Not Mine

Carlos Hernandez helped shape the Brooklyn music scene of the 2010s—as a denizen of the defunct DIY space Silent Barn, and as a producer and arranger for artists like Frankie Cosmos and Mr Twin Sister—but you may not know his name. As the bandleader and frequent lead singer of the perennially underrated Ava Luna, he never hogged the spotlight. The Brooklyn art-funk group operated more like a creative collective and talent incubator, with Hernandez routinely ceding the microphone to bandmates Becca Kauffman, who piloted the band’s kooky, theatrical side, and Felicia Douglass, whose versatile pipes channeled introspective soul. Hernandez could shriek and croon with the best of them, but as Ava Luna’s career progressed, his own voice became less prominent.

Now, with Ava Luna on hiatus since the 2019 departure of Kauffman (aka performance artist Jennifer Vanilla), Hernandez steps into the spotlight with an excellent solo album of minimalist funk and R&B pared down to its barest essence. Although he quietly self-released an album as Carlos Hernandez in 2018, Not Mine is the artist’s first under the Carlos Truly moniker and billed as his proper solo debut. It’s understated and warm, nimbly bridging the gap between the vintage soul influences embedded in everything Hernandez creates and the jagged hip-hop production by the artist’s brother, Tony Seltzer, who co-produced most of the record.

Never does this conjoining of worlds sound more revelatory than on the sizzling electro-funk workout “Dumb Desire.” Ava Luna sometimes described themselves as “nervous soul,” and that nervousness boils over into jittery intoxication on this ode to the terror of making one’s desires known to a crush. The track is syly addictive, with Seltzer’s escalating symphony of synth squiggles and boom-clap beats goading along Hernandez’s increasingly agitated vocal delivery, which includes stretching the word “fire” into a five-syllable anxiety swell. Leave it to Carlos Truly to make an introverted banger for the masses.

Hernandez’s voice—a honeyed soul croon—remains his purest asset. The son of a ’70s New York soul DJ, Hernandez grew up listening to Al Green on the subway, and you get the sense his engagement with sounds that predated his birth is more than casual. He self-harmonizes and reveals an enviable vocal range on “Your Sound,” which is, fittingly, an ode to the way a person’s voice can lodge itself in your memory; he wails in falsetto over the last chorus of “Why Suffer??” like only a seasoned Prince obsessive can. You can easily imagine the track’s supple funk, with its Stax-ready guitar tones, emanating from an old cassette deck on a sweltering day.