Blood Orange’s Dev Hynes sometimes seems suspended in an alternate dimension where it’s perpetually the summer of 1986, whether it’s his thrifted cool dad wardrobe or his aspirations toward the production of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.
But with “Augustine” (from Freetown Sound, released today), he seems to be taking the most impressionistic elements of these impulses and transmogrifying them into identity issues very much relevant to today. He stops in Miss Lily’s, the Jamaican spot in Soho with a radio broadcast in its storefront, and sits with dancers lazily gesturing towards old-way voguing (the first and simplest wave) in what looks to be Washington Square Park, all interspersed with shots of Ta-Nehisi Coates and Time’s Trayvon cover and an anthology called Black Queer Studies.
Musically, he’s flipping stations between influences, too; the jazz intro recalls the pacing of Soho’s “Hot Music,” one of the most iconic New York house songs ever made, or perhaps the scratchy tape recordings of Arthur Russell, as his sweet and plaintive voice spreads out from a whisper into a proscenium of harmonies and freedom, his rooftop twirls a celebration of his ability to just be. It’s almost sacred in its easy intensity, the way he sounds utterly open when he sings, “We waited here for you.”
In a recent Times piece, Hynes spoke about the way he interacts with New York and uses it as inspiration; perhaps believing in the mythology of it is what preserves the feeling of another time. “A lot of the music I make, it’s music for me to listen to on headphones to soundtrack me just walking around,” he said. “I get moods walking down streets that I think sound good in a certain way.” Maybe that’s how we should listen to this album, too.