Rhye - Woman

These really could be any old straightforward love songs, but there’s something about their placid simplicity which dwells on deep intimacy and passionate emotion.

Label: Polydor

Rating: 8

As improbable as it sounds, Rhye is in actual fact the collaboration between two separately smitten men: androgynous Toronto-based vocalist Mike Milosh and Danish multi-instrumentalist Robin Hannibal of the group Quadron. But who knew? Like many, you probably assumed Milosh’s soft, stirring coos on love and sensuality, laconic and poignant like Sade’s or Feist’s, could only have come from the female lips.

Emerging at the start of 2012, Rhye’s intense, morning-after love songs immediately stood out as phenomenal, fully-formed odes to late night infatuation. Thrust into the limelight with an anonymous aesthetic, no one had a clue as to their identities. When people wondered, people found out. And now they pop up with a near-faultless debut album. We know who they are but they’ve done nothing to dispel what we knew about their music already. ‘Woman’ is glorious, confident, subtle perfection.

Most arresting is the simplicity of it all: the pared-back arrangements, the understated grooves, that rousing croon, the everyday minutiae of being in love. Thinking about it, these really could be any old straightforward love songs, but there’s something about their placid simplicity which dwells on deep intimacy and passionate emotion. “I’m a fool for that shake in your thumb / I’m a fool for your belly,” Milosh utters over restrained strings and brass in ‘Open’, a gently oozing, terrifyingly personal song about spending the night with his wife. Meanwhile, the hypnotic title-track is a chamber-pop ode to physical love: the word ‘woman’ simply repeated over and over.

This is an album about sex, but not your bog standard ‘awks’-fest: instead something relatable, detailed and individual. Compelling from start to finish, every song also stands alone as an example of technical musical excellence. Already a classic, ‘The Fall’ is the consummate showpiece, equipped with that inimitable bass groove and off-beat Air-esque piano chords. Also notable are disco-friendly numbers ‘Last Dance’ and ‘Hunger’, along with ludicrously suave minimalist funk closer ‘Major Minor Love’.

When asked why they tried to preserve their anonymity, the duo plainly replied that they wanted the listener to have their own experience with the music: there should be no preconceived notions; the music should speak for itself. Inevitably, they failed in their tactics, but the outcome was ideal. In ‘Woman’, they’ve bypassed the hurdle of dangerous, immaterial preconceptions by creating the ultimate debut album: a future classic brimming with effortless, tangible love songs.