‘Freetown Sound’ takes listener on emotional ride

The newest album from Dev Hynes’ Blood Orange project is a genre-bending experience

The album art for Blood Oranges Freetown Sound.

Cody Achin/Scottsdale Chronicle

The album art for Blood Orange’s “Freetown Sound.”

Cody Achin, A&E Editor, Scottsdale Chronicle

‘British musician Devonte “Dev” Hynes, also known as Blood Orange, released his latest album “Freetown Sound”  earlier this summer to rave reviews. Hynes’ third album, it packs not only amazing musical compositions, but includes a deep and personal message within the album.

“Freetown Sound” creates many memorable moments within the tracks. Hynes has done a magnificent job at blending many genres together without muddling that specific genre. Hynes conceptualized and performed most of the music himself and better yet, he was able to produce such a unique experience. Exploring what makes the album means diving deeper into the music and into the lyrics.

The intro track, “By Ourselves” is a harbinger of what’s to come. A spoken word poem from Atlanta-based poet Ashlee Haze sets the tone for the whole album. This intro goes right into the next track, “Augustine.” The synth beat and the guitar echo create a relaxing yet haunting mood within a few seconds. The next verse comes in and eliminates the haunting mood, replacing it with a calming piano melody and Hynes’ voice. The album does this constantly, switching from soothing to melodic to plain eerie.

While Hynes keeps the same style throughout the whole album, each song differs dramatically from style and melodies. This goes back to Hynes’ ability to blend genres. Within each song there is a hint of funk, R&B, soul and even synth-pop. The combination of so many genres isn’t anything new nowadays but what makes “Freetown Sound” different is the ability to keep said songs fresh. For example, the song “But You” starts off as an R&B track. At the thirty second mark a popping bass guitar jumps in. The bass style is classic funk. The foundation of this song is R&B but the funk inspired bass adds an interesting twist on an otherwise classic genre. The result works in Hynes’ favor. There are songs throughout the 17-track album that have multiple layers of complexity and it can be hard to appreciate everything on first listen.

Listening more than once obviously opens up the door to understanding the lyrics as well. Hynes puts a deeply personal message in each song – whether it be about the careful complexity of love or whether it be about black pride. Half of the songs have a spoken word poem from someone who depicts clearly what Hynes is trying to say.

With “Freetown Sound,” Hynes tries to get listeners to respond to the protection of ourselves, our culture. This album is a protest album. It some ways it hits even harder than Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly,” but that is a special thing about “Freetown Sound”: Hynes does not shoo away the listener with harsh beats or anger. Rather, he focuses on keeping the sound calm but pulsing with a deep message.
That said, “Freetown Sound” is not for everyone. The problem here can be the offset of the genre-blending. Hynes composes most of the music himself so the creative direction is all Hynes. There is a quirkiness to the whole album that is hard to pinpoint. Because of the dynamic song structure Hynes often employs, some people may be put off by the different ways the songs are structured and how the album cannot be pigeonholed into one specific genre. Also, it is an album that demands and requires the listener’s full attention, otherwise one could forget that they are listening to it. It is an album to listen to at home otherwise unoccupied or when driving alone.

“Freetown Sound” is a wonderful album that offers a lot of interesting and different music. It gives a sense of freshness because there is not an album quite like it. Along with the music lies an underlying message that can be easy to overlook but it is revealed to be a powerful message when one digs a little deeper. The album does become background music in many instances and can be easily forgotten if the listener isn’t zeroed in. The taste in genre here may not be for everyone, but if anyone wants to listen to something wildly creative and different to give this a shot.

Final Verdict