When Mundo Musique was first started in September 2013, Devonté Hynes – a.k.a. Blood Orange – was one of the first artists to be showcased, specifically “Chamakay”, the first single from Blood Orange’s second LP, Cupid Deluxe. Although the album was released back in November 2013 and was included on our list of 81 great albums of 2013, I didn’t do justice to Hynes’ work, and now is as good as a time as any to revisit his excellent second album.
You may have come across Hynes’ name at the end of 2013, possibly for the wrong and misunderstood reasons. Eight days before Christmas, the NYC apartment building that Hynes was living in burnt down. Hynes lost everything – all his personal possessions, his life’s work, and his puppy Cupid. Hynes didn’t have insurance, so his girlfriend’s mother immediately started a crowdfunding campaign with the goal of raising $5,000 to help Hynes get his life restarted (Hynes was unaware of the campaign), and fans and fellow musicians responded in waves, donating nearly $25,000 within a couple of days.
A couple of days after the fire, Holly Baxter of The Guardian wrote an ill-timed blog that criticized celebrity crowdfunding with Hynes’ situation as the main focus of her commentary. The fire and Baxter’s statements took attention away from the outstanding work that Hynes had produced that year. Instead, he was mired in a “controversy” of which he wanted no part (you can judge for yourself if Baxter’s comments were warranted by reading her comments here).
Hynes’ name, though, should be identified with being one of the best singer-songwriters and musicians of his generation. He’s written songs for some of the biggest and emerging musical acts in the business, including The Chemical Brothers and Solange, Beyoncé’s little sister. He’s also written for and performed with Florence + The Machine.
As a solo artist, his take on R&B, funk, and pop is refreshing and imaginative from the generic, formulaic, Top-40 pop music permeating on radio stations across the globe. His debut album as Blood Orange (he’s performed with other bands in the past), Coastal Grooves, was one of the best albums of 2011 with its groove-heavy, Prince-inspired sounds.
On his latest effort, Cupid Deluxe, Hynes slows the pace a bit. While still a funky, groovy, thoughtful album, Hynes adopts a more midtempo beat. The album is also filled with guest appearances, including by David Longstreth of Dirty Projectors, Chairlift’s Caroline Polachek, Samantha Urbani of Friends, Clams Casino, Despot, and Adam Bainbridge of Kindness.
The opening single, “Chamakay”, is a slow groove song about dedication, love, and unity. The video, which is below, was shot in Georgetown, Guyana, his mother’s hometown. The album’s closer, “Time Will Tell”, is a great, funky song that was done in a single 15-minute take and done ad hocly, yet it might be the stunner on this great album.
The album, though, is more than just another record – it is an homage to the young people of New York City. On “Uncle Ace”, the catchiest number on the album, Hynes sings about youth entering prostitution in their struggle to survive. His albums as Blood Orange can also be considered tributes to the LGBTI community and depictions of his own personal experiences with the issue of sexuality. In a great article by Jason Lamphier of OUT, Hynes says of visiting the gay bars and clubs in London, ““Oh my God, it was just the best. It’s still in the music I make, that feeling of being free in a city — liberated. It’s still a feeling I have, just being here.”
2014 is shaping up to be a great year for Hynes after the heartbreak of how 2013 ended. In February, he played to a soldout audience at the iconic Bowery Ballroom in New York. Last week, he gave a TED Talk, where he played a few songs and described his life as a “synesthete” – a person who associates sound with colours and vice versa. And this spring, the score he produced for Gia Coppola’s debut film, Palo Alto, which is based on a set of short stories by James Franco, will be released.
While Hynes may not be a household name just yet, he’s still among the most influential musicians and producers in the business. And given Hynes’ low-key and unassuming nature, he might just prefer being away from the spotlight but just to let his music and work speak for themselves.
Website – http://bloodorangeforever.tumblr.com/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/pages/Blood-Orange/141094315950968
Twitter – https://twitter.com/devhynes
Front photograph by Stacey Mark
Toronto’s The Honeyrunners are a self-described “soul-trenched, indie-rock band”. Comprising of Marcus Bucci (guitar and vocals), Dan Dwoskin (keyboard and lead vocals), Brandon Robins (drums and vocals), and Mike Bolton (bass and vocals), the scruffy quartet have a sound reminiscent of classic rock bands, such as The Black Crowes and the pre-MTV Aerosmith.
The band released an EP in 2012, which can be purchased on their Bandcamp site (see below). The songs are upbeat and optimistic. The opening track, “Jet Set” is a catchy, pop-rock song that has a big of swing mixed in to the melody, a la emerging retro blues-rock group Vintage Trouble. “Spirits” could be mistaken for a track The Black Crowes could have produced with its southern rock feel, and it is the best track on the EP. “Out of My Mind” has a Gregg Allman feel – keyboard-infused southern rock.
The Honeyrunners are in the midst of producing a second album, which they anticipate will come out this summer. Their little teaser of the album indicates the album will continue to provide a modern spin to southern rock. There’s definitely talent in this band, and their next album will be worth checking out later this year.
If you’re interested in learning more about the Toronto indie-rock, you can check out their website, Facebook page, and Twitter.
Photograph obtained from The Honeyrunners’ Facebook page.
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