Album Review: Blood Orange – Cupid Deluxe3 min read
Dev Hynes is one busy man, and he has been for the better part of a decade. Test Icicles, Lightspeed Champion, writing for other artists to even penning a book, Hynes’ creative juices are oozing from his every pore. Since 2011, subtle electronica has been the tonic of choice, and under the moniker of Blood Orange, will Hynes make a lasting stain on the current musical landscape?
If you know anything of Blood Orange’s recent body of work, you would know that Hynes’ back catalogue is strewn with hits composed, written or co-written for other artists. Solange Knowles’s True EP, Sky Ferriera’s mega-hit Everything Is Embarrassing, Flatlines with Mutya Keisha Siobhan (aka. the original incarnation of Brit girl-group Sugababes), it is a case of hit after intriguing hit. In regards to Cupid Deluxe – the second Blood Orange album following 2011’s Coastal Grooves – the sound can only be described as emotionally infused retro-funk. Following the stratospheric landing of Daft Punk’s massive album Random Access Memories, one cannot help but observe that Cupid Deluxe bleeds a lot from that sound. At first, this is almost surprising, but then it becomes almost cliched, with a large proportion of the songs here adhering to such a Chic influenced sound. Songs such as recent single You’re Not Good Enough and Uncle Ace are riddled with funk despite being experimental and contemporary, whilst the musical time machine whirrs onwards with songs such as Chosen, Time Will Tell and Clipped On drawing inspiration from the more sophisticated side of pop from when the ’80’s morphed into the ’90’s.
Elsewhere, there are a variety of factors to whet the appetite. The skittish drumbeats of On The Line work surprisingly well to compliment the smooth piano and bass, whilst High Street, a case of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it, showcases a minimalistic composition which, combined with the vocal efforts of British rapper Skepta, makes for a standout album track. And if you are into features, they come aplenty here, with the addition of Dave Longstreth of Dirty Projectors, Clams Casino, Samantha Urbani of Friends, and Chairlift’s Caroline Polachek, and it is the song featuring Polachek that is perhaps the album’s highlight. Opening track and lead single Chamakay is subtle and emotive, with Hynes and Polachek’s voices entwining in a manner that makes the listener feel borderline intrusive.
After the demise of many a Hynes led project, it may now be a surer bet to say that he has hit the nail on the head with the advent of Blood Orange. Whether he chooses to wear his influences on his sleeve or not, it is hard to deny that Hynes is a musical chameleon, and Cupid Deluxe proves to be a triumph in re-invention, honing his sound to a seamless, richly textured ocean of sound. However, despite this being a strong and classy album, the seamless nature of the songs begins to work against the album in the sense that the majority of tracks are composed in a similar vein. This factor becomes almost irrelevant however, in the sense that Hynes has evidently honed his formula into an exotic and potent concoction, and with Cupid Deluxe, the listener will more than be struck with its arrow.
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