KJ Apa is a New Zealand born actor and musician, he got his start on New Zealand’s longest running drama and soap opera, Shortland Street, where he played Kane Jenkins from 2013 to 2015. He also featured in a YA Drama in New Zealand, called The Cul de Sac, where he played Jack, one of the youngsters trying to survive in a world without adults. He has received the most critical acclaim and recognition for his role as Archie Andrews on the CW show, Riverdale (based upon the characters from Archie Comics). Oh while I remember, Apa isn’t the only musical cast member on Riverdale, and I’m not just talking about their musical episodes, I’ve previously reviewed fellow alumni Vanessa Morgan, solo which you can check out here, and as part of the musical duo These Girls These Boys, where she performs alongside Drew Ray Tanner, a fellow Riverdale cast member, and you can check that out here.
Returning to Apa though, and moving away from his acting career, today I will be reviewing his debut Album ‘Clocks’ which was released on 23rd September 2021.
‘Again’ opens with guitars, the gentle strings creating a nice melody as Apa’s voice and although I’m already somewhat familiar with his voice from has performances on Riverdale, this is a whole different beast, firstly because he’s singing in his native New Zealand accent which adds a different energy to the track but also because he’s had time to grow and develop as a musician, in part due to his time on Riverdale, so by this point he’s more polished and confident as a performer. I liked this track, it’s soft and easy going, the guitars are strong, but what really makes this song is the strength of those vocals.
‘Song For Luke’ is very touching, whether or not you’re a fan of Riverdale, Luke Perry’s passing was a massive loss to his fans, friends and family alike. They worked it into the show, dealing with it with an appropriate level of depth and sincerity, but it’s nice to hear these thoughts and this sweet tribute to the actor who played Apa’s dad on the show. Again, beyond the emotional significance of the track, what’s truly impressive is Apa’s vocal strength, he turns this simple and yet meaningful song into something truly spectacular on the quality of his singing alone.
‘Knots Over You’ has a sort of dream-like quality to it, the vocals sort of float over you and you are just caught up in the melody, it’s also in this track that Apa’s accent comes through most clearly of the tracks we’ve heard so far. I really like getting to hear an artist perform in their native accent or language, it always gives it a feel of authenticity, because too often for mainstream appeal musicians are taught to censor and edit the way they talk and as someone from Scotland, it’s rarer than I would like to hear someone from Scotland sing in their genuine unedited accent. Apa really does slow and melancholic really well, you can feel the emotion in his voice.
‘Wish Came True’ his voice is deeper in this track, you can feel him dipping up and down on his vocal range, and it works really well, you get to see additional sides to his voice, but nonetheless you still get the same bittersweet, melodic feel which seems to be a trademark of the artist, or at the very least the album.
‘Time’ has a slow build, some sensational guitar work, simple and understated and yet it richly builds beneath his voice making for a really rich and textured performance. Just as he went deeper vocally in the last track, he reaches higher tones in this one, providing a nice balance between tracks. It works really well, as I’ve already said, I think he’s a talented vocalist and I enjoy hearing more facets of his vocal style. This track does speed things up a little, the guitar which provides the instrumental backing is more fast paced, a nice tight rhyming riff that is largely consistent throughout the song and gives it a little bit more of an energetic vibe.
‘Crystal Angel’ slows things down again, the deep, sustaining chords flow forward immediately, and they just fill you up, some truly superb playing that’s raised ever higher, as the vocals kick in, Apa’s voice suits this slow, even tempo, and as this track progresses I just want to close my eyes and let the music wash over me. I think it’s probably my favourite on the album, followed very closely by ‘Time’ and believe me it was hard picking just one favourite as the album is packed full of great music, but this one just takes the lead because of the great vocals, poignant lyrics and some stand out guitar stuff towards the end.
‘Fresh Freedom’ is very light and airy, from the string accompaniment to the vocals, it’s just very open and easy. It’s got a nice melody to it, jaunty and it flows really well. Even though I’ve already stated my personal favourites, I think I ended up listening to this track the most out of all the other tracks on the album.
‘Everything’ very much follows on from the vibe of the last one, it’s very open and light, it’s very sweet as well, and has some great guitar work, the melody is really nice, it’s got a kinda easy listening feel to it which I think works really well. I like a lot of the music I tend to listen to, but I’m often more forgiving of debut works, but honestly there’s no reason to pull any punches as Apa’s debut album is genuinely good.
‘Beautiful Things (ft. Clara Berry)’ continues with the lightness, the soft but vibrant guitar playing and the soulful, rich vocals. I liked this track especially because it features the vocal talents of Apa’s partner Clara. She brings a different quality to the track, as they share their own beautiful thing that they have together through this song. It’s warm and nice and a great song through and through.
‘Guitars’ as befitting of the title has some amazing guitar work, it feels to my ears very Latin infused, but either way, Apa is a great guitar player and he really shows off his skills in this very simple and yet very engaging and high energy performance. I think this was a strong closer, from a great first album, and I’m excited to hear more from Apa in the future.
So that’s what I thought of KJ Apa’s debut album ‘Clocks’ and if you want to check that out for yourself then head on over to Spotify. While you’re at it, make sure and support the artist by following them on Facebook and Instagram.
First Published on: https://offtherecordblog.org/