The first thing to jump out about the dreamy music of Rhye, besides all that sleekly sweet yearning, is the way the duo incorporates a broad instrumental arsenal — strings, horns, synths, guitars — but finds a way to employ each element sparingly. Rhye's debut album Woman, out March 5, will surely launch a thousand dance remixes, but its beats are restrained to the point of unobtrusiveness. Like many of the '80s hits it vaguely recalls, from Spandau Ballet onward, Rhye's music is instead propelled by hooks that aren't infectious so much as innate.
Lyrically, the approach and effect are similarly restrained: The prevailing emotion on Woman revolves around romantic want, but it's not overt lustiness so much as affectionate yearning. They may radiate gentle mystery and a sexy shimmy, but these songs are also awash in innocence, to the point of quaintness.
The first track on Woman, "Open," embodies everything that works about Rhye's approach: catchy but subtle, sonically rich but uncluttered, sexy but never vulgar. When singer Mike Milosh urges his lover to "stay open," it's both a come-on and a mission statement for relationships everywhere — a heartfelt love letter tucked tenderly into a makeout mix.