If someone had told you back in 2005 that one of the three young men responsible for the awesome spazz-rock racket that was Test Icicles’ first and only record For Screening Purposes Only would two years later release an album of twee emo-pop featuring some of the Saddle Creek label’s biggest names, or that in less than a decade he would be penning tunes for Britney Spears and Kylie Minogue, you most likely would have called that person an idiot and filed those suggestions away alongside “Arcade Fire make a dance-rock double-LP featuring David Bowie” in the “things least likely to happen” section of your brain. But, as we have seen, stranger things have happened and however surreal it may seem, Devonte Hynes – one-time fixture on London’s indie-punk scene, comic book artist, serial collaborator and former Lightspeed Champion – currently resides as one of pop’s hottest songwriting properties. Cupid Deluxe, Hynes’ second full-length under the Blood Orange moniker, finds the 27-year old mining the same territory that yielded his most critically-acclaimed works to date – Sky Ferreira’s “Everything Is Embarrasing” and Solange’s “Losing You” – and once again striking gold: fusing synthetic ’80s soul and ’90s R&B with guitars and understated lo-fi production, Hynes has made an album that not only perfectly captures the zeitgeist but also feels like the culmination of indie-rock’s increasingly obsessive decade-long dalliance with mainstream pop music. Alongside a host of guest vocalists (Dirty Projectors’ Dave Longstreth, Chairlift’s Caroline Polachek, Kindness, rapper Despot, UK grime MC Skepta and – most notably – Samantha Urbani of Friends) Hynes coos and struts his way through dubby minimalism (“Chamakay“), Prince-ly disco (“You’re Not Good Enough”), choral soul-jazz (“Chosen”) and rubbery funk (“No Right Thing”, “Always Let U Down”), circling his ensemble cast like a movie director, populating the shot with details both obvious (saxophone, natch) and otherwise (kalimba!) and adding enough twists to keep even the most cynical listener on their toes: “Uncle Ace”‘s climactic free-jazz freakout, “On The Line”‘s sputtering drum machine, Despot’s snarling, Nas-like turn on “Clipped On”, Skepta reminiscing dolefully on “High Street”. Clearly Hynes is more comfortable with his buddies around him – you only have to feel the heat coming off his duets with girlfriend Urbani, or hear how his voice and Longstreth’s practically melt into one another to see how well he plays with others – but it’s equally evident that he is the leader of this particular pack, the man with the plan ensuring everyone adheres to his singular musical vision. He may speed through phases, reinventing himself at a rate that would make even the aforementioned Mr. Bowie dizzy, but whilst he keeps landing squarely on trend only a fool would criticise Hynes for his chameleonic tendencies.
Cupid Deluxe is out November 12 via Domino Recording Co.; check out “You’re Not Good Enough” and stream the whole album below.