Toronto duo dvsn have realised their massive potential here, after their warm-up debut effort last year.
When dvsn released their stimulating singles from their first album SEPT. 5TH in 2015, we heard a glimpse of the glossy and sexy R&B to follow. Vocalist Daniel Delaney and producer, Nineteen85, had created a delightful groove with electronic reliance. Their second album, Morning After, is a masterful rhythm and blues project and a delightful progression from their former sound.
Inspired by the greats, Delaney has found his Prince-like flamboyance as a performer, as the aesthetic of the album art will tell you. Two lovers relaxing by the side of an empty swimming pool, under a light purple-infused skyline.
Being signed to Drake’s OVO label sets up an expectation of R&B greatness, and it’s brilliant to witness when the signees pull through with the goods. Opening track “Run Away” is dramatic in its instrumentation. Chilling violins create suspense, then a booming bass sets the stage for Delaney, powering through with his angry vocals. He sounds hurt on this track, but maintains a sweet melody in the chorus.
Morning After is a collection of ideas free from formula, flowing uninterrupted by repetition. “Nuh Time/Tek Time” is frankly heavenly. An admission of romantic inadequacies split over two halves – the first beginning with a gorgeous female vocal, complaining about a lack of attention from her partner. Her complaint is then chopped, re-pitched and looped throughout “Nuh Time”. “Tek Time” is where Delaney reassures her of his commitment. This track is lyrically and sonically what R&B is all about. “Keep Calm” opens with a wedding style piano solo, succeeded by a chunky bassline and Delaney’s crooning.
The strongest section of the album features classic 80s and 90s soul samples, the first being “Think About Me” which is arguably one of the best R&B songs of the year. This slow-burner is a night-time playlist essential, and one which he confidently proclaims his ex-girl still thinks about him…whilst he thinks about her. Most notable of the samples in the section of the album is the vocal line from “Fortunate” by Maxwell on “POV”, helping Delaney perform a sweet falsetto.
In terms of club-appropriate songs, the standout track must be “Can’t Wait” due to the sheer groove and fluency of the Spanish guitar, the charming beat and the relaxed, pristine vocal delivery. This track sounds like a long-lost B-side from Michael Jackson’s “Off The Wall” album. The title track will make you want to ride a horse into the sunset with a loved one, throwing your worries behind you. A dreamy guitar section is matched by delicate pianos and playful percussion, with Delaney singing loved up vocals in an attempt to keep his partner around until…the Morning After.
“Claim” is the musical equivalent of a sexual ‘Come on…’. Delaney asks his lover to join him on the darker side of sexual behaviour. “Body Smile” is the perfect example of how dvsn’s songwriting has massively upgraded in only a year. The beat sounds like a racing heart getting more excited at the prospect of make-up sex, his vocals finding a way into the nuanced gaps between noise. More experimentation with Delaney’s voice is clear on this album, with the usage of double-tracking stellar throughout and possessing a clearly superior range to his arsenal of pitches. This album is better produced than last time out too – Nineteen85 blends pop and R&B to create distinct beats, as opposed to a continuous stream of music similar to their first album.
Thinking about SEPT. 5TH and Morning After as their own distinct messages, it could be said that the former is a one-night stand littered with irrationality. The latter is a balanced view of reality, mulling things over and reaching the best conclusions for yourself and your love. The former was an exciting entry into R&B for dvsn which perhaps didn’t showcase why, or how, they were different to anyone else. But Morning After is a more artistic and delicate body of work, propelling them into the conversation surrounding 2017’s best R&B records.
Words: George Kennedy