Dev Hynes continues to innovate: ‘Blood Orange’ offers unique and addictive sound


Contributing Writer

What do Sky Ferreira’s “Everything’s Embarrassing” and Solange’s “Losing You,” arguably two of 2013’s greatest pop tracks, have in common? Besides the fact that they’re both great to dance to while alone in your dorm room (please, as if you haven’t), they were both written and produced by the lovely and brilliant synesthete Devonté (or “Dev”) Hynes.

Hynes, who by no means should be defined simply by his relation to Sky and Solange, has been releasing a steady string of tunes for years now. Though he was a member of the post-punk dance-pop outfit Test Icicles from 2004 to 2006, his first major effort as a solo artist was realized in 2007 when he released a full-length album under the moniker Lightspeed Champion. “Falling Off the Lavender Bridge” is dreamy and melodic, a unique mix of Hynes’s heart-wrenchingly gorgeous lyrics and a softened country ethic. Though Hynes is a native Brit, the American sound was undeniably ingrained in his work as Lightspeed Champion. This might in part be due to Hynes’s wildly-western roots—while raised in Essex, he was born in Texas—or that the album was recorded in Nebraska. In any case, the record is stellar; from “Galaxy of the Lost,” which is both moany and ecstatic, to the cheekily-titled, cheekily-sung “Everyone I Know Is Listening to Crunk,” the whole effort is a genuine dream.

And a dream it seems to have become—Hynes ditched Lightspeed Champion a while back and has since been working on his latest project, Blood Orange. Our loss is simultaneously our gain, though, because Blood Orange is equally (if not more) as excitingly developed as any of Hynes’s previous work. His first album, “Coastal Grooves” (2011), hooks you from the start with “Forget It.” The album slinks and wanders delicately throughout, weaving moodily edged yet fast-paced riffs through his Grace Jones-meets-Prince style and into a tidy stew of heavenly sound. Listen only if you’re willing to become addicted.

Blood Orange’s second album, “Cupid Deluxe,” dropped late last year. While in many ways cleaner-sounding than “Coastal Grooves,” the album is still similarly dominated by guitar riffs. Keep an ear out for cameos from tunes on “Coastal Grooves,” too, where Hynes builds on previous themes. The album also boasts the addition of Samantha Urbani’s angelic supporting vocals (fun gossipy fact: Samantha is Hynes’s girlfriend, whom he met through Twitter). While every track is beautiful in its own right, it’s the rawness of Hynes’s lyrics—honesty about love, your expectations and the anxiety of the world that you live in—that really makes the album such a rapture.

If you’re now patiently awaiting his next endeavor, you can tide yourself over with Hynes’s collaborations with other artists—the most recent of which, “Figure It Out,” was made with Theophilus London (among others) and can be downloaded directly from London’s site. You can also check out Hynes’s presence on both Twitter and Instagram, though be forewarned: do not follow if you have a history of suffering from FOMO (fear of missing out). When I see Hynes’s posts, I know I sometimes wish I lived a life like his.

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