Rhye’s Serene ‘Home’ Strikes a Note of Calm in a Nerve-Wracking Time: Album Review
Rhye is the brainchild of Canadian singer-songwriter Michael Milosh, who is possessed of a high, aching voice that is usually mistaken for a woman’s (the bio tastefully describes it as “gender non-conforming”). Milosh has been releasing albums since the early ‘00s, either under his last name or, since 2013, as Rhye, but his voice makes every recording unmistakable, although Sade comparisons often accompanied Rhye’s debut album, “Woman.”
His music is generally low-key and unhurried, with R&B flourishes embellished with washes of electronics or swooning strings. While “Home” follows the same musical framework as previous Rhye albums, its title is no accident: Milosh had traditionally been nomadic, but a couple of years ago he and his partner settled in Topanga Canyon, the famously artist-friendly area north of L.A., and the album reflects the feeling of being settled and, dare we say, content. Much of the album was recorded at his home studio; there’s even the sound of a rainstorm on the song “Come in Closer.”
And although he may not have planned it that way, coming at the end of a monumentally stressful couple of weeks, the album strikes a soothing note of calm for frayed nerves.
But it’s hardly an ambient album. It always seemed that Milosh would be a stellar guest vocalist on dance songs, a la Anohni/ Antony Hegarty on Hercules and Love Affair’s “Blind,” and he turned in a strong performance on SG Lewis’ excellent “Time,” released last month. He makes his own play for the dancefloor with “Black Rain,” complete with a driving four-on-the-floor rhythm, handclaps and disco-style string stabs. Having said that, it’s still a Rhye interpretation of disco and barely breaks a sweat.
“Home” is bookended with a musical tactic that is both perfect and obvious: cantos sung by the Danish National Girls’ Choir, with whom Rhye performed in 2017, and the sound is so angelic it’s like an opening scene from an episode of “The Crown.” Not only does the choir open and close the album, they drop in on the coda of “Hold You Down,” the album’s fifth track, and return for the last moments of the closer, the fittingly titled “Holy,” before segueing into the finale. But as with everything Rhye, it’s all in service of Milosh’s crystalline voice.
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