"Gemini Rights": Steve Lacy Invites Listeners into his Brilliantly Refined Garage Palace
After a wait of more than three years, songwriter/producer/guitarist Steve Lacy delivered his second studio album, Gemini Rights, on July 17th, 2022. Since the release of his Demo EP in 2017 and debut LP, Apollo XXI, in 2019, Lacy has found increasing success as a solo act through the popularity of songs such as “Dark Red” and “N Side” on TikTok and other platforms. Let’s see if Gemini Rights lives up to the hype.
Aside from his early work with R&B outfit The Internet, much of Steve Lacy's solo catalog thus far has been purposefully minimal, as seen in his 2017 debut EP rightfully titled Steve Lacy’s Demo or his 2020 collection The Lo-Fis. These two projects are riddled with catchy hooks and fun riffs, with most songs hovering around the one or two minute mark. While the works contain standout tracks such as “Dark Red” and “Infrunami”, there is clear untapped potential in most songs that amount to no more than quick "vibes". Lacy’s debut album, Apollo XXI, housed more complete, musically dense tracks such as “N Side” and “Hate CD" but the artist’s ambition still seemed scattered and hectic on tracks such as the nine-minute, three-pronged “Like Me” or the painfully underdeveloped “In Lust we Trust". While all of Lacy’s previous work perfectly embodied him as a crafty instrumentalist with an indie flare, it was abundantly clear that he had much room to grow.
On Gemini Rights, Lacy takes the colorful instrumentation and sonic quirks that have come to define his sound and crafts his most musically complete and well-rounded project to date. Tracks that would have been mere “grooves” on other projects are now fully-fledged songs, sonically evolving from start to finish and packed with multiple musical layers. The album’s three singles best exemplify Lacy’s growth as an artist. “Mercury” is an intoxicating journey, its simple cowbell and tambourine beat carrying a series of changes, from the infectious opening vocals (“Ba ba ba baaaa”) to the droning tale of Lacy’s first verse and the hopeful, bright horn passage at the song’s end. The album’s most popular song, “Bad Habit”, starts as a playful indie hit, but transforms via a soft vocal bridge into a groovy, distorted outro that complements the tune perfectly. “Sunshine”, the project’s third single, starts as a delightful garage jam with singer Fousheé, later escalating into a beautifully energized, guitar-filled outro with contributions from both Lacy and his collaborator. All of these tracks demonstrate Lacy’s ability to create fully-formed musical journeys while still maintaining his minimalistic garage sound.
The album opens with the somber “Static”, its desolate piano juxtaposed with the frankness of Steve’s vocal delivery. A soft bed of guitar strings then joins the mix, laying underneath Lacy’s croons as the intro track gracefully comes to a halt. The groovy “Helmet” immediately follows, its playful bassline and light guitar twangs forming an unorthodox jam that perfectly encapsulates Lacy’s trademark sound. The muddy groove then makes way for a light, dancing piano as the song reaches its final seconds, comprised of soulful backing vocals that give the track a satisfying finality. The dirty yet elegant “Buttons” is an even better example of Lacy’s ability to incorporate his sonic oddities into a fully formed track. The tune begins with a heavy bassline and stomping drums, leaving room for a bed of baroque synthesizers to lay into the track as the song escalates into a sequence of striking electric guitars that mark its end.
The second half of Gemini Rights, aside from the blissful “Sunshine”, is not as concentrated and developed as the first, but it still contains ear-catching moments that justify the inclusion of all ten of the album’s tracks. “2Gether (Enterlude)” is a nice palette-cleanser, decorated with glittering keys and soft guitar strums that accompany the croons of Lacy and collaborator Matt Martians of The Internet. “Cody Freestyle” is perhaps the weakest link of the album. Although its inclusion in the tracklist makes sense thematically, the unchanging, barren synth landscape that the tune provides gives it far less replay value than its album counterparts. Still, the rising keyboard passage towards the end makes the song worth listening to in its entirety. “Amber” is another bright spot on the album, the bluesy piano groove easing listeners into things before Lacy’s almost nightmarish refrain of “I wish I never met you no more” sets the scene for a funkily yearning guitar solo. “Give You the World” is a pleasant send off for Lacy’s best work, a soulful ballad adorned with the soft glissandos of synths and the careful strums of guitar. While the album does not end as perfectly as it starts, it is without a doubt Steve Lacy’s best sonic work to date. For this feat, the sound of Gemini Rights receives a 9/10 on Intersect Magazine’s rating scale.
For all of the instrumental and stylistic variety that Steve Lacy demonstrates throughout Gemini Rights, the album is able to maintain lyrical consistency around a central theme: disdain for an ex-lover.
The story of the album is established immediately. “Static” describes Steve’s disappointment with a former partner who uses drugs and men to fill the void of heartbreak, while “Helmet” sees the artist trying to distance himself from leftover feelings with the catchy refrain “allow me to let go of you”. The concept of Lacy needing a “helmet” for his heart is an example of the newfound vulnerability he expresses on this project as he struggles with the loose ends of a toxic relationship. “Cody Freestyle” and “Amber” best express said feelings of regret and annoyance with a cold candor in lyrics such as “don't depend on me unless you swallowing” and the latter track’s emotional outro of “I wish I never met you no more”. The honesty of Lacy’s lyrics throughout these tracks is a great complement to the brightness of their instrumentation.
"I wish I never met you no more"
While the majority of the cuts off of Gemini Rights are negative in tone, songs such as “Sunshine”, “Bad Habit”, and “Give You the World” display a childlike sense of attachment, perhaps the kind that Lacy tries to avoid. Lines such as “damn, this is love, I finally found it, haha” at the tail end of “Sunshine” or “kinda mad that I didn’t take a stab at it” after the playful hook of “Bad Habit” exhibit the other side of the conflicting relationship that Steve has with his ex. “Mercury” sees Lacy recognizing the issues present in his love life and his inability to decipher his true feelings: “Oh, I know myself, my sins, dug my pit, then I fell in”.
Steve Lacy has always shined the brightest lyrically through his earworm hooks and eccentric bridges, and Gemini Rights is no different. While the album is far from flawlessly lyrically nuanced, Lacy makes up for it with catchy and colorful passages such as the “I wish I knew you wanted me” hook of “Bad Habit” or the “I still, I still love you” outro of Sunshine. It is clear throughout this project that Lacy is most concerned with the sound of his lyrics in conjunction with the instrumentation of his songs, even if this album displays more focused songwriting. For the increased openness, emotion, and fun of Steve Lacy’s writing, while still allowing sonics to take center stage, Gemini Rights receives a 7.5/10 on the Intersect Magazine Rating Scale for Lyrics.
THE ART BEHIND THE ALBUM:
Gemini Rights is Steve Lacy’s most dense project to date, and is, without a doubt, the most rewarding for listeners. In its relatively brief runtime, Lacy manages to infuse modern-day indie funk with elements of garage rock, blues, 70s soul music, and even 20th century bossa nova without making the tracklist feel scattered. The album is tied together neatly via a compelling theme and Lacy’s trademark artistic personality, making the short listen rich with both substance and ear candy.
The astrological theme of Gemini Rights, while not overt aside from mentions in “Mercury” and “Bad Habit”, is consistent with the emotion that Lacy portrays throughout the album. Stereotypically, Geminis can be described as indecisive, emotional, and occasionally unreliable in relationships–characteristics that are all seen in Lacy’s back-and-forth feelings with his ex in many songs. Gemini Rights is not just a tale of loose ends in a muddled relationship, it is the lived representation of a Gemini’s psyche, both lyrically and musically. For the project’s sonic diversity, thematic cohesion, and replay value, the art behind Gemini Rights receives a 9/10 on Intersect's rating scale.
INTERSECT MAGAZINE'S TOP TRACKS:
APPLE MUSIC'S TOP TRACKS:
Overall, Gemini Rights receives an 8.5 on the Intersect Magazine Rating Scale. Listen to the album below and let us know what you think.