Listing all of Dev Hynes’ musical endeavours to date would be a process almost as exhausting listening to them. Let’s just say then that Blood Orange is the latest leg of a journey has seen the ex-Londoner start out in new rave forefathers Test Icicles and lately develop a fondness for skeletal R&B-infused arrangements. In between, our reluctant hero paid his rent as a songwriter for hire to Florence Welch and Diana Vickers which, alongside a throat operation in 2010, goes some way to explaining his newfound quivering falsetto and fondness for the female worldview.
Like most of Hynes’ projects, Coastal Grooves is a lush, artful thing to adore from far away. When you get close, it’s a bit hard to embrace in a full on bear hug. Opening track ‘Forget It’ is a phenomenally refreshing listen, the slick funky click of its backing track is offset by a bittersweet cascade of oriental guitar. “This is chuffing brilliant,” you’ll think. “Give me some more!”
And more is what you’ll get, more of pretty much the same for another nine tracks. This really isn’t that much of a bad thing either. It’s just the intoxicating nature of that elastic bass and the self-loathing lyrics it’s twinned with which leave you wishing Hynes had stretched his fabulous concept further. By the time the slow stomp of single ‘Sutphin Boulevard’ and twitch around a sixpence sound of ‘I’m Sorry we Lied’ have revealed themselves, so has Coastal Grooves.
‘Can We Go Inside Now’ sags from the effort of maintaining an extreme air of nonchalance in the face of a slack tempo. Likewise, ‘Complete Failure’ is all too aware that it’s cruising in third gear but can just about get away with it. For all complaints that not enough has been done with a rarefied treat however, ‘Champagne Coast’ has an answer. The cherry on top of a sugared indulgence, Hynes’ “come to my bedroom” coos and sombre piano chords crystallise what is one of his finest outings to date.
Infectious, melodic and an utter confirmation of his restless talents, hopefully the former Lightspeed Champion man will stick with the silky tones of Coastal Grooves for long enough to fully refine them. If not, rest assured he’ll come up another album that’s decent enough.