I first came across Rhye whilst upon one of my rare visits to the Starbucks across the street. As I waited for my coffee, it was probably inevitable that I browse the music offerings next to the cash register. Losing interest as my eyes glanced the Taylor Swifts and One Directions, hidden in the far right corner was a Free iTunes Pick download card: Rhye’s first single, ‘Open’. The album cover, which was all I had to go on here, displayed a black and white semi-nude photograph of a woman’s torso. Taking advantage of the free download, I listened to the euphoric opening of strings and falsetto vocalizing, as the singer commenced with lyrics, “I’m a fool for that shake in your thighs / I’m a fool for that sound in your sighs”.
And that was it, guys. I immediately downloaded Rhye’s debut album, Woman.
The Los Angeles-based blue-eyed soul duo, comprises of one Canadian, Mike Milosh, and one Dane, Robin Hannibal; an unlikely pairing that I’m pretty damn grateful for. And for Rhye, with unlikeliness also comes intentional obscurity. The duo released the single ‘Open’, along with ‘The Fall’, online without much promotion or detail about the album or the band itself. Their Wikipedia page reads like a pamphlet and their identities were only just discovered. Milosh and Hannibal met through their common label, Quadron, when Milosh was approached by Hannibal about a possible collaboration. And as they separately continued their travels to the States, their collaboration of Hannibal’s minimalistic yet powerful synthetic sound with Milosh’s soft and trusting contralto vocals was reconvened.
Woman speaks mainly of a great love found and a great love kept. Ten tracks telling a personal and intimate take on a relationship. Milosh’s graceful voice, that on some tracks borderlines to a whisper, ooze intimacy so much that you feel he’s serenading you in person; much like the YouTube video that the duo inconspicuously posted of Milosh singing a piano-only version of ‘Open’ to his wife, with Milosh completely out of focus. ‘Open’, at first, reads like a simplistic indie pop/R&B love song, with minimalist instrumentation, which is understandable, since at first listen, Milosh’s vocals garner your full attention. The light strings and rhythmic finger-snaps coupled with Milosh’s gentle high vocals show an uncanny resemblance to Sade, an artist the pair is constantly compared to by critics.
Standout tracks include ‘3 Days’, a heavily synthesized song juxtaposed by momentary stringed trills and Milosh’s soft sensual vocals and vicious lyrical imagery, “I’m famished / So I’ll eat your minerals / Like a rabid beast / At a foolish feast / I’ll steal your breath”, continued to “Stealing kisses in those misses within beats / Stealing kisses in those bloody sheets / I’m killing you”.
‘Major Minor Love’ begins with scale like vocalizing, bearing resemblance to the late Jeff Buckley. And while all the songs from Woman have an ability to emit a sexualized sound, they do so quite indirectly and with just enough tact. The beautifully performed, ‘Verse’, however, is the one track on the album that goes over the line by appreciatively sounding like sex. It sounds like sex in the best possible way.
Rhye’s Woman is currently available on iTunes.
Check out their website for current updates and touring info!