Late last fall, Devonte Hynes solidified his status as one of this decade’s most breaking and vital songwriter/producers when he dropped his second album as Blood Orange, the delicately perfect heartbreaker, Cupid Deluxe. While the record was the culmination of Hynes’ progress, having false starts in Test Icicles, and as Lightspeed Champion, his melancholic liquid funk work with Solange and Sky Ferraira eventually blossomed into full fruition with that record.
One of the key collaborators on that album is Adam Bainbridge, a man who Dev Hynes can’t say enough nice things about. The two are good friends and both are auteur musical craftsman. While not as achingly brilliant as Cupid Deluxe, Otherness, Bainbridge’s second album as Kindness, is a spiritual cousin to Blood Orange’s second record. It too is a fully-realized sophomore effort that follows a promising, but imperfect debut. World, You Need a Change of Mindwas filled with great grooves and sophisticated production, but it lacked depth of vision. Otherness picks up the slack for a set of songs that tap into the solemn side of 1980s synthfunk (a style that Cupid Deluxe perfected). Throughout the record, waxy bass, big beats, crystalline piano, smooth sax, and funky guitar flicking paint a picture that continues Blood Orange’s picture of urban melancholia.
Otherness also boasts some great guest spots, all that flow in a similar seemless way, as if Kindness were a collective of similar-vision artists, rather than the project of one man. Even Robyn’s cameo on “Who Do You Love?” isn’t overpowered by her star power. Her vocals fit the bill perfectly on a track that sounds like an inverted “Love Will Never Do (Without You).” Elsewhere, Bainbridge turns genres on their heads and breathes new life into them. The drifting “For the Young” takes airy classical guitar and sparkling Michael McDonald keyboards and creates an incredibly moving piece out of the acoustics. On the Dev Hynes assisted “Why Don’t You Love Me,” the two pull together a track that sounds both like an ode to the theme from Twin Peaks, and acts as a sequel to their Cupid Deluxe collab, “On the Line,” a song that asked, “Tell me baby, are you mine?” as its refrain.
Everything down to how Bainbridge closes the record echoes Hynes. “It’ll Be OK” rides out comforting, but cautious synths under the refrain, “If I was to be your only friend, you need someone like me you can depend on me,” a pep talk not too different from Hynes’ immaculate “Time Will Tell.” Through and through though, Otherness provides listeners with a continuation of Blood Orange’s breakthrough, rather than a mere copy. While the notion of “PBR&B” has been around since before the Weeknd dropped the House of Balloons mixtape in 2011, the (already outdated) term doesn’t apply. This is sincere, soulful music that taps into an element that is far from fad.