The legendary director Mike Nichols believed any worthwhile scene could be boiled down to one of three things: a negotiation, a seduction, or a fight. On the full-length debut, Liberator, from Minneapolis quartet DEM YUUT, that trinity plays out in a uniquely disarming fashion.
The album’s nine songs play directly to those fundamental human pursuits, rinsing the sweaty impulse of modern R&B in astute waves of synth and indie atmosphere. Even when frontman Danny O’Brien is in a reflective and delicate mode, there’s an earnest sense of swagger to cut through the lovelorn haze. Lead-off track “Dawn/Sea” toys with Top 40 tropes without shorting their impact, while “Muck” puts a coolly calculated spin on the troubled relationship jam.
Rounded out by bandmates Don House, Jeremy Hanson and Jef Sundquist, DEM YUUT pushes beyond the common confines of laptop R&B with a gorgeous array of sounds and textures — some improvised live in the studio, others meticulously crafted. But while the aesthetics run deep, the songs are as well-suited to the jeep as any Drake or Kanye cut. Even the heady cinematic tension in tracks like “Bloody Knuckles” and “Worse Off” is offset by an ear for hypnotic boom-bap. In total, the album is an expertly stitched soundtrack to a few universal pastimes of summer: the fevered crush, the drunk confession, the slow drive, the blissful giving in to what simply feels right at the time.