Told through the lens of a singular party, relationship dynamics are never as black and white as they appear to be. Compatibility between partners is imperfect, communication can be challenging, and emotions are inherently convoluted, making it impossible to form snap judgments about these dynamics the way you’re supposed to whenever you watch romantic comedies or listen to your friends complain about their partners.
Positively thriving in this gulf of relational ambiguity is the anonymous R&B duo, Emotional Oranges, whose debut project, The Juice: Vol. 1, mines this fertile subject matter to great effect over the course of its eight songs. As the duo trade verses about relationship conflicts from differing perspectives, moral judgments take a backseat to a comparatively matter-of-fact lyrical approach, reminding listeners that relationships exist in the murky spaces between people, rather than through the myopic eyes of any one party.
The song “Someone Else” is the perfect distillation of this approach, telling the story of two people who make sizable sacrifices in their relationships, but then step aside willingly when they realize their partners want to move on. The song doesn’t position either party as a hero or a villain, but merely as mature adults with the emotional intelligence to appreciate that this is the inherent risk they took on when they ventured into this relationship initially.
Striking a similar note is the song “Built That Way,” in which the duo collectively croons, “you can be honest with me, babe [...] I have to let you know I'm built that way.” Ideally, in a utopian world, every relationship would be built on a foundation of honesty, but the members of Emotional Oranges know that this is an unrealistic value to cling onto in the world of modern romance. It’s an ugly truth to acknowledge, but in 2019’s dating landscape, straddling the gray area between selective disclosure and outright dishonesty is often unavoidable.
Just as they opt to foreground this sort of ambiguity in their lyrical content, Emotional Oranges match this ethos musically by showcasing their wide range of disparate sonic influences at every opportunity. Simultaneously sultry, tranquil, and affecting, the duo’s music most frequently conjures comparisons to that of indie-pop group, The xx—particularly on the delicately harmonized standout, “Corners Of My Mind”—but listening to The Juice: Vol. 1, it's clear the duo also draw influence from The Weeknd, Sade, Daft Punk, and a number of other generational talents.
The resulting product of these influences is a collection of mid-tempo songs, featuring not just earworms, but pulsing bodyworms that gradually work their way into your bones, causing you to compulsively want to hit the two-step like an auntie at a wedding reception. Pacing-wise, by the time the album’s third track rolls around—“Hold You Back,” with its clever interpolation of Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s “Got Your Money”—you’ll find yourself drawn into the Emotional Oranges universe, eagerly awaiting the arrival of Vol. 2 in this series.
Ironically, for an album released by an anonymous duo, thematically rooted in the concept of ambiguity, there isn't a single song on the project that isn't undeniable.