Steve Lacy's Breakup Album 'Gemini Rights' Is in a League of Its Own

Steve Lacy's Breakup Album 'Gemini Rights' Is in a League of Its Own
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Following in the tradition of many greats before him, Steve Lacy's latest effort is the lemonade squeezed from a sour relationship split. To compare it to any other breakup album would be unfair, though, because on Gemini Rights, Lacy both channels his predecessors and creates a peerless sound entirely of his own.

Playing with R&B, jazz, bossa nova, funk and rock 'n' roll like only he can, the Internet guitarist processes his grief by taking listeners on a rollercoaster of razor-edged anger ("Looking for a bitch because I'm over boys," he barks on album opener "Static"), scorching lust ("Bad Habit") and, ultimately, aching pleas for forgiveness on the tender closer "Give You the World."

Like he did on his Grammy-nominated debut, Apollo XXI, Lacy proves himself a student of the greats before him, wielding Prince's charisma and sugary falsetto, Jimi Hendrix's brash and boozy guitars, and Stevie Wonder's straightforward, ear-grabbing melodies. Refreshingly, he isn't trying to be any of them. Any resemblance is only subtle, for Lacy possesses a self-assuredness that not many master at the age of 24. At all times, he is decidedly — and confidently — himself.

Along the way on Gemini Rights, Lacy tucks apt features in the album's folds. New Jersey-born vocalist Fousheé lends her talents on lead single "Mercury" as well as ethereal duet "Sunshine," where she and Lacy play lovers on the brink of a relationship relapse. Listen closely and you'll hear Lacy's mother and sister providing background help on "Helmet," a hearty standout co-written by Diana Gordon, who's worked with the likes of Beyoncé and Mary J. Blige. Lacy has a quiet star power that doesn't need glossy assists and he knows this — he only adds supporting characters where they fit. Every addition is seamless and welcome.

It's hard to find fault with Gemini Rights, though Lacy's genre-defying, sometimes quirky kaleidoscope of sounds certainly isn't for everyone. There is plenty here that will please existing fans — and might even inspire a "hey, big head" text from his ex. (RCA)