British producer and songwriter Dev Hynes has worked with the likes of Basement Jaxx, Florence & The Machine, Theophilus London, Solange Knowles, Cassie, Diana Vickers, and somewhere along the way, he created two monikers for himself, Lightspeed Champion and Blood Orange. Two years since shedding himself of the folk Lightspeed Champion, Hynes has created a new album under the Blood Orange moniker. The latest album, Coastal Grooves
is the soundtrack to New York nightlife; the grit, the glitter, and the drag queens. The album was inspired by the transvestites of Jennie Livingston's heavily influential NYC documentary, Paris Is Burning
. Coastal Grooves
is a city that never sleeps, from the underground to the brightly lit sidewalks.
Hynes' real skills lie in his guitar playing, and here he brings in the influence of both American Western and East Asian, with '80s post-punk undertones. His appealingly breathy vocals provide an interest contrast to his tight instrumentals. He takes a minimalistic approach with all of the album's ten songs, never really seeming to arrive at the chorus. Then again, Hynes may just be staying in tune with the overall theme of endless city nights. A few of the songs show off his vocal prowess, especially the opener, "Forget It" and "The Complete Knock."
"Forget It" sets the bar for the rest of the album, quickly settling into Asian inspired instrumentals, a mysterious bassline, cascading guitars, and the repeated line, "I am not your savior, baby girl." Although the songs in between "Forget It" and the "The Complete Knock" are easy to listen to, there is a slight slump where the heavy guitars and lush vocals fall into a similar pattern and songs slowly mesh into one. However, on "The Complete Knock" Hynes takes on some surf-pop melodies, a glimmer of light in an otherwise ominous album. And it's definitely needed, because before "The Complete Knock" comes around, there is far too little of a range between songs, and after a while they can be almost indistinguishable.
Hynes demonstrates his serene side in the album's closer, "Champagne Coast," which is the strongest song on the Coastal Grooves
. This song sounds straight out of the eighties with smooth overlapping falsetto vocals, with steady keyboards rising above, in a powerfully subtle send off, despite the feeling that Coastal Grooves
lacks a sense of conclusiveness. And knowing Dev's prolific nature, this feeling makes sense.
See Dev as his other project, Lightspeed Champion, in one of our concert videos.