Describing music as lulling you to sleep usually isn’t complimentary, but for the hushed, meditative world of Hypnos, it’s high praise.
Hypnos is R&B singer-songwriter Ravyn Lenae’s debut studio album, and her first release in four years since 2018’s Sticky EP. Familiar adjectives like lush, groovy, and vibey all readily come to mind when describing Lenae’s music, but unfortunately she has already beaten every reviewer to the punch and named her album after the best one — hypnotic.
Hypnos is named after the Greek god of sleep, and the tracklist is arranged so that the songs lull the listener deeper and deeper into a trance as the project progresses. Calling anything on this patient album “upbeat” might be bending the truth, but early tracks like “Venom” and “M.I.A.” certainly have fast-paced melodies and, thanks to their tightly exploding synth chords, enough of a groove to get your head nodding. (The latter also has Afrobeat-adjacent percussion.) Lead single “Skin Tight,” which features The Internet’s Steve Lacy, is where the album really gets into the process of hypnosis: “Hold me while you can,” Lenae croons over a sea of dreamy harmonies. Her voice is delicate and high-pitched, but the richness of the album’s vocal layering elevates the music from anonymous, vibe R&B into a project formed around her distinct, siren-esque presence. The next few tracks are also slow and meditative; “Deep in the World” even incorporates some soft acoustic guitar. But just because the songs are relaxed doesn’t mean they’re somnambulant or lack personality. On “3D,” Lenae asserts, with smooth attitude, “I don’t need a boyfriend,” as Smino’s guest verse barely holds onto the beat.
The album picks back up for a moment with “Satellites” (wordless vocalizations support her lyrics about floating high in space), but then gets even more overt about its title as it descends back into “Lullabye,” which is punctuated by tissue-thin harp sounds. The last few tracks, which wind the project down to a gentle conclusion, are no less entrancing than the earlier cuts. Second single “Light Me Up” and its cascading melody are a highlight; acoustic guitar reappears in “Like You Do” and “Mercury.” These closing songs are so peaceful that you’re in danger of both forgetting you’re listening to them partway through and internalizing their music completely into your being. Hypnos concludes with “Wish,” where Lenae sings, “Every night, I close my eyes and make a little wish.” Grand violins guide listeners to close their eyes and finally rest. Describing music as lulling you to sleep usually isn’t complimentary, but for the hushed, meditative world of Hypnos, it’s high praise.
Published as part of Album Roundup — May 2022 | Part 2.