Dev Hynes changes names like most of us change pants, you know, once or twice a week. First there was Test Icicles, then Lightspeed Champion, and now Blood Orange. While names may come and go, Dev will always be the same, and Coastal Groove, his new record, finds him sort of running in place, albeit a more 80s influenced place.
When “Forget It” hits your speakers, those familiars won’t find too much different than the most recent Lightspeed Champion record. But, the slightest nuance can change things; you’ll notice a more electronic beat driving the track, but Dev’s sultry voice is always front and center. Moving right into “Sulphin Boulevard” will have you catching the essence of the entirety of Coastal Grooves. There’s a delicateness to every musical note, breathing sexuality over electronic down-tempo tunes a la Twin Shadow.
It’d be real easy to throw lots of Prince allusions throughout this first record by Blood Orange, especially if you catch the vocal performance on “Instantly Blank,” but that’s probably selling Hynes short, as he’s always had this odd combination of indie rock and R&B; this is one of the reasons I’ve always adored his work. But, for the majority of the record this sort of feels like his attempt at mediocre bedroom pop, and that might not be his foray; if you strip him of his orchestration, he seems less dramatic, less artistic even.
One of the saving graces about Mr. Hynes is that he’s always been fairly open about his projects, willing to do pretty much anything he’s asked, just for the sake of it. That being said, there are some successful tracks that I’ve found myself jamming to throughout the day, such as “The Complete Knock” with its steady stuttering guitar line kicking off a nice little groove throughout. “Are You Sure You’re Really Busy” seems like the track where he could take off into a different level, as the drama in his voice, wavering ever so slightly gives this track an extra step above the rest of Coastal Grooves.
For what it’s worth, this isn’t a bad record at all; I’ve heard much worse (from the Foo Fighters) this year alone. Yet, having followed Dev for quite some time now, I can’t help but be a little let down by the entire Blood Orange project. He’s missing something here, such as his orchestration or his flare for spinning words into new melodies mid-word. Coastal Grooves seems to lose a bit of focus, turning out the same guitar line over and over, but I’m still going to get into it over time because that’s just what Dev deserves.