In light of current events, and June being Pride Month, the staff at Spinnaker has decided to use our platform as an opportunity to highlight black and LGBTQ+ artists. This week, our selected review is of the 2011 album “Coastal Grooves” by Blood Orange. Known for his other solo project, Lightspeed Champion, Blood Orange is the funk/RNB solo project of musician Dev Hynes. Similar to his inspiration, Prince, Hynes explores themes of gender fluidity throughout his imagery and music, while not directly labeling himself as anything.
Forget It: The first track on “Coastal Grooves” acts as a subtle introduction to the album. It’s a mid-tempo track, featuring a consistent bass riff, soft drum beats, and electric guitar solos. Vocalist Dev Hynes lets his range shine in this track as he repeats throughout “I’m not your savior” in a dramatic, matter-of-fact tone.
Sutphin Boulevard: The instrumentals in this track seem to be heavily influenced by ‘80s acts like Billy Idol, featuring simple synths, chimes, plucked electric guitar, 808s, and female vocals harmonizing in the background. The lyrics themselves are short and somewhat confusing — either it’s too intricate for me to understand without prior knowledge of how Hynes wrote the song, or it’s just random phrases skewed together. Regardless, the intense sounding instrumentals on this track makes it one of the standouts on “Coastal Grooves.”
I’m Sorry We Lied: This is probably my favorite track off the album. The introduction in this song is unbelievably strong — pulsating drum beats, persistent bass riffs, and nearly Western sounding guitar riffs. Combined with synths and Hynes’ delicate, passionate voice, the track comes off as eerie and haunting. It’s very reminiscent of something you’d hear on a Prince album. While the lyrics are still slightly convoluted, they’re clearer than the previous tracks — it’s an ode to a lover, but the intense instrumentals and accusatory lyrics lead listeners to believe there’s more to the story than what the lyrics let on.
Can We Go Inside Now: This is the slowest track on the album, with the focus primarily being on the story the lyrics tell, rather than intense instrumentals. Supported by nothing except tasteful auto-tune and plucked guitars, Hynes tells the story of a runaway traveling throughout the West Coast. The lyrics “Oh, I was a lonely girl, I grew up fast, I took my Tahoe to go somewhere where the boys lust” allude to themes of gender fluidity, as Hynes uses a first-person perspective in the song.
S’Cooled: The structure of this track is interesting. Instead of following a traditional format including verses, choruses, and a bridge, Hynes merely repeats a refrain twice. Again, the lyrics are slightly confusing — this is something I’ve grown used to expecting from a Blood Orange album. The instrumentals, however, are strong: a funk beat complemented by electric guitar riffs and sound effects.
Complete Failure: Much like the previous track, “Complete Failure” has a unique song structure. Instead of the repetition of a refrain, Hynes chooses to sing only two verses. While it’s strange to hear a song with no chorus, the instruments create an eerie feeling. He implements using Western-styled guitar riffs, breathy vocals, and a looming bass line — overall, creating an unnerving feeling.
Instantly Blank (The Goodness): Among the ten tracks on “Coastal Grooves,” this is one of the standout tracks. When Hynes embraces a more alternative funk sound, his talent shines. Alongside a pulsating drum beat and synths, Hynes mixes sang and spoken-word lyrics to create a unique, versatile song. As he declares his love for an unknown partner, he explores different ranges and styles of singing. It’s unlike anything else on the album, and the risk pays off.
The Complete Knock: Opening with a deep bass line and plucked electric guitar, the track soon explodes into an alternative-pop gem. With lyrics expressing confusion and frustration toward another person, Hynes encompasses feelings of anxiety and unknowingness into the instrumentals. The entire track is upbeat, but nonetheless dark due to the lyrics.
Are You Sure You’re Really Busy?: This is another track that leans more into alternative music than funk. It’s a slow-paced track, highlighted by piano, hard-hitting drums, eerie guitar riffs, and scathing lyrics. Hynes expresses a clear anger with someone, stating “You’re getting rather old, what’s left to do […] I know you know you’ve wasted everything in life.”
Champagne Coast: One of the most popular tracks on “Coastal Grooves,” “Champagne Coast” is a smooth, passionate love song. Though Hynes repeatedly sings “come into my bedroom,” it doesn’t feel like an ode to overt sexuality. Rather, it’s a gentle love song complemented by Hynes’ dynamic vocals, pulsating piano riffs, and a consistent beat from a drum machine.
“Coastal Grooves” is a shimmering, glamorous album. Nothing feels unintentional or accidental – rather, Hynes’ heart and soul has been poured into the ten tracks. The instrumentals are remarkable and impressive as well, clearly taking inspiration from the late musician Prince. My only complaint is that some of the lyrics are convoluted at best; pretentious at worst. Yet, I don’t believe Hynes intended for this album to follow any sort of tradition or pattern that most artists follow. Between innovative instrumentals and carefully chosen song structures, “Coastal Grooves” serves listeners more as background noise rather than for any lyrical purpose. 4/5 Spinnaker Sails.
Standout Tracks: “Sutphin Boulevard,” “I’m Sorry We Lied,” “Instantly Blank (The Goodness),” “Champagne Coast.”
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