Review: “Apolonio” balances youthful yearning and angst with playful, dreamy sounds

Omar Apollo’s newest nine-song album is a compact yet simultaneously sprawling project exploring growing pains. “Compact” in that it comes in at just under 26 minutes; “sprawling” in that, within that time frame, Apollo smoothly weaves together the all too relatable experiences of youth, including traversing turbulent relationships, figuring out one’s identity and learning to love oneself. 

“Apolonio” opens with the track “I’m Amazing,” which aptly sets the tone for the rest of the album. 

“I’m amazing, that’s what they tell me / I don’t think of that too much, it overwhelm me,” he sings, striking the delicate balance between trying to be happy being himself under the pressure of others’ expectations. The following lines address a previous broken relationship, hint at queerness and proudly claim his Mexican heritage — all themes that tumble out as the songs progress. 

Next is “Kamikaze,” one of the album’s most popular releases. Ever-playful, Apollo juxtaposes the pain of driving “nineteen hours” for a “pretty boy” who broke his heart with lines like “I ain’t really know you was freaky though / Ass round like Cheerios.” In such a way does Apollo reflect how many young people often cope with difficult emotions through humor. 

Personally, my favorite track off the album is “Stayback.” Apollo’s voice is at its dreamiest potential slow and easy, effortlessly transitioning between high and low notes with a funky, psychedelic beat coursing through the background. 

While Apollo acknowledges “I can’t help that you been on my mind,” he also recognizes that the relationship he has with the song’s subject is not good for him because “you could never love me back.” Given the choice between pursuing an unhealthy relationship and taking care of himself, Apollo bravely chooses himself and bids his unrequited lover to “stayback” so Apollo can heal. 

“Dos Uno Nueve (219)” is placed in the middle of the album, breaking up the heartache theme dominating thus far. An homage to his Mexican heritage, Apollo swaps out the dreamlike instrumentals for more traditional guitar plucking and English for Spanish. The song is corrido-style, so he discusses the hardships he’s experienced in his life to earn the success he has now. 

My one qualm with “Apolonio” is with “Hey Boy,” featuring Kali Uchis — it’s simply too short! Uchis and Apollo’s voices blend to create an unbelievably beautiful atmosphere that almost transcends the entire album, and Uchis’s lyric, “I love those feelings that you bottled, you should pour ’em on me,” is especially clever. Were this song extended another verse, it had the potential to be the album’s best. 

Regardless, “Apolonio” is a large success. “Useless” is another standout track for its collaboration with Strokes guitarist Albert Hammond Jr., while “Bi Fren” takes on a more upbeat sound compared to preceding songs on the album. “Apolonio” as a whole culminates with “The Two of Us,” a soft song that suggests a hopeful love on the horizon amidst past heartbreaks. 

Stream the album today on your preferred music listening service and find yourself immersed in Apollo’s musical dreamscape.