[11 February 2014]
Rhye’s Woman was one of my favorite records of 2013, and when Milosh, the vocalist and half of that group, released Jetlag mere months afterwards, I was understandably excited. Unfortunately, what I got was more or less Woman, except anything even close to the greatness of “Open”, one of the best tracks of 2013, or another “The Fall”, and without the novelty of “I’m listening to a man sing?” In other words, Jetlag is a lot of interchangeable tunes that rests on the shoulders of Milosh’s undeniably pretty voice, seemingly released as soon as possible to capitalize on his success with Rhye after laboring in obscurity for the greater part of the decade. This is his fourth solo record, after all, and I don’t think it’s a stretch to say it’s the first that the music community cared about.
Whereas the worst songs of Woman could be criticized for being nothing more than their hooks or else not going anywhere in particular, Jetlag features some missteps. I have no idea what the intrusive bass of “Do You Want What I Need” is supposed to be doing, but it manages to take you out of the song’s bedroom atmosphere, while closer “This Time” features Milosh eventually disguising his voice in generic robotics—a bad move indeed, considering his voice is his weapon, and it’s not done in any particularly interesting way. For my entry of Rhye’s “Open” for PopMatters’ The 75 Best Songs of 2013, I wrote that it was “a song that celebrates love as much as it celebrates making love”. “Don’t Call It” features a sample of his wife moaning gently throughout and pigeonholes the song into the latter category when it could’ve easily straddled both. A damn shame, because it’s one of the few songs that goes anywhere successfully, with the subtle shift from gentle hand percussion to clicking drums in its climax that aren’t unlike the ones that powered Sampha’s “Without”. Meanwhile, there’s no reason for “Hold Me” to be eight minutes in length.
The rest? I like the hook of “Hear in You”, the piano flourishes of “Stakes Ain’t High”, and I’ve always thought the Milosh’s voice would do wonderfully for a straight-up ballad and “Slow Down” proves me right. But even those tracks don’t really give any reason to ever seek this one out over Woman. Most of the rest of these tracks are rhythm-propelled, but the rhythms are never as engaging as they were on “The Fall” or “Last Dance”. Furthermore, the sensual lyrics found throughout Woman like “I’m a fool for the shake in your thighs” or “I’m famished so I’ll eat your minerals” are nowhere to be found here – stakes ain’t high, indeed. And though I find what Milosh wrote about Jetlag to be emotionally resonating, “Jetlag is an expression of my deep love for my wife […] [It is about] ultimately making a choice to be with someone,” I fail to see how that’s any different than the music within Woman.
Like Sampha’s Dual EP who I referenced earlier – who also makes sensual music and with an equally distinct and yet completely different voice—released earlier in 2013, Jetlag is filled with intimate sounds: “Do You Want What I Need”’s percussion generated from Milosh tapping on his wife’s stomach; the percussion of “Jetlag” is the result of an experiment in Milosh’s bathtub; the aforementioned moans in “Don’t Call It”; their dog’s collar is heard as she happened to run by a vocal take of “This Time”. It’s all very cool to read and to know about, but unfortunately, how he got a specific sound doesn’t interest me so much as what said specific sound does. And when we listen to his wife giggling in the “bridge” of “Do You Want What I Need,” I feel like I’m listening to an in-joke between him and Alexa Nikolas, instead of getting any emotion that Milosh probably strove for when he sampled her.