Rex Orange County is the obscurely sweet sad-boy we can’t get enough of

Rex Orange County, real name: Alexander O’Connor, is a soft rock swooner fond of stripped-back production, piano melodies and jazzy beats.

Rex Orange County rose to prominence after he was featured on Tyler, the Creator’s 2017 album Flower Boy.

There’s a sad-boy edge to his latest album, Who Cares? Don’t let the bouncy rhythms and perky melodies fool you. Recording during the COVID pandemic, following numerous cancelled gigs, the album has the sound and feel of a forced smile, as if Rex is putting on a brave face.

Rex Orange County tour
Press pic

The lyrics reveal a tortured mind. “Lonely here tonight, no one I can speak to right now, might remain here underneath the sheets”, he sings on Shoot Me Down.

While previous tracks like Uno and Laser Lights have contained hip hop elements – whimsical rhymes over jazz-infused melodies in the vein of Ed Sheeran rapping – Who Cares? is a safer venture but one sure to keep your head bobbing and your feet tapping. Gone is the quicker pace and auto-tune sounding vocals of tracks such as 10/10.

In Who Cares? you’ll find chirpy woodwinds, guitar melodies that trickle like minuscule waterfalls and orchestral-sounding strings straight out of a documentary about the royal family. There’s even a verse from Tyler, the Creator. It’s the type of music that would feature at a festival in the early afternoon while you lie on a hill, sunnies on, chewing the fat with your mates or on a children’s animated TV show, depending on who you ask.

Rex Orange County’s music is curiously mellow and laidback yet also angsty and youthful. It’s a fascinating and divisive style.

Rex Orange County is touring Australia in September this year, see full tour dates here.