Thundercat - Drunk: So, bass legend, Kendrick collaborator, and unabashed video game nerd Thundercat is back with a new full length record following up 2013’s Apocalypse, 2015 EP Where The Giants Roam, and this year’s single “Show You The Way.” Along with awesome features from Kendrick, FlyLo, Sounwave, Pharrell and more, Drunk is perhaps the most cohesive sound Thundercat has achieved thus far.
There is an element of 70’s psychedelic soul contained in each of these tracks, including classic drum machine sounds, fits of dad-rock, and watery bass sounds. Thundercat’s vocals float over all of it, jumping erratically between singing about institutional racism and finding acceptance in friends and family to talking about playing his favorite video games and his general nerdiness. All of the features on this album are dope. Kendrick’s verse on “Walk On By” is $$, Pharrell’s voice works with Thundercat’s in a really cool way that I definitely wasn’t expecting, FlyLo works his magic as per usual, Sounwave (producer of Kendrick’s “You Ain’t Gotta Lie”) makes cool additions to several tracks, and even Wiz Khalifa turns in a pretty solid verse. “Show You The Way” features two of Thundercat’s own idols, Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald, each delivering heartfelt vocals, in some way passing the torch to a new artist building on a sound that they pioneered. “Friend Zone” is unbelievably catchy for a song about playing Diablo, while “Them Changes” …I mean, you already know. “Uh Uh” deserves a special shout out as probably my favorite song on the project, with its twisting and writhing bass and drum interactions, filled out with lush piano chords and vocal “aaaahhhh's." “Where I’m Going” also deserves a mention for showing a different side of Thundercat’s voice and production with help from FlyLo.
If you’ve read my previous reviews, you probably know that I don’t like to criticize albums very much. If I were to say anything bad about this one, it would be that I wish Thundercat would deliver a more focused lyrical performance over the whole album. The contrast is nice, but it just seems a little too erratic. Overall though, the production is great, the features are great, and Thundercat once again cements his place as one of the more interesting artists in the game today. JATIN
Recc: 3, 5, 9, 10, 14, 15, 16
Future - Future: HNDRXX is the first album in Future’s back to back release between the last two weeks. Why am I adding FUTURE instead of HNDRXX? Cause I didn’t really fuck with HNDRXX is all. Future showcases a Future that’s more in his element, I think, and it’s got more of a gritty, raw, vibe. It’s a lot less melodic and poppy than HENDRXX, but I don’t think thats what I think of when I think of his shit in the first place. 17 tracks of homie going in, no features. That’s something I can appreciate nowadays. Some might feel like it's a lot of the same shit, but I guess that’s not something I really mind too much. JAISON
RIYL: Migos, Young Thug, Travis Scott
Recommended Tracks: “Super Trapper”, “Mask Off, “When I Was Broke”, and “Feds Did a Sweep”
Steve Lacy - Demo: Between the releases of Matt Martians’ The Drum Theory and Syd’s Fin, it’s been a great month for Internet fans. I’ve had both of those records on repeat for the past few weeks, so when I heard Steve Lacy had a project coming up too, I knew it was going to be good. When well-loved groups start putting out solo projects, it can be hard for them to live up to expectations. What’s rad about the Internet, though, is that they’re all continuing to work on each others art. So, instead of having a bunch of underwhelming and disjointed solo projects, it’s like we’re getting three different Internet albums in one month, but each with a different twist. Matt Martians’ project hit that sweet spot between funk, soul, and hip-hop, while Syd’s was more Aaliyah-influenced old-school sensual R&B, and Lacy’s brings us back with the classic Internet basslines we know and love. Lacy is the youngest member of the Internet (seriously, dude was 16 when Ego Death came out) known for guitar and background vocals, but on Steve Lacy’s Demo, he comes front and center, and holds his own! The project doesn’t stray too far from the Internet sound (and is sometimes almost too similar – the bassline on “thangs” is eerily familiar), but he does bring his own twist to it. If you’re into mellow funk/soul/r&b, you’ll dig this. A few last things to note: the whole project spans under 15 minutes, but it’s not an EP. Also, I feel like I have to mention that the entire thing was recorded on an iPhone (aside from some drums on Ableton). Seriously. Rad. Visuals for “RYD”/”Dark Red” are pretty rad too. ZOE
RIYL: The Internet, old Frank Ocean, new Childish Gambino
Recommended Tracks: 2, 3, 6
Kingdom - Tears in the Club: Kingdom has been around for a while, but he’s finally gotten around to releasing his debut album.
So what can you expect? Essentially, Tears in the Club consists of all the sounds that have made Fade to Mind over the years: that intersection of R&B, the club, the warehouse, and the bedroom. Everything in TitC has a really smooth sense about it, especially over some of Kingdom’s earlier release’s on Night Slugs. It's also not really any one thing; about half the tracks feature vocalists. The other half are all club tracks and really lend themselves to Kingdom’s expressive productions style.
The standout out track here is the album’s single, “Nothin” featuring Syd. The track harkens back to Kingdom’s production with Kelela on Cut 4 Me and Hallucinogen.
Nothing about this release is too daring or bold, but that means none of it alienating or distressing either. The album is well balanced and plays to a wide target audience, so I definitely recommend giving it a few listens. CAMERON
Recommend: 1, 3, 7, 11
RIYL: Kelela, Fade to Mind, Night Slugs
Vagabon - Infinite Worlds: Vagabon is the folky indie rock electro pop project of Cameroonian singer/songwriter Laetitia Tamko. She started the project after moving to New York City in 2014. Originally, it was just her voice and a guitar, but she learned how to play drums and keyboard since then so she could play on her latest album. Infinite Words is her second album, released on Father/Daughter Records. It’s a pretty diverse album in terms of sound and genres encompassed in the 30-minute record. There’s folk, garage, electronic, rock, lo-fi, pop, and more, but every song still sounds like it’s by the same band, which goes to show the power of her sound. The first song on the album, “The Embers,” is actually an older song that appeared on her first album under the name “Sharks.” It’s folky and acoustic (think Daughter), but her next song, “Fear & Force,” gets a little more lo-fi electronic (think Sylvan Esso). “Minneapolis” is more of a math rock tune with a hint of garage distortion. “Mal à L’aise” is instrumental electro-pop (think Emily Reo) and incorporates some dreamy French lyrics later on in the song. “Cold Apartment” is more indie folk rock (think Band of Horses). The album ends with the song “Alive and A Well,” which is acoustic and features some really pretty vocal harmonies and layered vocals (think Hundred Waters). Infinite Words does a beautiful job of mixing genres into an album. She’ll be on a North American tour all this month with Allison Crutchfield (sister of Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield) and will play SXSW. If you can’t make it out to SXSW, be sure to see her in LA on March 22 at The Echo. CHRISTINA
RIYL: Diet Cig, Allison Crutchfield, Emily Reo, Daughter, Frankie Cosmos, Sylvan Esso
Recommended Tracks: 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 8
Karriem Riggins - Headnod Suite: So, for those who don’t know, Karriem Riggins is a legend of both the jazz and hip-hop worlds, having worked with everyone from Diane Krall, Nicholas Payton, and Roy Hargrove, to J Dilla, Kanye, and more recently Kaytranada and Common. Along with his abilities as a collaborator, Riggins is an accomplished solo artist, equally at home behind the drum kit, sampler, or synthesizer. Building off of his previous solo record Alone Together, Riggins returns with a tapestry of boom-bap cuts under the title Headnod Suite.
While devoid of much of the playful long-form sampling that made up his previous record, Headnod Suite fills the space with continually heavier and groovier beats. Every single one of these cuts seems to be demanding a righteous verse from some rap legend, perhaps Busta Rhymes or Q-tip, but even as pure instrumentals the record flows naturally and fluidly through a sea of bouncy hi-hats, crisp snares, and vocal chops. The short track times allow each beat to build just enough to keep the listener interested before switching up to something fresh, and give the record a sort of beat-tape vibe, though the sample connections between songs make it feel almost like an homage to J Dilla’s Donuts, surely a massive influence on Riggins who befriended Dilla as a teenager. If you’re like me and you need something to bob your head along with as you write your essays, do give this record a listen. JATIN
P.S. If anyone can find the vocal samples he uses on the opening track, do let me know, I swear I’ve heard them before.
Recc: 1, 2, 5, 8, 14, 15, 18, 21, 24, 29
EDITOR'S NOTE: KXSC apologizes for the errors in this week's newsletter. They have been corrected in this post.
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