Rhye deals in patient, subtle movements. Whatever it is that gets you SEO on Spotify or whatever awful metric's value, Rhye is the opposite. The lyrics are deep but not until the third and fourth listens. The musical profundity is hidden behind routine motions. Blood blends alternative R&B flourishes with smooth soul and downtempo influences. The best Rhye songs are driven by groove but motivated by a raw sensuality unlike an underwear billboard on an interstate, communicating realized and repeated desire.
It was easy to think Rhye was a woman. I mean Mike Milosh’ smooth vocals have more in common with Sade or even Solange than Sufjan or whoever is a current indie hero. Plus they had a single called “Woman”? And an album. Plus the cover photos. But Milosh is proving here that he is the best self-harmonizer since Al Green. And can I just say that we need a critical reevaluation of Al Green? Call Me is the Southern Soul king.
Speaking of genres where rock and roll rewards theatrics and heroics, the best R&B and Soul reward repeated listens and subtlety. Like the low duo of piano hits on “Please” or the patient strings on “Song for You”. Stand out track “Stay Safe” creates a blend tickled strings and faint horns. “Phoenix” is the artist’s funkiest track yet, providing a late album wake up. “Softly” is an anthem for teenagers running from home to each other’s arms. But the two rhyming and opening tracks “Waste” and “Taste” are my picks for best mixtape inclusions as well as overall standouts. “Taste” has a groove that could last days, but they throw it out the window at three minutes to for a handsome ending.
So what has five years changed? Not much, in the best possible way. More smooth soul commentaries on sensuality and longing, more time shaped melodies and movements. The differences between their Woman and Blood are the subtle groove changes.
The snare drum on “Count to Five” is tight and quick without sounding programmed or perfected. The guitars hang in the background like Fela Kuti light creating a pillow for the string section to sleep on. Milosh understands that soul music flows from a place of groove, not computer generated tightness. The current EDM movement is a completely different strain of quantized intensity. Rhye cares more about emotion than perfection.
Don’t let the similarity of the songs throw you off — the overall groove of Blood is the goal, not the differences in songs. Do all the songs sound the same isn’t the right question. Rather, where can all these songs take you with headphones and closed eyes in sequence?
The year is new, but Blood is already a contender for album of the year. In 2017 everyone just talked about 2017 all the time, in 2018 let’s just talk about peace and vibes, and Blood. B PLUS