearing. So why is this track crippled by the fusses?  

Thomas Inskeep: The singing/rapping thing, the quasi-confessional lyrics about a woman in whom the protagonist is interested, the un-production production: apparently, Ed Sheeran’s influence has infiltrated “alt-rock,” too. (I put “alt-rock” in quotes, because this is absolutely an out-of-touch record exec’s idea of alt-rock.) This isn’t just bad, it’s so shit it makes me angry.

Brad Shoup: Folk-rap Gilbert O’Sullivan, with an arrangement that anticipates its own Classroom Instruments segment. Which means, I guess, that this will become this decade’s “American Boy.”

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