After releasing Life Is Sweet! Nice to Meet You as Lightspeed Champion in 2010, a throat operation forced Devonte Hynes to change his singing style to a falsetto. Now, as Blood Orange, not only does he have a smoother way with vocal lines, he backpedals from Bright Eyes emo and settles into a weird, poppy blend of chillwave, R&B, and '80s new wave. The new persona and synthesized backbeats seem to better coincide with his personality, and Coastal Grooves is the first outing where Hynes sounds completely at home with being unusual. Inspired by the N.Y.C. transvestites captured on film in the documentary Paris Is Burning, the lyrics swim with tales that recall Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side,” intertwined with Hynes’ own experiences as a street-smart scenester in Brooklyn. On the surface of Coastal Grooves, it seems like a sentimental love album à la Sade’s Lovers Rock, but seedy sex and sexual ambiguity, and the sadness that goes along with them, form a running undercurrent. Over a slow, sultry, bass-heavy soundtrack of icy electronics and twinkling guitars, Hynes coos lines like “Step out of the van and put your clothes on,” “You know I was the queen...mother made my dress, full of my distress,” and “Your freezing thighs warm me/Poor me, poor you, poor us.” The accompanying black-and-white stills in the album’s artwork tell of the forlorn stripper story that he is trying to convey, and he captures the mood perfectly, in an album that is fashionably slick, altogether tragic, and deceptively beautiful.
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AllMusic Review by Jason Lymangrover