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The English duo Children of Zeus spin a cocoon of neo-soul on “No Love Song,” a single from their new album, Balance.

This track is a magnificent bummer, a laundry lists of flaws, failings, and shortcomings. The first line is a warning: “The emotions of a stone expectin’ me to write a love song/You don’t wanna place your money on me.” The narrator only gets more self-disgusted from there. First he sings “I’m gonna let you down”; later, this sentiment intensifies to “all I do is let you down.” These feelings of loathing culminate in a stolidly rapped verse: “You must have thought this was someone else/Fuck your love songs, I don’t love myself.”

Children of Zeus’ lyrics could come from a punk-rock screed against a commercialized music industry that demands artists churn out lovelorn confections. But in fact this supposedly emotionless duo is deeply invested in R&B, a genre that has always traced the twists and turns of romantic feeling with particular care.

That means “No Love Song” is remarkably tender despite its stone-cold narrator. The chorus is an affecting call-and-response, with handsomely layered vocals and word-less backing parts that smolder but never catch fire. With repetition, the promise “I’m gonna let you down” starts to sound less like a cause of disappointment and more like a defiant manifesto.

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