The best of Dev Hynes? Probably. ‘Freetown Sound’ is a monolithic record of smooth aesthetics and furious politics, a panoramic view of marginalisation covering blackness, feminism and queer struggles through song and sample. Seventeen songs long — each brushed over the next like another coat of paint or an overlapping collage — it feels exhaustive in both emotional and musical intent, spinning out Hynes’ penchant for funk, ballads and liquid-ambient production with pitch-perfect vision. It’s a narrative as confused as the world makes it.
With ‘Cupid Deluxe’, Hynes hinted at his love of immaculately structured records, sequencing with precision while switching in and out of a reprise of his ominous dance cut “Time Will Tell”. Though much longer, this record is even more confidently arranged, splicing pop songs between one another with frenzied but combinative sampling, like post-modernism with hooks. Every switch-up feels like a conscious decision, whether it’s to jar the listener or numb them. The more musical scene changes are all the more striking — one brazen chord leads us out of “Chance” and into “Best of You”, a track eventually detaching with an Arthur Russell-inspired cello fragment textured into its backdrop. It changes in just the right way for us to feel like it’s always been the same.
There’s so much mixed into this album: if it’s not Debbie Harry singing through choice pre-choruses in “E.V.P.”, a funky epic of supreme harmonies and shattering vocal glitches, it’s a drum machine trying to bleat its way over the disparate voices of “Squash Squash”, or the acoustic swan song of “Better Numb’, stuttering with samples of planes overhead and hurried footsteps. The texture is so thorough and so varied — between recordings and compositions, high-fi production and lo-fi slumber — that it’s easy to forget the majestic pop music happening over top, the simplicity Hynes grabs with when he sings “you are special in your own way”. It’s like TV static alongside the clear picture.