Under Review: Blood Orange – Coastal Grooves

If you’re an emerging musician, it’s best to stick with a name that people will remember. It’s becoming more and more popular for solo artists to use enigmatic, band-like names for their one-person ventures, but even those acts stick with a single pseudonym. As he is in many ways different from his peers, it should be no surprise that Dev Hynes has no problem with reinventing himself more than once. Originally a member of the jittery dance-punk band Test Icicles, Hynes dubbed himself Lightspeed Champion for a pair of delightfully complex releases. His debut, Falling Off The Lavender Bridge, was a sophisticated venture into meticulously arranged alt-country. Its follow up, last year’s Life Is Sweet! Nice To Meet You, featured a much stronger pop influence as well as many chances for Hynes to show off his electric guitar prowess. This year, Hynes has made an adjustment to the sound of his music and, accordingly, has given himself a new stage name. As Blood Orange, Hynes explores for heavily synthesized soundscapes and even more experimental forms on Coastal Grooves.

Despite the new name and adjusted sound, Coastal Grooves is still easily identifiable as being Hynes’ work. Opener “Forget It” begins with Hynes’ intimately pleading vocals and is carried by a nervous beat. His refrain of “I am not your savior, baby girl” is another in a long line of unlikely turns of phrase that Hynes has twisted into catchy hooks. Musically, there’s a strong dance and funk influence throughout Coastal Grooves. “S’Cooled” has a thick, rubbery bassline and “The Complete Knock” sounds like a lost tape from the mid-‘80s. Hynes changes gears throughout the album, letting his guitar and voice paint vivid pictures of the empty city at night. Things get particularly spooky on “Can We Go Inside Now,” a track built around spindly intertwining guitar lines. Though the absence of an earlier single, “Dinner,” is a bit disappointing, the strutting “Sutphin Boulevard” serves as a more than satisfactory replacement. There’s no telling how long Hynes will stick with this identity, but his continued creativity is proof that a good artist by any name is still plenty sweet.

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~ by E. on August 3, 2011.

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