BOTTOM LINE Stripping away the layers and keeping the bedroom soul raw.
When you have a voice as gorgeously distinctive as Rhye’s Mike Milosh, there’s really no reason to cover it up.
Rhye’s 2013 debut “Woman” put Milosh’s voice front-and-center in the intimate alt-R&B he built with then-partner Robin Hannibal. But on the new follow-up “Blood” (Loma Vista), Rhye is just Milosh, crafting even more stripped-down soul that makes the most of his luxuriant voice that moves beyond cooing falsetto and R&B lover man.
Rhye leans more toward Sade than The Weeknd, the spare instrumental touches bending more toward jazz than hip-hop.
The way Milosh’s breathy voice hangs and cracks slightly in “Softly” only adds to its dizzying appeal, mirroring that kind of feeling you get lost in. He even asks in the chorus, “Where are we now?” as if he has lost his bearings.
On the single “Count to Five,” there’s a push-and-pull between the public and the private, you can almost hear the transition from the club to the bedroom as the instrumentation goes from funky to spare and back again. “You keep me waiting,” Milosh sings. “I’ll count to five, love.”
Though these songs are more streamlined and straightforward than those from “Woman” that had Rhye in the same conversation as The Weeknd and Chet Faker, they aren’t simple. Milosh has constructed elaborate stories out of the most delicate of materials by weaving them intricately together.
“Please” is built on a thudding beat and hand claps so that Milosh can make himself vulnerable enough to sing, “I think it came out wrong, a pillow of lies,” as he tries to keep things from falling apart.
“Blood” is so pretty that it is easy to get swept away, but it is also so well constructed that it will stand up to repeated listening. It’s a flirty declaration that Rhye is built to last.