Back in the late Eighties and early Nineties, weekend evenings were all about turning on the radio and listening to the DJ spin romantic slow jams. Granted, I had no one to relate those romantic slow jams to back then, but I spent many an evening relaxing (and doing homework) to the sounds of Al Green, Anita Baker, The Isley Brothers and Sade. Back in those days, it wasn’t uncommon for artists to straddle the divide between R&B and what was then labeled “smooth jazz,” an appellation that covered everyone from the aforementioned Baker and Sade to Najee and Kenny G. to pop acts like Simply Red and Swing Out Sister.
Seeing as Sade and Anita have adopted very relaxed album release schedules over the past two decades or so, no one has really stepped in to fill that void of late. Enter Rhye. The mysterious act’s debut album Woman seemingly popped out of nowhere. I found out about it via a Spotify ad, of all things. Upon further investigation, I was intrigued enough to head over to Amazon.com and purchase a copy of the CD. I wasn’t disappointed.
First things first-who the hell is Rhye, anyway? Well, despite the fact that there’s a sultry looking lady on the front cover of Woman, and the vocals have a feminine lilt to them, the fact is: Rhye consists of two dudes. Mike Milosh and Robin Hannibal are the two men who form the outfit, and Milosh’s voice is this album’s centerpiece. It’s high and androgynous and perfect for the duo’s music. Woman is the perfect soundtrack to an evening of romance, or a casual Sunday morning or afternoon spent lounging. It can be sleepy at times, but I mean that in the best possible way.
From the album’s first words (“I’m a fool for that shake in your thighs,”) you know where this album is headed. Remember our Brian McKnight review last week where KJ asked where all the baby-makin’ music was? Listen to Woman and you won’t have to ask that question again for at least another nine months. Vocally, Milosh’s is a cross between, say, Imogen Heap and Leee John of Imagination. It’s a versatile instrument capable of crossing borders between pop, soul and even a little bit of jazz.
The album as a whole is solid (and should be listened to as an album,) but key tracks include “Shed Some Blood” (which gives me some serious Remy Shand vibes,) and the languid “One of Those Summer Days.” If it’s at all possible for a song to sound humid, this is it here.
I feel like a lot of us have been trained for music to give us instant gratification or one of those “oh, shit! moments,” not to seduce and insinuate. Woman is the type of record that slowly unravels and you kind of fold into, sort of like a warm blanket on a cold night. Of course, Woman just might help you with other things under those blankets, too.