Cupid Deluxe is more consistent, coherent and enjoyable than any of Dev Hynes’ previous albums as Test Icicles, Lightspeed Champion or Blood Orange. His talent’s always been obvious; recently his perfect pop songs in collaboration with Sky Ferreira and Solange have enforced this. Cupid Deluxe, however, is the first time Dev seems to have made full use of this ability. He’s also clearly realised how well he works with others, as Cupid Deluxe is packed with guests.
Cupid Deluxe is as sexy as its name suggests. “Chamakay” starts it off in that manner: fluid bass, breathy vocals and a liquidy sax solo reminiscent of Destroyer’s Kaputt. ‘Uncle Ace’ is also very sexy: its funky guitar, almost stolen from ‘Stayin’ Alive’, is neatly placed with Toro Y Moi-esque soft, syncopated synth stabs, Kraftwerk lyrical delivery and similar sax.
Too many comparisons perhaps, but they show Dev Hynes’ ability to imitate or take elements from whatever music he wants. This complete confidence makes Cupid Deluxe more interesting than Coastal Grooves: because he’s not afraid to stick in a cheesy chord change, he manages to pull it off.
In this confidence, along with the reverence of all things funky and its rejection of any pressure to be “cool”, it’s quite similar to Kindness’ (whose Adam Bainbridge guests) World, You Need a Change Of Mind.
But whereas Kindness found enough variation through different levels of irony and a range of covers, Dev Hynes seeks – admittedly all within his warm production values – more musical variation through guests. Some feature in a fairly straightforward role, such as the vocals of Caroline Polachek providing a counterpart to Dev Hynes’ on “Chamakay”, but execute it perfectly.
Others are more surprising but equally effective: Dave Longstreth’s jumpy voice fits beautifully into a more funky setting than is familiar. Not everything works: the rap verses are somewhat dull narrations with no interesting delivery or wordplay. These do, however, at least ensure that the slight disappointment of the second half of the album (inevitable when the six opening songs are so good) is softened as the songs fail through experimentation rather than repetition.
In both its music and lyrics (thankfully Dev Hynes knows that sultry funk isn’t the place for philosophical discussion and so the themes are kept simple, mostly based around love and relationships), Cupid Deluxe is by no means a groundbreaking album. It is, however, a good reinterpretation of all that’s come before it.
Download: ‘Chamakay’, ‘Uncle Ace’, ‘No Right Thing’