The evolution of Dev Hynes hits a heady peak on the new Blood Orange release, Cupid Deluxe. After the punk rock implosion of Test Icicles and a couple of earnest indie rock recordings under the Lightspeed Champion moniker, Hynes adopted a more dance-orientated, new wave sound for 2011’s underrated Blood Orange debut, Coastal Grooves. Perhaps his greatest exposure has come from co-writing and producing songs with others, notably the recent successes for Solange (‘Losing You’) and Sky Ferreira (‘Everything Is Embarrassing’).
Hynes’ dabbling with an accessible pop sound has had a big influence on Cupid Deluxe, which confidently combines all that he has learnt into one big, bubbling funk-pop-dance cauldron. The mix of melancholy subject matter and upbeat pop instrumentation that made Coastal Grooves so alluring is potently realised on this follow-up. Hynes had warned, “I am not your saviour, baby girl” on the opener of his last album, and he takes this warning to a new level on the narcissistic, mean-spirited ‘You’re Not Good Enough’. The following track, ‘Uncle Ace’, is a gorgeous chunk of funk – it’s the most uplifting, fun song you’ll ever hear about the homeless LGBT community in New York.
As the album progresses, the guest musicians become more prominent. It’s unusual that Hynes’ most definitive work is also his most guest-heavy, though perhaps this is a sign that collaborating is where his strength lies. Dirty Projectors’ David Longstreth delivers a star turn in the Clams Casino-infused ‘No Right Thing’, while girlfriend and Friends vocalist Samantha Urbani duets on the delicate, soothing ‘It Is What It Is’.
It’s soft, emotive and seductive; close to one of the best albums of 2013. Just ignore any reviews calling it ‘chillwave’. Let’s agree to never use that word again, shall we?
BY CHRIS GIRDLER
Cupid Deluxe is out now through Domino.