Picture this: it is mid-June, and you are ready to stick your teeth into festival season. Friday morning; you and your mates have just woken up at your Airbnb; you overslept so breakfast is hasty (depending on country: a pop into Greggs, or Wendy’s). 10:30am. You have all congregated in your absurd festival attire. Applying the finishing touches (stars, glitter, etc.) you get your group pictures for your socials. You don’t even need to go to the festival at this point, you have enough proof. As you all squeeze in the car and clamour over the AUX cord, you decide on something you can all enjoy. Now. You are sad because it is 2020 and obviously none of this can happen. It is the worst feeling. However, there is one album primed to lift your spirits this summer, and it is courtesy of RAC.
‘BOY’ is the third solo album from André Allen Anjos, the Portuguese-American producer best known as RAC. Having built a following for his spirited remixes for artists like The Shins, Phoenix and Lana Del Rey, his transformation to a solo artist has been fruitful. Anjos has produced one album every three years since 2014, and ‘BOY’ is a highlight: a wide-ranging, yet focused record that many can, and will, enjoy. It is tinged in sun, community and guitar licks. ‘BOY’ perfectly embodies that intoxicating youthful promise of hope, rejection and intrigue.
Speaking of the process behind his latest project, Anjos commented: “I was just writing and writing and writing. I wrote so many demos, and I kept coming back to this theme of childhood.” The complexity of the world through the eyes of The Youth is a common fixture across ‘BOY’. On ‘Sweater’, Maddie Jay dreamily sings of her lover: “It‘s been a while since someone else’s jokes have made me smile” opens the song. With its cooed chorus and breezy arrangement, it is a ridiculously sweet track. ‘Oakland’ finds Winnetka Bowling League singing about the need to move on to somewhere else on an equally bouncy beat.
One of ‘BOY’’s biggest achievements is naturally encapsulating the perspective of a young person in 2020. As Anjos is 35, his teenage days are long behind him but ‘BOY’ is a body of work that can pass off as youthful. Lyrics like “Slim into some DM’s” and “They’ve all got their juul pods” appear on the album’s first proper track ‘Boomerang’. Lead single ‘Stuck on You’ features the line “I muted your ‘gram.” The bridge to ‘MIA’ goes: “Ever since you went MIA, I’ve been stuck in my bed all day, staring at my telephone screen, waiting for an SMS in your name.” You would not think at first glance this is music from someone 13 years into their career.
It is only further helped by how entertaining these songs are. The former is a relatively low-key start. It is delightfully delicate; guitar flicks and carefully harmonised words create a sense of despondency above the pretty melody. ‘MIA’ is similarly despondent albeit very chirpy. Already geared for TikTok dominance with its overly performative vocals (“The fuck did I do?”), it is a really well fleshed out number. As for the aforementioned lead single, it is indeed a great single. Another sincere and heartfelt number, it is perfect to drive with the top down, after lockdown.
RAC’s USP of guitar-inflected bops is what ties this project together. With a smattering of collaborators, his distinct sound anchors the narrative. ‘Next To You’, one of the album’s lesser moments, is spearheaded by a dominant riff. Emerson Leif’s feature is commendable, if only for having a more confrontational tone compared to the plethora of hushed dulcet voices.
However a stand-out is ‘Passion’. Here, RAC works alongside Louis the Child, an electronic duo that have used the template of guitar-led EDM hits RAC laid out and taken it further. Together the two artists have chemistry in spades. With a chorus tempting you to join in (“Passion”, “Expression”, are stretched out, teasing a sing-along), it is a future festival favourite.
With a daunting eighteen songs, you might be deterred from completion. However the final stretch picks it up. ‘Get A Life’ is so stupidly catchy. Instupendo softly moans over the dumbest of fun melodies whereas ‘Change the Story’ finds British neo-soul hero bringing his natural infectious energy into an organic bop.
That is not to say this album is smooth sailing. As previously mentioned, eighteen songs is no walk in the park. Despite clocking in at forty-seven minutes (RAC’s shortest to date), there are eighteen tracks and not all of them can be winners. ‘Carefree’ is a shot in the foot; a song of such little interest that the terms ‘carefree’ and ‘thoughtless’ are interchangeable. Four of the eighteen are instrumental interludes which breeze by without notice. Stripping those away would tighten the record up and, at fourteen songs, would seem far more digestible.
Saving one of the best to last, however, is ‘Better Days’. The third collaboration between RAC and St. Lucia, it is a cosy closer. Cinematic and nostalgic, it is a gorgeous slow-burner: school discos would be so lucky to employ this.
Sure, this year is a festival-free nightmare but that does not mean you cannot pretend. RAC’s third record is his strongest so far; a relevant, slick sound with a kindred spirit. With some of his best writing and ever-improving production, it is a step in the right direction. ‘BOY’ might just make you nostalgic for something you never had.
‘BOY‘ by RAC is out now via Counter Records