Straight outta Provo… comes a lazy rap reference! In hindsight, I am sorry for it. My apologies.
Let’s start again. Apt. Is it short for “apartment”? I don’t know. Apt, as in “appropriate” or “likely to do something” or “quick to learn”? No idea. Ask Adam Hochhalter next time you find yourself at a rap show in Provo, UT.
Apt is an emcee in and co-founder of the House of Lewis, a rap collective of Provo, UT-based rappers and DJs. His latest album, (almost), was released in April via iTunes, BandCamp, Amazon, GooglePlay, etc.
It’s a doozy. It features Apt in collaborations with House of Lewis, Tyler Glenn (of Neon Trees), Dusk Raps, and Nate Pyfer, and it is a great example of the Midwest hip hop aesthetic. You know what though? No matter what label or sublabel you want to stick on Apt’s (almost), it doesn’t matter once you fire it up.
I’ve got news for you. If Apt only released the first two tracks, “Almost” and “A Petty Tantrum,” it would be enough. Really. These two songs work together, and they form up a rock-solid opening to (almost). Take a listen.
Album by way of Spotify:
Album via SoundCloud:
As I mentioned above, the album kicks off with “Almost,” a song that whizzes and hums its way into your consciousness. And when Apt sighs, “hit the streets with synthesizers buzzing in your ears,” you know you have just stumbled onto something interesting. It fades into the next track with a statement to himself.
“Stop. Just stop. They’re not evening listening yet.”
“A Petty Tantrum” sounds like Trent Reznor did the music to the original “Miami Vice” TV show, and yes, that should definitely make you want to listen to “Tantrum” over and over. You should be listening now.
Apt drops references to Alice in Chains, “emo rappers,” and hits you hard with the uniquely self-aware line, “let me be blunt, no one listens to my cuts.” It is wrapped in a steady beat that dares you to not nod your head (impossible), and is fed by a feistiness that is infectious.
After the fairly incendiary opening, what comes next is bound to be something of a disappointment. “Marrow” isn’t really disappointing per se. It just feels a little less focused, and maybe that’s the point. Apt’s rhymes are still there, though. I particularly love, “from coffee cup to coffee cup to Ambien, and back again.”
Tyler Glenn of Neon Trees offers his voice to the hook, and keeps the proceedings moving in the right direction.
“Antonius Block” features a distorted, slinky melody over which Apt monotones his mood in a menace that Dusk Raps only builds upon. It’s an intense experience: a vague memory of hearing Pretty Hate Machine for the first time, and everything that goes along with it.
The pressure lifts a bit in the middle with “Two Birds” (featuring Nate Pyfer) and “So.” The first is built on a spare guitar run, and the line, “accidentally killed two birds with one stone, never even realized the rock was thrown.” “So” is a lush, echo-y ballad that builds keys upon keys upon the faint sounds of crickets in the distance. It is a really nice touch.
Act III of (almost) kicks of with “Arc,” a playful workout complete with superfunk keyboard flourishes. It contains the second instance of using the term “stop” to dramatic effect. For a supercut of this concept click on over to the AVClub (it’s worth it).
The fun is over just as quickly as it began with “Deep End,” which features the House of Lewis. It feels like you’re running out of steam treading water in the, well, the deep end. One of the HoL guest vocalists repeatedly yells, “godammit, Adam,” and I don’t know exactly who is yelling, or why, but you feel it. It’s a little jarring.
“30/32” continues where “Deep End” left off, sonically, but opens like the start of the album on “Almost.” Static and noise that you can just barely make out, layered and layered until Apt bursts out with an odd opening line to the end of an album.
“Can’t breathe, I can’t make the words sway. Things on my chest, I gotta get off in the worst way.”
By the end of the track, it is clear that Apt really does have a lot to say. It’s a gigantic emotional buildup that will make an empathetic, involved listener slap a hand over his/her mouth in momentary panic.
Then, the release.
Listen. You will know what I mean if you take it all in, and there is definitely a payoff in doing it. Music is like that. Apt knows it, and I think if you are reading this, so do you.