Dev Hynes’s second full-length release as Blood Orange is a collection of lush and funky songs focused on the deep inner emotions of love’s onset and it’s ultimate estrangement. It’s called Cupid Deluxe.
At the front door “Chamakay” shuffles in with a smooth drum beat and vocals from Hynes that yearn and burn. He exhales every note, breathing deep breaths of serial longing on the microphone. His ache is front and center. His harmonies are weighed down by it. The song fades off with a slather of saxophone, an instrument that resurfaces often throughout the record.
Hynes is a British composer and songwriter. He has recorded albums as Lightspeed Champion and also with the band Test Icicles. Blood Orange came about after the dissolution of that band and the hiatus of Lightspeed Champion. Coastal Grooves was the first Blood Orange release with an emphasis on electronica and an R&B mood.
The tools at Hynes disposal could all be from the Eighties. Mainly, the groove of a chunky bass, a spirited guitar, to-the-point beats, synthesizers that cup the edges, and that wandering sax. It flutters along with a jogging bass line on “Uncle ACE,” while jabs of thick synthesizers compete with spiny guitars.
“Chosen” is a cresting wave of saxophone falling over an archepelaggio of crimped bass and guitar. “On The Line” meshes a hypnotic keyboard loop with a subtle bass grope. “Tell me baby, are you mine?” Hynes asks with a desperate energy in a drifting duet with Samantha Urbani, who lends her voice to seven tracks.
Hynes’s songs are quick dents into the lovelorn psyche. Each one instantly catches fire and burns steady with a groove that churns. He is the male version of Solange, who he has worked with. They both grace their flittering, midnight R&B with impish quivers. They both use their music as a vehicle of emotion.
On “You’re Not Good Enough” a guitar twang dips into the sappy romantic tale of a love left unrealized. The vocals alternate between the sexes, each one equally distraught. Hurling from the record’s blueprint is “Clipped On,” a blend of early 90s, record-scratching hip-hop with a bass line Sade would turn into gold.
As great as the songs on Cupid Deluxe are, they don’t expand much. They get locked in their groove, then become prisoners to that groove. It’s not always a bad thing, but there is a desire for surprise at times.
Every track on Cupid Deluxe has a deep longing and emotional pull to it. With Blood Orange, it is a formula that has become Hynes’s forte. With his pumping blood red heart infused with every note of his music he has birthed indie rock’s version of “soft rock.”