Blood Orange – Freetown Sound Review 

Dev Hynes doesn’t tend to shy away from voicing his opinion. During July 2015, he released Do You See My Skin Through The Flames? – an eleven minute track flooded with racial outcry. He presses a protectiveness over the black community in a non-aggressive, soulful way, so that even those who don’t relate to his grievances on a personal level will always feel some degree of empathy. Under the alias of Blood Orange, Hynes imposes a similar wavelength in his third studio album, Freetown Sound.

Despite the impression the world is moving forward, Freetown Sound couldn’t have surfaced at a more poignant time. It was released 28th June: 16 days after the tragic Orlando shootings, and just 5 days after Brexit sent shockwaves around the world, pitting ‘remain’ and ‘leave’ voters against each other. Not only does Blood Orange’s latest tracklist highlight the struggles for black people, but also resonates with a number of other inequalities and bouts. Hynes seems to have often directed the album rather than performed it, as artists such as Nelly Furtado (Hardon Collider) and Deborah Harry (E.V.P) relay the vocals, underscoring the universality of the tracks’ discussions. Freetown Sound is an incredibly apt name – not only does it reference Freetown, Sierra Leone, the hometown of Hynes’ father, it freely declares a variety of explicit opinions, as dialogs from the likes of Marlon Riggs in With Him and Ta-Nehisi Coates in Love Ya serve gut-wrenching insight on a silver platter. And despite the harrowing undercurrent, each song remains gentle. But You takes on an auspicious Michael Jackson quality, with breathy vocals and a rhythmic cyclical bass. Thank You feels like a suave riverside cafe with whimsical soul sponsoring choral lyrics and vocals. Despite the songs being quite beautiful, the stark antithesis of lyrics versus sound is almost uncomfortable. Something tells me that’s what Blood Orange wanted: to squeeze the empathy or guilt out of us in this unnerving way. Spiritually, the album is reflective of To Pimp A Butterfly, yet the sheer authenticity of it all took me aback completely. It’s almost an oxymoronic album: it offers giant messages that are delivered through smooth and introverted intricacies.

Each song on the album is more like a poem, with less intense background noise to focus largely on the message of the artist. The first song daintily bleeds into the next: it’s one big story. Best To You is the album’s soundest track, especially instrumentally. Though as understated as its neighbours, there is a jaunty energy rolling through the song. Lorely Rodriguez, i.e. Empress Of, sings with a spring in her step, yet as her voice strains, the listeners are conscious of an underlying hurt. Hands Up is a subtly enthusing track, with a wispy synth and shuffling drum segment, layered towards the end with a vying guitar hook. It concludes with a powerful chant of “don’t shoot”, and an extract from an interview with Chance the Rapper; the juggled positive and negative messages that weave throughout Freetown Sound reach their apex here.

Freetown Sound is perilously powerful. It renders a new issue in pretty much every track, interviewing the listener, interrogating us and confronting our views. It’s so inconspicuous yet massively evocative. It’s a work of art.

Blood Orange – Freetown Sound: 8.5/10

Eleanor Chivers 


  1. nice review.

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