After years of flitting between projects and genres following the amicable split of his group Abhi//Dijon, Los Angeles-based musician Dijon (of “Skin” and “Violence” fame) has released his simmering, soulful debut album.
With the opening crackles of static and simple reverberating chords in the song “Big Mike’s,” Dijon beckons his listeners into a warm and personal sonic space. This atmospheric first track showcases Dijon’s charmingly unpolished style. The song feels like you’ve stumbled into a maudlin session of reminiscing, accidentally eavesdropping on Dijon’s wrenching last-ditch appeal to his former love Joanna. Dijon’s pleas oscillate between rosy sentimentality (“I like how you look when you get good news / And I like how you look when you’re dancing to your favorite song”) and unabashed desperation (“I might drop to my knees, Joanna please / Will you take me? Will you take me?”). Dijon’s yearnings swim in a rippling pool of instrumentals and tender, melodic mutterings.
He leaves his vocals unenhanced, removing all obfuscating layers of production between his emotions and Joanna’s ears. Dijon’s stripped-down style doesn’t feel unfinished, but rather unadulterated. It’s as if he sees any “tidying up” of the track to be an exothermic process: manicuring the raw sounds will only release some of their invaluable authenticity into the cosmos. Unsullied by autotune, pitch correction, and the like, this cri de cœur is a fitting introduction to Dijon’s touchingly messy debut album.
He continues his address of Joanna on “Scratching,” treading tenderly across the rutted field of their past relationship. Against the backdrop of an understated piano progression, Dijon employs his signature patchwork storytelling style to cobble together a picture of their relationship. He admits to personal lapses—“There were times I lied”—but reminds her of the joyful, pure moments as well: “But there were times where you were clapping and laughing / There were honest times too.” Though the lyrics and details are disjointed, “Scratching” does not seek to relay a linear story. It instead reflects the fragmentary nature of human memory through an auditory mosaic.
“Many Times” ruptures the sentimental bubble of “Big Mike’s” and “Scratching” by enveloping listeners in the dynamic last stage of Dijon’s failed relationship. Like a dying star, which burns fiercest before collapsing spectacularly in on itself, the end of Dijon’s relationship is preceded by a violent final flash. He situates the listener in this last stroke of pain, laying out his grievances on a chromatic, twitching melody: “There you go again / Head low, putting on a show again / It’s the holidays / How come it always ends this way.”
Dijon’s pliant voice swoops and sways across “Many Times,” conveying his angst in an animated anti-ex anthem. At times, he launches lyrics like projectiles of frustration: “So many times you hurt me so much / So many times you hurt me so much.” In the pre-chorus, he vexedly fires off a string of random words (“strawberry, raspberry, candlelight, satellite / Television, x-ray vision”) before posing the question “What’s it gonna take for you to listen?” as if to echo the absurdity of his partner’s lack of cooperation.
Compared to the arresting, zigzag intensity of “Many Times,” “Annie” fizzles. Although the song features a compelling host of background saxophones, strings, and drums, these rich supporting notes fail to make up for lyrical and structural shortcomings. The instrumentals cascade colorfully onto Dijon’s raspy vocals, but ultimately not enough to conceal the song’s blithe lack of substance.
“The Dress,” however, is the brightest jewel in Absolutely’s crown. The full-bodied slow jam reveals Dijon’s ability to shine with more polished production. The layers of enhancement map organically onto his sound, never stunting his natural tone. The extra production of “The Dress” doesn’t sand and gloss over Dijon’s vocal texture. Rather, it brings out the grain of his sound, revealing rich, new sonic hues. The song is yet another crooning proposal for Dijon’s former belle to reconsider their relationship: “We should go out and dance like we used to dance / We should go out and hold hands like lovers hold hands.” However, unlike “Big Mike’s,” “The Dress” enchants with dreamy hopefulness rather than desperation. Dijon’s smoldering vocals lick and singe the edges of the track in hopes of thawing his ex-lover’s resolve.
While “The Dress” is Absolutely’s polished gem, “Talk Down” is its heartbeat. The earworm ballad details a car ride exchange over a punchy breakbeat. Dijon showcases his signature smoky voice, which takes on a particularly gritty, silty consistency. Between pulses of the beat, Dijon weaves a thread of teases—“I like it when you talk down / When you speak / I might bend and listen to you”—modulating the banter with snippets of fond memories. The song is snarkily upbeat, but affection hides in its grooves and fissures. In this sweet spot between playfulness and tenderness, Dijon’s unique appeal shines.
With his first album, Dijon pieces together a stirring collage of yearning, at once sweet and devastating. While Absolutely is at times vacuous, Dijon’s dusky voice makes even the crooning of sweet nothings permissible. Absolutely leaves the listener to untangle a colorful knot of emotional twinges, and cements Dijon as an exciting talent in the alternative music scene.