Blood Orange offers salvation on ‘Charcoal Baby’

DEV HYNES of BLOOD ORANGE is a treasure. Since the project’s debut in 2011, he’s worked to quietly shape the sounds and aesthetics of indie-pop in this decade through his status as a generous and prolific collaborator. But increasingly his most important legacy is that of an artist who possesses a unique ability to articulate the personal pain of lifetimes of institutional and historical oppression, as someone whose able to look at and study the way these massive systems maliciously diffuse themselves and permeate throughout the microscopic details of everyday existence, who deftly distils national trauma down to three-minute, 80s-indebted, R&B/pop songs. News of his upcoming fourth album, Negro Swan, therefore, feels like an act of salvation, a moment of relief and clarity from otherwise traumatic times.

On the new LP, which is said to be one of his most personal artistic statements yet, Hynes explains that: “My newest album is an exploration into my own and many types of black depression, an honest look at the corners of black existence, and the ongoing anxieties of queer/people of colour. A reach back into childhood and modern traumas, and the things we do to get through it all. The underlying thread through each piece on the album is the idea of HOPE, and the lights we can try to turn on within ourselves with a hopefully positive outcome of helping others out of their darkness.”

The visuals for ‘Charcoal Baby’, our first preview of the upcoming record, open with a touching spoken word passage delivered by transgender activist Janet Mock expounding on the value of family and community: “You ask me what family is, and I think of family as community. I think of the spaces where you don’t have to shrink yourself, where you don’t have to pretend or to perform… We get to choose our families. We are not limited by biology. We get to make ourselves, and we get to make our family.” Shot entirely in split screen, the CRACK STEVENS directed clip perfectly captures the sentiment of its opening salvo, with each half depicting separate versions of Blood Orange performing at different familial gatherings.

A slick R&B track that’s awash in rich, almost effortless melodies and driven by a lead guitar line that’s impossibly complex but unfussy at the same time, glimmering but played with a certain woozy weariness. A warm, lightweight miasma reminiscent of his work on Freetown Sound settles in over the track as it descends into a pensive chorus full of warped synths and rattling hi-hats and closes with a distant, soaring saxophone solo.

On the graceful ‘Charcoal Baby’, Blood Orange offers us the salvation found in constructing our own families and communities. We can’t wait to see what other forms of salvation is contained within the rest of Negro Swan.

Negro Swan is out August 24th – you can pre-order it here.

WORDS BY KYLE FENSOM

IMAGE: Nick Harwood

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