Velvet Negroni

Neon Brown

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Before the release of his official debut album, Velvet Negroni's Jeremy Nutzman had already toured with Bon Iver and scored a writing credit on Kanye West and Kid Cudi's collaboration Kids See Ghosts. On Neon Brown, Nutzman lives up to the high expectations generated by these accomplishments while building on R&B at its moodiest and most experimental. Joined by co-producers Psymun and Tickle Torture -- who's also worked with Young Thug and Juice WRLD -- Nutzman creates a sonic space that's connected to, but distinct from, the spectral futurism of Tri Angle's roster of artists as well as the chart-topping R&B and hip-hop of the late 2010s. He begins Neon Brown with some of its finest and widest-ranging tracks: "Wine Green" is at once soft and dynamic, with Nutzman's lilting, reggae-tinged vocals and allusive lyrics skipping nimbly over droplets of synths and splashing beats. He changes gears with "Kurt Kobain," a piece of silvery funk-pop that has a lot more in common with Twin Shadow and Prince than its namesake, and switches things up again on "Confetti," a deep, saxophone-laden dive into the starkness of his 2017 mixtape T.C.O.D. that's one of the album's loveliest and loneliest moments. Even on its most accessible songs, there's a haunting distance to Neon Brown, whether it's the way the layers of ethereal backing vocals and acoustic guitars hit home Nutzman's isolation on the spellbinding opener, "One One," or the free-flowing heartache of "Poster Child" and "Feel. Let." Later, Nutzman revisits T.C.O.D.'s hazy drift, demanding and rewarding close listening with "Choir Boy," which with its supple chromatic percussion and lush strings, lives up to the first part of Velvet Negroni's name. The album's minimalism peaks on "Nester," which narrows its focus to bleary chimes and the occasional abstract beat, yet it remains hypnotic instead of indulgent. Nutzman's ability to conjure powerful moods with a handful of artful sounds and words has only grown since T.C.O.D., and on Neon Brown, he pulls listeners slowly but completely into Velvet Negroni's world.

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