Blood Orange’s Dev Hynes is one of those musicians who make it hard for you to imagine them doing anything else. Like, in some parallel universe, Dev could have ended up working in east London in sales or hospitality or banking, slipping on the relevant uniform in the morning and siphoning his energy into some other person’s company. It’s a simple joy that he found the things he was meant to do – write, arrange, produce, perform music – by the time he was clattering around London as Lightspeed Champion.
Now, his Blood Orange project has developed into something that feels as though it almost extends beyond him. Last year’s Negro Swan album was rooted in collaboration, featuring everyone from Diddy and Janet Mock to Kelsey Lu and A$AP Rocky. Watching him play a selection of songs for NPR’s latest Tiny Desk Concert, released on Tuesday morning, brings that collaborative spirit to life even more. In this case, he brings on vocalists Ian Isiah and Eva Tolkin, while poet Ashlee Haze opens the performance with a beautifully personal spoken word performance (and, believe me, spoken word isn’t normally my thing).
Backed by Mikey Freedom Hart on piano and Jason Arce on both sax and clarinet, Dev weaves together a deeply intimate rendition of Freetown Sound's “By Ourselves,” Negro Swan’s “Jewelry” and “Dagenham Dream,” spliced by a reworking of The Clark Sisters’ “Holy Will.” After listening to this all the way through I feel as though I’ve just been to a spa steam room and had a massage for good measure, so you know what to do: hit play at the top of the page if you too would like to be soothed.
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