London O'Connor

Circle/Triangle

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A sunbaked suburbia where one day bleeds into the next is no place for an artist as vibrant as London O'Connor, but fortunately, he transforms the boredom of growing up in San Marcos, California into O∆ (pronounced "circle triangle"), his freewheeling, heartfelt debut. Capturing a day in his life before he escaped to study music at NYU, O'Connor originally self-released the album in 2015 (True Panther reissued it two years later), and the way he breezily blurs the boundaries between chillwave, R&B, and rap feels just as independent. There's a joy to his music even when he's declaring his hatred for someone on the brash single "Guts," or depicting suburban life at its most stagnant: "Oatmeal" is a dreamy, slo-mo portrait of his uncle that serves as a cautionary tale about living life on a loop, while the endearingly groggy "Natural" sounds like O'Connor waking up to the dullness surrounding him. Throughout O∆, he pairs hazy sonics with razor-sharp lyrics: "All of us are out of it/And none of us are into it," he sighs on "Nobody Hangs Out Anymore," a glassy-eyed look at how he and his friends are disconnected by social media. O'Connor is just as deft at straddling the line between D.I.Y. and Top 40 ideals, whether he's nodding to the "captain's log" field recordings of his youth on the blissful interlude "Coordinates," or pairing his slightly squeaky falsetto with brassy synths on "Steal." These songs don't sound homemade, exactly -- it's more like they're memories of his early days viewed through a more polished prism of experience (indeed, the album was mixed and mastered by Bob Powers, who's also worked with D'Angelo, the Roots, and A Tribe Called Quest). It all makes for a perfectly imperfect debut from an artist who already knows how to immerse listeners into his world, completely and immediately.

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