The simplest way to describe Rhye is to label the group alt-R&B; the bedrock of their sound is a steady, clear-eyed bass line, upon which everything else—soulful guitar, paint-spattered synths, silken violins—rests. On top of this floats the voice of Rhye’s only permanent member, Mike Milosh, whose mesmerizing countertenor I find to be either a vintage throwback or impossibly futuristic, depending on my mood.
On Rhye’s 2013 debut, Woman, Milosh kept his identity in the dark; critics and fans alike wondered at the gender behind that honeyed, high-pitched voice. What they were drawn to was Milosh’s quavering intensity and the yearning that his voice conveyed—elements that Rhye’s latest offering, Blood, features in spades. The album is mainly a showcase for Milosh’s instrument, and his breathiness seems to expand to fill whatever song it’s featured in.
Milosh’s voice also lends the songs on Blood an undeniable sexiness: This is a horny album. On one single, “Taste,” Milosh sings to a genderless lover from what sounds like the early heat of a new relationship. “I’m not awake / I’m not alone / You’re right beside my face / Will you love me this way?” the song begins; the way its negation—“I’m not awake”—combines with the realization, upon waking, that the narrator isn’t alone captures the way newfound desire is never enough: “One more time for my taste,” Milosh sings in the chorus, “See me fall from your eyes to your waist / One more time for my taste / Drink this wine from your sweet, from your case.”
Milosh, however, doesn’t just sing about desire; he’s also concerned with its mechanics. The songs on Blood show love as an uncertain force. “Such a waste I’m waiting out this time / Such a waste I’m feeling all of this now / So many ways to turn this all around / So many ways to make those hidden things found,” Milosh sings on “Waste,” the album’s opener, until finally he’s sure: “We’re going through some changes / Hold my heart.”
That phrase—a gory image that manages to convey the risk in trusting someone—captures Blood’s spirit as it charts a neat course across the shape of a relationship, from infatuation to “What are we?” to “It’s over.” This could also double as a description of a one-night stand—the first passion, the cleaving together, and then the bittersweet end. Milosh seems to always be playing with these double meanings, which are amplified by his lyrical intensifiers. (Count the number of times the word “really” appears, how pleading the singer’s character is.) It’s as if he’s trying to reach across a void to touch a particular feeling on the other side. He never gets there.