Album Review – Devin Roy’s underneath (The Grey Sky)

Devin Roy’s relatively new to the music scene, making his debut in the industry just two years ago in the summer of 2020. However, he hasn’t slowed down at all. Since his initial release, “M.A.N.,” Devin Roy maintained the momentum with two other singles, “Spidey & Motor” and “A Bear Called Papa.” Both tracks display his vulnerability and truthfulness through impactful lyrics paired with innovative production, illustrating how multi-faceted he is as an artist. Just yesterday, February 17th, the 28-year-old artist released his first album, underneath (The Grey Sky), which I got to dive into below. Check it out!

The album begins with the track “WHOAMi.” Right off the bat, I love how the gentle production eases us into the album. The background vocals are haunting, layered over the instrumental to create an ominous tone. The vocals continue as we finally hear Devin Roy’s introduction into the track, asking the question, “who am I?,” mirroring the question the listener has as they prepare to enter the artist’s world. We hear a transition in production as percussion is introduced, adding another dimension to pick up the pace. The lyrics, the tone, the harmonies! It is such a beautiful way to begin an album, leaving just a hint of ambiguity for the listener to form their own opinion on how the journey throughout this project will go. Devin’s performance as a rapper is emotional, and his passion shines through with every word he says. I’m also assuming that is him singing since there are no features listed for this track, and that on its own is impressive. I don’t think the first track of an album has ever gotten me so excited to listen through it in its entirety. This was an incredible way to set the premise.

The track eases into “alowHi,” the second song off the album. I felt the music started a little too consistent with the first track, leaving me a little bored, possibly because I was still so overwhelmed with how much I loved the first song. Boy, was I wrong. I have never been so presumptuous about a piece of music. As soon as the vocals get warped, giving off almost a “Cartoons and Cereal” kind of vibe, the track takes such a different direction than I could have ever imagined. The best comparison I could make for this artist would maybe be Russ, but I think I’m basing that solely off Devin’s vocal ability. If I’m being honest, other than that, this album is already proving to be way too creative and courageous to compare it to anyone else’s music. And I am so thankful for that.

“ADDitude” isn’t my favorite track, just because I’m not a fan of the overly autotuned sound. And once again, those first two songs were just so good that anything would be difficult to follow up with. I appreciate Devin Roy’s approach with choosing a track like this for the third spot on the album because it offers something completely different. Still, it just isn’t my cup of tea. With that being said, I love the lyrics. I feel like a song like this would be paired with absolute fuckboy lyrics, but instead, they demonstrate a moment of self-reflection and accountability that I really appreciate.

“Lu Lu’s Lemon” is a fun interlude that features Devin’s Uncle Luis. It offers a little moment to breathe, but I do think it could have been shortened substantially. Interludes make it a bit hard to play through an album all the way through, especially when you get in the vibe. Personally, I prefer them to be around 30 seconds unless they’re highly pivotal for the project as a whole.

Devin Roy follows it up with a “Lu Lu’s Lemon pt. ii,” and I was slightly worried it was just going to be another interlude. But then we get an enjoyable track with a beat that I absolutely love. It incorporates cultural flairs first introduced in “Lu Lu’s Lemon,” connecting the vibe of the two. It has a bounce and a flavor that seems to reflect Devin Roy’s background and family, giving us another look into who he is and where he comes from. The chorus really transports the listener to a 2000s R&B club, with sweaty bumpin’ and grinding. I think the two interludes could have been combined in some way, but honestly, I’m not mad at it. I see what the intention was.

“Flint Stone” is definitely a much more futuristic approach. I’m unsure about how I feel about the placement in terms of following up “Lu Lu’s Lemon pt. ii” with it, but I do love all of the moving parts in the song. It isn’t one of my favorites, but the layers keep me interested, and it really showcases Devin Roy’s versatility as an artist. The little outro does make me want to hang out with Devin Roy and his family, though.

The next song, “on the low,” features Kay G, the producer, to create a real smooth, old-school feel with some gorgeous jazzy keys. This song feels like a rainy Sunday morning, and I especially love how the piano stands out while simultaneously complementing the vocals. A lot of thought went into arranging this song, and it shines through. I love this track.

“on the low” pours effortlessly into “Voodoo,” which creates a sexy, sensual intimacy with the listener. This is another standout track for me. There’s just a beauty and romanticism to it that leaves me absolutely hypnotized, predominantly because it’s such an unconventional approach to such a lovely song. It feels innocent and vulnerable, and the production only furthers that feeling. The song features a sound clip that took me out of it for a bit, but holy shit. When Devin Roy’s vocals re-enter the song, I find myself even more encaptured by the music than I was before. This may be my favorite vocal performance of Devin Roy’s thus far.

We transition into “Lois Lane,” continuing with the hints of lo-fi production to keep a mellow tone. If you’ve read my blog before, then you know I’m a sucker for a beautiful string section, and the way they’re utilized in this song is a prime example of why I love them so much. I would say this is one of the few tracks where the production takes the forefront aside from the female vocals, which were absolutely stunning. But it wasn’t in an overwhelming or crowded way at all. The strings and production showed strong Nujabes influence, and it was just so enthralling. I wish the audio clips were used more exclusively, though. When conversations tend to over-explain the music, the mystery and the ability for the listener to interpret diminish a bit.

That opening to “flamingo,” oh my goodness! The butterflies! The imagery! It’s all so simple and yet so whimsical. This perfectly contrasts with “Lois Lane.” It allows Devin Roy’s vocal performance to carry the track, with the added synth towards the end taking the song to another planet. Truly stunning.

“flamingo” put me so at peace that “Mercy ME” feels a bit chaotic following up, but I do love hearing this side of Devin Roy as well. The repetitive comic book references are a lot of fun to catch, and it’s interesting to listen to that be such a reoccurring theme throughout the project. This may have been one of the dopest flows in terms of straight lyrical performance.

“FUEGO” caught me off guard for so many reasons! First, with the way it started?! Once again, VERY 2000s Timbaland/Pharrell vibe, and I love it. But then, just when I was expecting to get some grimey shit, the beat ends up so mellow and straightforward?! I love how unpredictable this album is. Just when you think you know how the song will go, you end up with the unexpected. It’s really dope. This track is like calculated fuck-boy, and it’s something I never knew I needed.

I want to love “friction” so so badly, simply because it’s so obscure in how it combines generational sounds. It was a risk. But it is just so contrasting that I can’t get into it. I appreciate the artistic merit of this song, but it’s a tad disappointing, especially as we’re preparing to close out the album.

“Lost Blessings” is soul-crushing, and I love the admissions that occur in the lyrics. They are captivating. But this is a bit underwhelming for the second-to-last song. I think the a cappella that played out in the last track slowed the album’s pace down too much, losing the excitement that was built up through the beginning. I still think this is a tragically lovely song. But I would maybe push it up earlier in the album to create the up and down of emotions to balance it all out.

The album ends with “Hattori Hanzo Steel.” I was unsure when the song first began, but as soon as the percussion picked up the pace, I felt like it was a beautiful way to sum up the project. It incorporated elements from all of the tracks while still having its own sound, and I love the fact that it feels like it’s closing the album on a peaceful resolution. The album really illustrated Devin Roy’s range of thoughts and emotions, and “Hattori Hanzo Steel” feels as though we finally could all quiet the conflicting voices in our heads to just live in the moment. I really love the way this album ended.

I think I can earnestly say that this is one of my favorite album reviews that I’ve done. Whether I agreed with all of the stylistic choices or not, they were bold and well-thought-out. My one critique would be the use of the interludes and audio clips, just because they tend to break up an album, making it difficult to it in one sitting. I love the way Devin Roy incorporated them, but I would suggest using them more sparingly. You can tell that Devin Roy and Kay G, the producer of the entire album, have an excellent relationship working with one another. The production worked alongside Devin Roy rather than fought him for the spotlight. As a result, it created a beautifully dynamic and fascinating album. This is an extraordinary project that genuinely felt like an experience. If you enjoyed the album as well, make sure to connect with Devin Roy below!

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