Rhye Finds Solace in Gentle Optimism on ‘Blood’

Canadian crooner Mike Milosh, a.k.a. Rhye, stirred music fiends with his 2013 debut “Woman,” an album which was uniquely compared to the sophisti-pop sounds from artists like Sade. After spreading virally across the internet during the alt-R&B trend of the aught-tens, he had the unfortunate task of overcoming the clichéd sophomore slump. Milosh returns now with his sensual follow-up in “Blood.” Though this time around, Milosh entered the studio without his original counterpart, producer Robin Hannibal. In fact, in the five years since Rhye’s debut album not only did Milosh and Hannibal part ways, but Milosh ended a marriage and found solace in a new love. “Blood” quietly reflects all of these changes, lyrically and sonically. 

After taking “Woman” on the road following his initial success, here he came at things from the opposite perspective. His time spent playing live show after live show drove the sounds on “Blood.” Perhaps this is the reason why Milosh incorporated a full band for the follow-up album. One great example of the band aiding in the full formation of the “new” Rhye comes on “Taste.” Whereas many of the tones found on the album come across as decidedly melancholy, here a sense of funk emerges. Sounds subtly pile on top of one another as Milosh is “dancing with his eyes closed.” The string arrangements add a delightful quality, so too does Milosh’s head-bobbing drums.

The jazzy “Count to Five” follows suit with double hand claps and an accompanying funk-ridden bassline. The single comes with an alluring video shot in six different locations around the world, showcasing six different women with six different dance styles. You’ll find more danceable sounds on “Feel Your Weight” as blips of synthesizers and shaker percussions add flavor before Milosh’s falsetto fades in each chorus with “Oh, I feel your body falling.” Not unlike his alt-pop counterpart BØRNS, Rhye is sometimes mistaken for a woman due to his feminine vocals – he’s a true countertenor. “Feel Your Weight” is a great example of the soft femininity that Milosh puts forward throughout “Blood.”

Then there’s the other half of the album, where sensuality take a backseat to melancholy. “Please” and “Softly,” though still very much R&B, feel so subdued it’s almost like it’s being smothered with a pillow. But, things don’t stay down for long as the drum kit keeps songs like “Blood Knows” and “Song for You” alive for their required three-plus-minute span. Each song like a tonic for what ails you, a soothing medicine for your heartbreak.

“Phoenix” brings each of the two sides together in one cohesive vision. A delicate synth leads into driving drums – all performed by Milosh himself – before his mid-tenor vocals preach both sadness and sensuality at the time same. “I thought you’d love me ‘til I’m raw,” he sings, “Oh my God, oh my God.” It’s this interconnectivity that allows Rhye to avoid the sophomore sadness. “Blood” maintains all the allure and mystery of Milosh’s musical alter-ego yet still harps on his vulnerability and coyness. If the sensations are strong, the music will come – and with his sophomore return Milosh certainly has a spirit worthy of sound.

Blood” is available Feb. 2 on Apple Music.