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Hayden Thorpe - Diviner Music Album Reviews

The former Wild Beasts singer embarks on a new direction on his soul-searching solo debut, stripping back his songwriting to a reverent hush.
The British singer-songwriter Hayden Thorpe released “Diviner” in late February 2019, just a year after the final performance of his band Wild Beasts. From its stark opening chords and breathy first line—“I’m a keeper of secrets, pray do tell”—the song sounded markedly personal. With little more than his stately countertenor and humble piano, Thorpe harnessed the energy of quiet solitude and proceeded to pitch that emotion skyward until the music felt bathed in a dim light. After more than a decade with Wild Beasts, “Diviner” pointed to a different direction for Thorpe.

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Rhye - Spirit Music Album Reviews

Playing a baby grand piano, Mike Milosh’s eight-song album reflects a sense of ritualistic quiet; it’s intimate without being heavy-handed.

Rhye, the soft-pop group led by Mike Milosh, refurbished their sound last year on second album Blood to mixed results. Without producer Robin Hannibal, who fleshed out the group’s 2013 debut with minimalist, sumptuous production, Milosh leaned on beefier instrumentation and overstated lyrics that sapped most of the enigmatic, economical appeal from their music. Rhye’s new EP Spirit, recorded after an extensive tour last summer, feels like a loose, low-stakes companion to Blood. Rhye’s usual electronic and guitar stylings are stripped back to meditative piano arrangements and ambient mood-setting, making for an effective if lightweight backdrop for his sighing variety of romance.


Milosh put Spirit together after being gifted a baby grand piano by his girlfriend, using daily exercises as a form of meditation following a draining tour schedule. The brief eight-song album reflects that sense of introspection and ritualistic quiet, with most songs resting in minor key and Milosh’s hazy timbre offering up long, wordless hums. Rhye has used chamber music as an indirect influence in the past, whether stacking harmonies over a horn section on “Woman” or adding plucked strings to their cover of Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale.” But here Milosh mostly dresses things down to an intentionally spare, percussive base; his piano is close-mic’d alongside the slightest brushes of synths and strings, signaling intimacy without the heavy-handedness that dragged down Blood.

Lyrically, Milosh remains exclusively concerned with a tortured type of desire: He wants to be needed, feel your pain, wage your wars, et cetera. Delivered in a smooth, unified whisper, the words of affection sometimes sound vaguely sinister rather than sexy, as on “Needed,” written and produced with former Semisonic singer Dan Wilson: “Why you look so fragile? Do I seem so bad?/Oh, you look so pretty, there’s no devils here.” The song hinges on even clumsier phrasing during its chorus (“I wanna be needed, that’s what I need”) that undercuts all the feverish desire lurking at its core. Elsewhere, Icelandic composer Ólafur Arnalds adds his minimalist touch to the simmering, hymn-like standout “Patience,” while Milosh lets his piano do the legwork on muted instrumental trifles “Malibu Nights” and “Green Eyes.” It all feels a little perfunctory for Rhye at this point, but in a characteristically refined way that at least makes for easy casual listening.

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Spirit boils down the seductive essence of Rhye’s music to core elements. It would do well as an introduction to the group for an unfamiliar listener, but doesn’t feel necessary by any means. If anything, Spirit comes across as more mood music by design, bespoke and undemanding, and it probably already has real estate on every bedroom-themed playlist on Spotify. Rhye is now a reliably polished provider of this style of music, but it’s a position that clearly doesn’t allow for very many risks.


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