Editors’ Notes A. G. Cook gave people just seven days to digest 7G—his 49-track first solo album— before unveiling Apple, a leaner set of 10 songs he described as his “second debut” on social media. “I knew it’d be a slightly troll moment giving people so much music and then announcing my debut,” Cook tells Apple Music. “But nothing would really explain my artist approach better than these two contrasting albums.” Having founded influential UK label PC Music back in 2013, Cook has spent close to a decade as one of leftfield pop’s most pioneering and sought-out figures, lending production to boundary-breaking artists including Charli XCX and Hannah Diamond. And yet, until 2020, he rarely seemed willing to step out. “I’d been avoiding doing some kind of debut album,” he says. “But I think it would almost feel strange after a while not to do my own version. I’d be selling the whole thing a bit short if I didn’t try it.”

Apple, says Cook, is like a “radio-dial experience,” with a track listing that he describes as “in your face, swinging between acoustic and electronic.” Here, lo-fi guitars, dreamy melodies, and Cook’s vocals get twisted and distorted through Auto-Tune, before Apple U-turns towards thudding, thrilling instrumentals (see: “Xxoplex,” “Airhead,” or “Stargon”). And while those bedroom guitars might come as a surprise to early PC fans, Apple’s boundless spirit certainly won’t. This is an album questioning, as the scene Cook helped establish always has, what can be created in the outskirts and the spaces in between. “There’s a sense of breaking down some of those barriers and being on the cusp of two different things or genres,” he says. “All of the tracks have an element of that freedom to move between things that would be considered a binary. It’s disregarding that completely and replacing it with something as much fluid.” Here, Cook walks us through Apple, one track at a time.

Oh Yeah
“The lightness in this song sounds like the beginning of something. Even when I’m working with other artists, I try and always avoid things that are, like, a grand opening. I was listening to a lot of Shania Twain, and it’s hard to think of any influence for this song that’s clearer. Especially those really enormous Shania albums, like Up! or Come On Over, which were produced by her husband at the time, Robert Lange. He’s famous for making these sort of slick rock recordings. The bit when this song comes together at the end with that vocal guitar solo is something I’ve played around with on other PC tracks. But I think it was really nice to do something that starts in a relatively straightforward way, but which is then clearly being tricky with the different instruments.”

Xxoplex
“I like that the title of this song encourages an alien-sounding word, because we were sort of imagining it as a kind of alien presence. It’s playing a bit with EDM and the crazy titles that that kind of stuff can have. But it’s also quite literal, because I was actually staying at Charli’s house [when I did it], and I think that’s why I just typed the extra X. It’s really playful—like anything could happen at any point. I don’t know if it was subconscious or something that I was really thinking about, but the main rhythm is sort of this England football chant. For me, it’s making some tie between anthemic hooligan energy, mixed with something that’s really overt like EDM in America.”

Beautiful Superstar
“I’m making what I’m somewhat jokingly calling ‘extreme vocals.’ But it’s doing these slightly prosthetic things to my voice that wouldn’t really be possible, and then doing it with someone—Alaska Reid, who’s on here in a backing vocal sense—who can sing in a much purer way. ‘Beautiful Superstar’ is sort of the most traditional song in some ways, including structurally. As I was fleshing out the lyrics, I couldn't resist referencing ‘Beautiful,’ the first single I did, and ‘Superstar,’ the second. And it’s just funny for me that the two track names—both track names I like individually anyway—combine in a way that actually has some logic. Whenever I do a slightly more structured song, I’ll play with these weirdly long outros that are kind of dreamlike.”

Animals
“This is a cover of ‘Animals’ by Oneohtrix Point Never. Originally I intended to have way more covers on this album, and obviously some of those found themselves on 7G. I’m quite an intense listener of things and often try to figure out other people’s songs, whether it’s chord progressions or productions or sounds. With this one, I was working at Oneohtrix Point Never’s studio for a little bit when he was away. I’m known for being someone who is supposedly an avatar, and for making things electronic or whatever, but I could see a really cool way to humanize that track. I’m sort of doing the reverse process to it—really extrapolating it and trying to stay really true to it, but also singing it in my own range. The Vocaloid could just do those infinitely long notes no problem. I’m really trying to do them properly and I’m doing every little blip and breath in an analog way. I was trying to reference a lot of the more psychedelic ’60s, ’70s pop music when people were first trying to put electronic sounds over a guitar.”

Airhead
“The genesis of this song is quite confusing. I made parts of it for a DJ show at this really massive virtual festival by Porter Robinson that I supported. And I just wanted an intro which would sound completely brutal on massive speakers. I was also playing with this pluck synth sound that kind of started sounding like guitar to me, even though it’s very particular and precise. So I was already interested in a distorted synth and a synth that sounded like a plucked guitar. Then I started using material from an unreleased project—a song my friend Finn Keane wrote. And then my friend Hayden Dunham [aka singer QT] and I were working on a project and we redid some of the lyrics so it would work on this version. It’s using as many songs in one, including a sample of a song that doesn’t exist yet. It doesn’t fully make sense, apart from the fact that every bit of music gradually feels more euphoric.”

Haunted
“Definitely one of my favorites in terms of how nicely it came together. I was recording it in a shed in Montana. After playing around with guitar tricks and things like that, I was just in this small room recording this one very simple progression and the vocals, which are just demo vocals—the wordless raw lyrics that I did to figure out a melody over that. And then I got Alaska to sing these individual cut-up versions of the exact thing I was playing on guitar. It’s clearly dipping quite heavily into acoustic kind of sounds, but then it’s also elevating them. It starts to feel definitely like some kind of computer arrangement—my voice is raw but it’s all just super heavy Auto-Tune. Compositionally, it sort of goes around and gets slightly more intense the second time. In retrospect, I was definitely influenced by Dirty Projectors, who I used to listen to a lot.”

The Darkness
“An outlier, in a nice way, to the rest of the album. And it was funny putting a track name like ‘The Darkness’ after ‘Haunted.’ This is probably one that was most in that headspace [of writing pop music for other people] in the way that, rhythmically, it sounds a bit more synthy and the vocal lines are a little bit closer to the pop music stuff that I would come up with. But I also didn’t want to take it to that full, pop music, concise, hook conclusion. There was a Hannah Diamond-ish quality to some of the lyrics here, and it was this funny thing where I was working with her on her album part of the time, so I was also thinking of my own interpretation of ‘Reflections.’ These are perhaps the most real lyrics to me—thinking about old relationships and how I can be trying to look at things too positively. Hannah’s kind of like an enabler sometimes in the way of trying to see the positive light in things in a kind of dark place. So I think it’s really about that.”

Jumper
“This was a collaboration with my friend Nico, who produces under the name Nömak and also Ö, who is involved in a bunch of the Charli productions. He’s an amazing sound manipulator. He was like, ‘Let’s put the entire guitar through Auto-Tune and listen to it screw up.’ And then we were recording each other’s vocals—I’m doing the verses and he’s doing the choruses, which is why the accent changes. I really wanted it to all feel like topsy-turvy—like a misstep, this falling around. There’s a double meaning of ‘jumper.’ In British English, it’s a sweatshirt, but can also be literally jumping around and spinning away. All the words and lyrics were written really fast and have this slightly surreal sense of confusion and excitement. This song is very nostalgic in a way, but it’s also very literally in the blender. I was born in 1990, and I can remember bits of the initial base of the internet, where everyone was creative. And now the idea is that you’re supposed to upload things from your day-to-day real life. And your name should be your legal name, and all these things. It seemed to be a good moment to just talk about how janky all of our own personal representation is.”

Stargon
“As an instrumental track, I was already really enjoying how ‘Xxoplex’ and ‘Airhead’ had worked amongst everything. But there was one stone that was still unturned—the Supersaw, saw wave, synthy tuning. I realized that if you detuned the Supersaw to the maximum, you actually get these really beautiful chords. I wanted to write an entire track around that idea. It’s about these harsh sounds that can actually be opened up in something really gentle and then tighten up really extreme and then opened up again. I constantly try not to make PC stuff political, but I think one of the reasons it’s maybe also struck a bit of a political chord in general is that sense of breaking down some of those barriers and being on the cusp of two different things or genres, or of the underground and mainstream.”

Lifeline
“This was the official start of the campaign. It felt like the right time to plant the seed of me doing something as an artist’s project, without giving away that I’d be doing an album. ‘Lifeline’ is a really old demo, and I just sung that lyric over that funny progression. I really overworked it, actually, with so many versions and attempts at it. People have told me that it’s like a power ballad, and I do really enjoy that style of music and weird tempos and the sort of drums and melody combinations you can get away with. ‘Lifeline’ is almost about trying to make a song, trying to finish a song and having a weird connection to it. It feels like a nice moment where you could potentially loop back to track one.”

1
3:32
 
2
2:35
 
3
4:42
 
4
4:07
 
5
4:37
 
6
2:50
 
7
5:11
 
8
3:04
 
9
4:51
 
10
4:06
 

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