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KEI-LI & HMLT are seeking a place to call home on Drifters

The Lo-Fi, lowkey, & understated R&B album eases its way into the brain and never leaves

LiFTED | Marcus Aurelius | 19 Jul 2021

It’s only right that Drifters begins with hums, ohhs, ahhs, and finger snaps for nearly two minutes. KEI-LI and HMLT use these intimate sounds to invite listeners to familiar places straight away, and by the end, no one wants to go home.

Collaboration specialists KEI-LI and HMLT started Drifters before the world went into lockdown, but realized when COVID-19 happened that the music was going to be very relatable to the many people who were unable to make real-life connections. Drifters is Neo Soul on an Indie tip focused on the feelings of being stuck in the inbetween.

After ‘Intro,’ KEI-LI just can’t get enough of love in its sweetest form in ‘Addiction.’ He longs for the taste. He craves it day and night. He even has an intense staredown with a black labradoodle while HMLT is vacuuming the street to get a fix for his addiction.

KEI-LI really gets into his groove with ‘Daydreamin.’ His restrained singing stretches out syllables and shows vulnerability with very few words. “Daydreamin’ of you/I’m leaving on a full moon/Stay with ya watchin’ cartoons/Maybe we’ll stay singin’ our tune” is both narrow and wide at the same time. In the video,

KEI-LI and HMLT are cavorting on a couch in a backyard as the sun goes down with keytars, J. Dilla and Marvin Gaye albums, and PlayStation controllers. Just like he does on the hook of the song, Robotaki stops in for a quick moment and then bounces.

‘Peaches & Cream’ continues the backyard party vibe, while ‘Two Cities’ slows things way down. After a vocal exercise of ‘So Fine,’ ‘Remote Love’ comes in and cranks the energy back up. With a Zapp-like Talk Box sharing vocal duties with KEI-LI, this is the tune that can make people stop playing mahjong and drinking milk tea and get up on the couch and turn the party out.

‘For Barb’ starts with the flick of a lighter and an inhale, then turns into a church hymn by the end. It’s soft. It’s serious, but yet it really hits the groove by the end of the song. It is a song that says a lot in very few words. ‘Long Weekend’ wraps things up with voice mails from loved ones and a bit more R&B scatting.

Clocking in at just under 30 minutes, Drifters shows that KEI-LI and HMLT really get each other. They play off their insecurities but boost each other in just the right ways. KEI-LI’s vocals are tender and warm, while HMLT’s production stays comfortably in the back until it needs to shine. Drifters invites listeners to come hang out with their close friends that they like to hum, ohh, ahh, and finger snap with.

Purchase KEI-LI and HMLT's Drifters here or listen to it below.