Mike Milosh and Robin Hannibal (the
components forming a duo called Rhye) must have found themselves in a most
luxurious position. The former boasts such an amazing and striking voice that
they could have written a handful of plain pop tunes and probably would have
had reasonable commercial success nonetheless. Instead, they opted for a more
difficult route, writing a coherent set of soulful songs that still showcase
their singer’s incredible sound. The end result: the full-length studio album Woman.
Although Milosh’s beautiful androgynous voice demands the most attention, the first thing that grabs the listener’s ear is the superb production. The opening song, so fittingly named Open, starts with a beautiful string/woodwind intro, ending with a subtle clarinet motive that introduces us to the rest of the song. The key word here is subtle – an attribute that dominates the entire song and album. Open is loaded with strings, synths and even trumpets, yet the song feels perfectly laidback and even sensual, thanks to the careful placement of every sound. The follow-up song, The Fall, displays the same craftsmanship, but now more up-tempo, driven on by a set of catchy piano chords and a funky bass. The fact that the bass sounds ‘funky’ is not a coincidence either; Woman draws elements from all sorts of styles and moods, not shying away from either intimate, almost bedroom-esque ballads, nor from flat-out happy, worriless tunes. Milosh’s voice flawlessly accompanies these ever-changing styles, even though his voice barely changes throughout the album. This is in no way a bad thing though, since the sigh-like quality of his singing never fails to impress, always smooth as silk but also creasing and crackling just enough to give it an ever so slight edge.
I could work through
the entire album this way, listing the strengths of each song as I go along,
but the bigger picture of this body of sounds and sighs is something that
appeals a lot more to me. Although I am usually not a fan of meta-analyses in a
review, the red thread running through this album is quite a distinct one and
deserves a bit of the spotlight in my honest opinion. This encompassing thought
is one of mellowness, of low-key, subtle emotions - not only in the songs
themselves, but also in the message behind them. Nearly every song has a
relationship as main theme, but the feeling that they all emit is different
from your typical love-story ideas (e.g. broken hearts, newfound love).
Instead, we are presented with a sense of the ordinary, the everyday things
that all relationships contain: feelings of losing that initial spark, not
being willing to give in to your lover each and every time, joy over nothing
but the beauty of a single day. Yet, the most impressive part is that none of
these things is brutally forced upon the listener. It is delicately placed
between the lines of the lyrics and fits seamlessly with the mood of each song.
The song One Of Those Summer Days is
the perfect embodiment of this message: a repetitive broken guitar chord, simple
yet gorgeous harmonies and a seeming lack of destination or clear hook all solidify
this song as harbinger of the normality. In this sense, Woman becomes most impressive to me: as a beautiful celebration of