Blood Orange – Coastal Grooves

(this was originally written for Hive, who hopefully I’m going to be doing a lot more for this year, keeping myself busy and all that. And on another note, this is my 100th post, a feat little old lazy me never expected! There will be more though I promise!)

I’m going to preface this with one fact: I’m a massive fan of Devonte Hynes. Be it as Test Icicles (R.I.P) or Lightspeed Champion, and now Blood Orange, there is one thing that attracts here, the man’s ability to capture a variety of emotions and evoke a sense of drama in a simple song. And that pretty much goes here too.

Album opener Forget It is a whirl of emotion and drama, lost in romantiscm, with an eerily beautiful chorus that consists of Hynes repeating “I am not you saviour” over an array of repetitious drums, which then descends into a full on gratuitous guitar solo, before coming full circle. It’s blissfully simple, and evocative of so many summer songs, absolute perfection. This is followed swiftly by Sutphin Boulevard, a heavier, even perhaps a hip-hop approach, that somehow manages to work. It loses all edge as it flows into the chorus (which I have to admit is ridiculously similar to the previous one musically) and raises suspicion, to me at least, that Coastal Grooves is a one trick pony.

However, that thought is dismissed when I’m Sorry I Lied kicks in. With a drum beat evocative of early Joy Division and a guitar-line that would sit at home in any spaghetti western, Hynes gentle vocals sit brilliantly. At times it does feel that the music overpowers, but the almost whispered vocal approach that is demonstrated occasionally is spot on. It’s easy to feel the pain here (be it Hynes’ or otherwise) which I often find is different to experience in the music, as its either overly saturated with emotion or lacking completely, but the balance here is perfect. Can We Go Outside continues the approach, with the sultry, and somewhat silky, music at odds with the gentle picking during the chorus that overshadows yet more of Hynes’ vocals. Which is unfortunate as its a pretty decent song bar this.

S’Cooled is another foray into the hip-hop side of things, but never far enough for me to dislike it (I’m one of those people that has a hatred of pretty much all hip-hop, I’m sorry). It allows the vocals to reach centre stage, and reveals what an under-rated lyricist and performer Devonte Hynes is. Complete Failure returnes to the sounds of the first couple of tracks, enhanced incredibly by some fantastic vocal harmonies and guitar trickery to boot. Instantly Blank (The Goodness) feels like a track that would have sounded very much at home on recent Lightspeed album Life Is Sweet Pleased To Meet You, yet the layering of his own vocals adds another dimension that makes it stand out as one of the better tracks on this album.

At 5 minutes long The Complete Knock feels so much longer, whether thats due to the track being incredibly repetitious, or my waning interest, it definitely not one of the best in tis collection (and thats without me even mentioning the slightly tragic electronic breakdown about 4 minutes into the track, almost as if straws are being grasped at to make it interesting). Followed by another lengthy track Are You Sure You’re Really Busy, it does pick up slightly. The depth of musical instruments here really creates an interesting, and somewhat melodramatic sound (which does really continue the vibe created by the title), sound that is another example of the drama and interest that a musician like Hynes can achieve in one simple track. Maybe if the album consisted of more tracks in this vein, and strength, it would be a better output.

Closer Champagne Coast sits well as the end to the album, as one of the most melodically interesting tracks on the album, but it also highlights the failures of the album. While it is a brilliant album, the scope of sounds is far too similar (with some tracks sounding almost identical), and though admittedly this album didn’t take Hynes very long, it could have done with longer to become not just another good album, but a bloody good one.

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