Blood Orange, "Freetown Sound" (Domino)
"Freetown Sound," the latest from Devonté Hynes A.K.A. Blood Orange, is a fascinating 17-track album approximating an AM radio sound collage of yore, pop hits blending with breaking news bulletins and history capsules.
Hynes, who was in dance-punk band Test Icicles in hometown London before relocating to New York and releasing material as Lightspeed Champion, says his third album as Blood Orange "plays like a long mixtape."
Fortunately, he never lets the eclecticism of the musical or spoken-word samples (Wally Badarou, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Mantronix or Charles Mingus, to name a few) or the long list of mostly female guests like Nelly Furtado, Debbie Harry or Lorely Rodriguez get in the way of strong hooks, captivating topics and skillful multi-layered arrangements.
Hynes' politics are both general and personal, examining "who I am at this point in life" while frequently depicting the wider picture.
Freetown, Sierra Leone, is his father's birthplace; "Juicy 1-4" references slavery and "Hands Up" is that news bulletin too close to home, advising you to "keep your hood off when you're walking."
Other highlights include "Hadron Collider," co-written and performed with Furtado; the P.M. Dawn-like soaring vocals of "Augustine" and its empathic take on race relations; the pure pop of "Best to You" with Rodriguez (who records as Empress Of); and the sax-driven heartbreak of "Squash Squash."
Thematically fragmented and musically cohesive, Blood Orange deftly explores the signs of the times on "Freetown Sound," interpreting what's going on both in and around us. It's a very 2016 album that should withstand the test of time.