Even if you don’t know the name Blood Orange, Devonté Hynes’s work has likely found its way to your ears. He’s lent his gold-fingered assist to tracks by Basement Jaxx, Florence and the Machine, and Theophilus London; most recently, he wrote and produced shimmery breakthrough singles for Sky Ferreira and Solange. And when the British-born, New York–based musician isn’t in the producer’s seat, he wears many hats, having recorded anarchic dance-punk as Test Icicles, orchestral folk-rock as Lightspeed Champion and, under his latest guise, sumptuous ’80s-tinged R&B.
Cupid Deluxe, released last November, is Hynes’s second album as Blood Orange. The record’s contributor roster reads like a roll call of restless musical innovators, from Queens rapper Despot to Dirty Projectors’ David Longstreth to Kindness’s Adam Bainbridge, and all involved are at their best. But the end product is undeniably Blood Orange. Hynes wrote and produced the whole thing; he sings and plays guitar, drums, bass, keyboards and synths, too. Cupid is an endlessly playable sequence of funky joints, with strokes of Prince, Sade and Janet Jackson—at times moist-eyed, at others lush and breathless, and often all of that at once. Hynes and his guests construct harmonies so tightly woven, sometimes you can’t tell who’s singing, and the retro-addled melting pot of influences, guest stars and disparate parts comes together like hyperconnected NYC itself.
In December, about a month after the album’s release, Hynes’s East Village apartment burned down, ending a year of success with loss and devastation. Here’s hoping he gets the good without the bad in 2014.—Marley Lynch