James Hinton is an excavator. Over the previous decade-plus he’s spent making music because the Vary, he’s trawled by means of the unattended corners of YouTube, Instagram, and Periscope in quest of vocals, most of them largely ignored by platform algorithms and the bigger listening public alike. As of 2022, that technique has grown much less uncommon, particularly because the rise of TikTok has despatched just about each A&R rep with a pulse scrambling on-line to search out the following viral expertise. Hinton, nevertheless, takes a extra nuanced method, having developed a particular set of search parameters to maximise his probabilities of placing web gold. He’s not searching for hit songs; he’s searching for unpolished gems, fragments of speech and emotionally resonant turns of phrase that he can rework into items of digital pop perfection.
Hinton’s method has remained pretty constant; his newest full-length, Mercury, largely depends upon the identical methodologies as his 2013 breakthrough LP, Nonfiction, and its 2016 follow-up, Potential. As such, the brand new album represents one thing extra like a refresh of his sound, slightly than a full-blown reinvention. Its 11 tracks allude to numerous strains of dance music (’90s rave and traditional grime most prominently) however largely avoid the precise dancefloor, basking as a substitute in moments of gauzy melancholy and wistful reflection. Components of soul, hip-hop, and R&B all issue into the combo as effectively, however at his core, Hinton is a pop artist, and a meticulous one at that. (Given his consideration to element, it may not be stunning to be taught that he studied theoretical physics at Brown College and has admitted to being the type of man who does math issues for enjoyable in his spare time.)
His strategies are remarkably efficient. From the rave-lite R&B of LP opener “Bicameral”—a track that makes the Bicep catalog sound just like the work of hardened avenue toughs—to the twinkling gospel flight of “Cantor,” the album is bursting with vibrant colours and the stickiest of sing-along melodies. Mercury is notably hotter than its predecessors, and even because it glides between compact bits of woozy UK rap (“Urethane”), gloriously shambling soul (“Ricercar”), and tinkling storage laments (“Not for Me”), there’s an apparent universality to Hinton’s work. Referring to one thing as “Spotify-core” wouldn’t usually be a praise, however each track on Mercury appears completely fitted to right this moment’s streaming tradition, wherein listeners count on massive emotions (and even larger hooks) in taut pop packages. There’s no fats or extra in a monitor like “1995,” even because it by some means squeezes plaintive piano, MPC boom-bap, a My Bloody Valentine pattern, and the soulfully longing croon of vocalist Toiya Etheridge into lower than 4 minutes.