Like many, I first heard Michael Milosh’s voice on Rhye’s melancholy piano ballad “The Fall,” released in late 2012. Rhye is a duo consisting of Milosh and Danish producer Robin Hannibal.
The musicians garnered buzz not only for their sultry alternative R&B sound, but also for their clandestine approach to public relations. By releasing their excellent singles online, sans artist biographies and photos, Milosh and Hannibal enticed a massive fleet of listeners while keeping their identity and origin under wraps.
When debut LP Woman arrived in March of last year, we were all ears, but no eyes.
In an era hell-bent on breaking down artist mystique by demanding an internet presence and social media interaction, Rhye’s disregard for any visual supplement to its music couldn’t help but feel refreshingly iconoclastic, though the duo’s penchant for performing in the dark is a tad extreme.
Milosh’s latest LP Jetlag – his fourth as a solo artist – rides the wave of Woman’s acclaim and borrows heavily from its visual artwork -- black-and-white photos of vaguely discernible female forms.
And like the Rhye album, Jetlag carefully utilizes dissonance between image and sound to sensual effect: the Canadian singer’s breathy, somnolent vocals are androgynous enough to be mistaken for those of a woman.
Though Jetlag is apparently interested in capitalizing on Rhye’s success in these regards, Milosh doesn’t hesitate to deviate from Woman’s winning formula of R&B horn, piano, and string arrangements.
Rather, it is a record of woozy electro-pop which places its emphasis on Milosh’s buoyant timbre, synthesized drum loops and keyboard melodies, and samples of the singer’s wife breathing, laughing, moaning, and speaking.
Milosh has described the album as an expression of love and commitment to his wife, actress Alexa Nikolas, and a sonic diary of their world travels together.
Thematically, that’s another far cry from Woman, a somber affair of desire, disappointment, and the ruthless passage of time.
Lyrics are minimal throughout, opting for repeated questions (e.g. “Do you want what I want?,” “Can we all just slow down?”) and glib romantic phrases (“I love the way you move”). On first listen, some lines Milosh delivers seem eye-rollingly idyllic, though closer inspection uncovers a few venomous thoughts below the surface, as in “This wicked tongue leaves bloody stains” on the song “Stakes Ain’t High.”
Even on bouncier tracks like “Skipping,” Milosh never abandons the sorrow inherent in his voice. You might not know Jetlag is a love album without the artist himself labeling it as such.
But Milosh is singularly gifted in his ability to add subtlety and mystique to even the most cloying lines, like “You turn me on, you turn me on / Feel me through you,” or “I want you to get lost in my mouth forever.”
Jetlag’s finer tracks – “Skipping,” “This Time,” “Hear in You” – are sonically reminiscent of Radiohead singer Thom Yorke’s 2006 solo effort The Eraser, and perhaps rightfully so. The latter is another example in which a solo artist adapted conceptual bits and pieces from previous successes (in this case, the adventures in electronica on post-OK Computer Radiohead albums) with mostly positive results.
And like The Eraser, Milosh’s fourth album never eclipses the most gripping moments of its predecessor, but it proves a worthwhile listen for fans of Woman.