To talk about Gemini Rights by Steve Lacy is to admit to not being that cool. First off, I didn’t hear about the guy until he made multiple appearances on Vampire Weekend’s Father of The Bride, offering some vibrant guitar and vocal textures to “Sunflower” and “Flower Moon”. Though in my defense, I had given a few spins to his band The Internet’s 2018 album Hive Mind prior to FOTB coming out, even if it took me a little while to put these two things together. Also, while Lacy’s breakout single “Bad Habit” became one of the more beloved singles of the year and a sensation on TikTok (now one of our most reliable incubators of pop hits), I hadn’t really heard this song until the end of the year (because I’m old), not to mention the album it sits as the centerpiece of.
While “Bad Habit” is undeniably the stand-out track on Gemini Rights, it’s not some sort of anomaly. The rest of the album has a similarly laid-back, eclectically funky bent that feels indebted to the sounds of past R&B icons like Prince, Stevie, and D’Angelo, and yet is unusual enough that it doesn’t sound as blandly retro as say, Silk Sonic. There’s a little bit of tasteful sleaze that underlies everything, where the rhythms have a slightly dirty sound to them, though the songwriting itself has a more sincere approach to a young person dealing with the typical relationship woes that don’t feel so typical at that age.
Speaking of, it is pretty impressive that Lacy has already done so much career-wise at the age of 24 in a way that feels much more organic than the typical pop star trajectory. He’s dabbled in multiple different genres and musical worlds while cultivating a style all his own. Still, while listening to Gemini Rights, one can’t help but feel that his best work is still most likely ahead of him. The album sometimes feels a little too meandering for its 35-minute running time, which makes it feel like a trial run for some greater opus. And with all the different styles he puts together here, you could easily see him going that way with a big tentpole album in lieu of the success of “Bad Habit”, or you could see him forging his own weird, equally satisfying path outside of the mainstream as a rebuttal to it.