The latest project from multi-disciplinary musician Dev Hynes is the most recent in a flourish of emotionally driven male songwriters professing a delicate balance between the sensuality of the eighties and the nonchalance of today.
Hynes adopted Blood Orange as his recording name for latest album Coastal Grooves because – and you can read the full interview here – he didn’t want his latest output to be compared to, or considered a radical departure from, his last album under the moniker Lightspeed Champion. It’s an understandable scenario. His former project was no-holds-barred pop; exhaustive melodies and uplifting choruses, with the occasional string arrangement adding lofty emotion to a plentiful display of earnest. Blood Orange, named after a comic book Hynes used to make, is a more subtle offering, more promising and ultimately more rewarding as a result.
Single ‘Sutphin Boulevard’ immediately displays a brooding, silky vocal range we had yet to hear from Hynes, and his lyrical sentiment - similar to that in Lightspeed Champion if not slightly more cryptic - harmonizes with plucky guitars and ambient, nondescript percussion until thematically appropriate keyboards and female backing vocals enter the fray for the chorus. It's a slow-build of delicate, realized parts, the importance of each remaining hidden until all are present.
The overall direction on Coastal Grooves is two fold. Tracks like ‘Forget It’ and ‘Can We Go Inside’ are minimalist ballads, utilizing Hyne’s vocal and lyrical ability and a lineage of sexualized, post punk frontmen; the mischevious sensuality of Edwyn Collins and Jarvis Cocker come to mind, the likes of which Twin Shadow is currently referencing similary, particularly on recent release Forget. Which is apt comparison actually because Hyne is also utilizing an ability – undoubtedly honed through recent work with Solange Knowles and the like – to write eloquent pop. ‘I’m Sorry We Lied’ and the aforementioned ‘Sutphin Boulevard’ are captivating as much for what they immediately display – glitchy percussion and subtle, melodic guitars – as for what they build to, and as a result ensconce one in their rhythm and their message.
While the adoption of a new moniker was probably unnecessary, it’s suggestive of an artist maturing into the person-slash-pseudonym he actually wants to be, and Coastal Grooves only cements this progress.