Dev Hynes is a multi-talented and multi-faceted producer, singer, songwriter, composer, artist, and author with a voracious appetite for different musical styles and an incredible work ethic. He has worked with artists like Basement Jaxx, Florence & The Machine, and Theophilus London, as well as on his own varied projects which have included raucous nu-rave/punk band Test Icicles and the lonely troubadour Lightspeed Champion. Throw in his most recent iteration as the ’80s inspired Blood Orange and frequent remixes, and Devonté Hynes has an impressively varied and wide-ranging body of work.
After frequent recent appearances on the pages of Pigeons & Planes producing and writing for Solange Knowles, Sky Ferreira and as Blood Orange, we decided to delve a bit deeper into Dev’s back-catalogue. From his early days recording acoustic covers of Green Day on a laptop with Florence Welch to working on The Chemical Brothers’ Grammy winning album We Are The Night, we’ve collected Dev Hynes’ 10 Best Productions.
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10. Basement Jaxx ft. Lightspeed Champion – “My Turn”
Felix Buxton and Simon Ratcliffe aka Basement Jaxx have never been shy of experimentation, and whilst their best known hits (“Red Alert”, “Romeo”, “Where’s Your Head At”) are straight up bangers, much of their album filling material has a darker, more emotional edge, never more than on their 2009 album Scars. A song featuring Dev Hynes in his Lightspeed Champion guise was not a move anyone would have predicted, but somewhat surprisingly his gentle acoustic guitar and melancholy lyrics complement the bouncy bass line and crackling percussion.
9. Theophilus London ft. Dev Hynes & Solange Knowles – “Flying Overseas”
“Flying Over Seas,” Theophilus London‘s single for Green Label Sound, is a joyfully blissed out song that evokes nothing but palm trees, sea-breezes and lazy days by the pool. Dev and Theophilus are a great fit for each other, both musically and stylistically, and Solange‘s soft chorus adds the final touch to this shimmeringly beautiful slow jam.
8. Team Perfect (Florence Welch & Dev Hynes) – “Scattered (Green Day Cover)”
Florence Welch and Dev Hynes are frequent collaborators and long time friends, having met in 2004 in London when they were both young and relatively unknown musicians. More recently they have worked together on a number of higher profile projects and Dev (as Blood Orange) was the opening act on Florence & The Machine’s 2012 tour, but the earliest music they recorded together was as Team Perfect. Dev explained to Interview Magazine:
We used to write in my bedroom the strangest fucking songs, or covering Green Day. And then we would play house parties, just me on guitar and her singing. We would do pop-punk covers, The Stooges, The Walkmen, it was really all over the place. We would call ourselves Team Perfect.
Team Perfect recorded covers of the whole of Green Day’s Nimrod album and whilst the recordings are only laptop quality, their lo-fi nature gives them a certain charm and personality that can be lacking from some of today’s overproduced, pitch-perfected pop songs. Listen to a cover of “Scattered” below, and head to this YouTube account for a whole load more Team Perfect covers.
Dev’s work as Lightspeed Champion is run through with a creeping sadness, loneliness and paranoia, and whilst the critical reception to both 2008’s Falling Off the Lavendar Bridge and 2010’s Life Is Sweet! Nice To Meet You was lukewarm, the music captures a youthful uncertainty that is certainly highly relatable. “Galaxy Of the Lost” was recorded in Nebraska with Mike Mogis and members of Bright Eyes, and while it is a far cry from the sleekness of Blood Orange, it is nonetheless an affecting acoustic ballad in which Dev successfully conveys a touching emotional fragility.
6. Sky Ferreira – “Everything Is Embarrassing”
Sky Ferreira has been around for a few years now, developing her sound and trying to find the right balance between pop appeal and a more raw, edgy sound. Although “Everything Is Embarrassing” is a bit of a stylistic switch-up for Sky, her gentle delivery accentuates the longing, lovelorn lyrics, increasing her diva-quotient by at least 25%. More Blood Orange/Ferreira collaborations would definitely be a good look for the young singer/songwirter, but this doesn’t seem likely as she commented:
“It’s a COLLABORATION! Not my new sound (whatever that means)… It’s obviously Blood Orange influenced.”
Regardless, “Everything Is Embarassing,” which bears more than a passing similarity to Solange’s recent comeback, will feature on Sky’s Ghost EP, released October 16th.
5. Lana Del Rey – “Blue Jeans (Blood Orange Remix)”
This Blood Orange production featured in our list of the 15 Best Lana Del Rey Remixes, and it is a short and sweet distillation of the sleek, ’80s inspired Blood Orange vibe. The production is spare and evocative, with gently echoing keys complementing Lana’s emotion-filled proclamations of love. This was a remix that really made sense, and Dev ensured that the two artist’s throwback styles complemented each other.
4. Florence & The Machine ft. Blood Orange – “Never Let Me Go (Remix)”
Florence and Dev have already appeared on this list once as Team Perfect, but their friendship has yielded a number of magical tracks, such as “Bird Song” from 2009’s Lungs and even better, this Blood Orange remix of Florence’s “Never Let Me Go” from 2011’s Ceremeonials. In fact, calling it a remix is a bit of an understatement – it’s part cover and part new song, featuring a vocal contribution from Dev, as well as entirely new, soulful production. Some of the original’s gospel vibe has been kept, but the addition of a duet, guitar solo and spacious soulful production leave this remix trumping the original on all counts.
3. Chemical Brothers ft. The Klaxons – “All Rights Reversed”
For many producers or songwriters, working on a single UK Number 1 album would be a once in a lifetime opportunity, but Dev contributed to both Florence & The Machine’s Lungs and The Chemical Brothers We Are The Night. Specifically, he helped write the anthemic, Klaxons featuring “All Rights Reversed,” which is a far cry from his acoustic work as Lightspeed Champion, but another demonstration of his musical adaptability.
Photo: Nilina Mason-Campbell
2. Solange – “Losing You”
The most recent of Dev Hynes many musical adventures was a collaboration with Solange Knowles (Beyoncé’s less well known, but very talented little sister) on her latest single “Losing You.” Lending his songwriting and production talents to this funky but melancholy tinged R&B jam, the Blood Orange aesthetic oozes from every pore of this ’80s-updated-for-2012 slow burner that should help to propel Solange a little further out of her sister’s shadow.
1. Blood Orange – “Forget It”
The whole Blood Orange album is a demonstration of Hynes’ chameleonic nature and ability to immerse himself and fully commit to a new sound with uniformly great results. Reappearing after a couple of years hiatus (and a move to America) as a fully formed, ’80s-referencing crooner, without sounding at all contrived, is no mean feat. However this is exactly what Coastal Grooves manages to do. If you haven’t had a chance to listen to the album, “Forget It” is certainly a standout from a smooth and sensual 40-minute ride that is so far standing up as one of this year’s best releases.