This is the third album for Devonté Hynes’ Blood Orange project – and it is the best one yet. Hynes is an intriguing character, capable of writing with great competence in a variety of different musical styles, but this updated form of 1980s funk is definitely his most personal form of communication. He could not have achieved a record of this intensity without a collaborator or two. On ‘Freetown Sound’ the members of his live band are present, as well as vocalists from Porches, Kindness and Chairlift, giving the songs more depth and a perfect foil to his hushed tones. There are hooks aplenty, and the choruses to ‘E.V.P.’, ‘Hands Up’ and ‘Better Than Me’ are stone cold winners, harnessing the spirit of Prince. Yet there are some really strong political statements on race, appearance, sex and religion that get you thinking as well as foot tapping. These lead indirectly to some extremely personal writing, and on occasion Hynes appears to be mumbling to himself about insecurities and even – in ‘I Know’ – offering some life changing insights. Clearly this was a cathartic record for him to make, and its execution is sometimes achieved with a really sparse production in the manner of Pharrell’s work for Snoop Dogg around the time of ‘Drop It Like It’s Hot’, drawing the ear in to all the intricate arrangements and vocals. ‘Freetown Sound’ may be a bit of a sprawling record, and in places sounds a little unfinished, if not enigmatic. But it has funk and soul aplenty, and is one of the most human records you will encounter this year. The more you hear it, the harder it becomes to walk away from it!
5 out of 5
Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood