Freetown Sound isn’t just a statement but a rumination. A black couple embrace each other on a golden bedsheet in a sparse bedroom. The male’s eyes are downcast as he pulls her into his arms, a cigarette dangles from his hand, his arms are barred. Her dress is short – she looks defiantly into the camera. The picture feels uneasy; their embrace could end any second, throwing the two back into a world that tells them how to act, how to live, how to love; but Freetown Sound isn’t a solution or thesis, it’s a poignant record that explores what it means to live in an age where you aren’t accepted.
Blood Orange is British writer/producer Dev Hynes. In a recent interview with Pitchfork, Hynes breaks down what made Freetown Sound.
I think the album will be seen as a political record, but it isn’t. To me, it’s more like life—I can’t not think about this shit. If you’re not a white straight male right now, most of things on this album are on your mind, and I don’t know if that makes something political. I guess it’s political in the fact that it’s being released on a wide scale.
If you view this record as a manifesto, it fails. Many of the lyrics aren’t fully realized, there’s no clear agenda driving the compositions. Soundclips are cropped right when they are beginning to preach, lyrics dance around issues without defining the problem, the record is incomplete without context. However, you could view this release as a frazzled journal entry. In a world where more than one hundred unarmed black people were killed by police in 2015, where gay teens commit suicide weekly, where minorities live in fear of people who don’t understand them, Dev Hynes’ feelings burst through his art. His soundclips are suggestions, they ignite feelings in the listener rather than suggest answers. “Love Ya” finishes with a quote from Ta-Nehisi Coates:
Every morning how I was gonna wear my backpack, was I gonna strap it over one shoulder or two shoulders. How was I gonna cock my baseball hat? Was I gonna wear it straight, cock it to the left, cock it to the right? How was I gonna wear my pants? Was I gonna wear 'em really baggy, or not? Which shoes was I gonna wear? Who was I gonna walk with to school?
Clips spaced throughout the record serve a similar purpose–they give perspective. The record isn’t defined merely it’s lyrics, Freetown Sound’s sexy haze of synthesizers and 80’s tinged R&B makes damn groovy music. The production is incredible. Hynes’ voice takes different forms as the record spins, smooth to raspy. On a similar scope as Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly, Freetown Sound is expansive, bipolar, and powerful. Women are featured extensively on the record, Hynes uses the female voice to create a lush, diverse sound. This record is great pop music, great indie music, a great piece of art, but most importantly–a great representation of Dev Hynes.
Finishing his Pitchfork interview, Hynes states:
For me to release music, for me to just be like, "This is me and I'm putting it out there" — it takes a minute. I had to get to a point where I truly loved every second of all of it. This album — I really want it to be the most me and the most enjoyable thing that I can do. Then, that is doing something for someone, somewhere.
Sprawling and expressive, Freetown Sound by Blood Orange is Radio 1190’s July CD of the Month.