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Thundercat was the big new lad on the block a few years ago whose confusingly similarly-titled and Flying Lotus-produced album ‘The Golden Age of Apocalypse’ was an overwhelmingly virtuosic debut recalling Toro y Moi but with a much more jazz fusion element (leader Stephen Bruner is touring bassist for Snoop Dogg and Erykah Badu). So we are talking ‘bout some serious chops here.
The first two tracks on this album have almost fucking killed me (and made me break my strict no swearing rule). Opener ‘Tenfold’ does exactly what the latest Toro Y Moi album should have done (but didn’t) with its hazy, LA, soft-top-down smooth grooves. It's a perfect updating of the ‘80s yacht rock sound, with the sweetest of falsetto vocals and a pumping bassline. They just can’t help but add some virtuoso guitar, but just for a sec before the glorious killer synths drift off into the smoggy late night sky.
‘Heartbreaks and Setbacks’ is an immediately enjoyable pop song, with a Pharrel-esque vocal line that sits on top of some straightforward grooves and burbling Bernard Edwards style bass. I was expecting more fusion and I’m pleasantly surprised by the fact that any twiddles are incorporated into the hook-filled sound (no endless noodling) and when they do drift off further into jazz territory on ‘Seven’ it is in the form of a splendidly enjoyable squiggling loop of guitars and basses eventually lurching into a jazz funk scat.
The album is a hundred-fold more song-based than its predecessor and is stacked full of potential alternate universe pop smashes. The catchy R&B of ‘Oh Sheit its X’ is underpinned by the most amazing bubbling synth bass which lends a real touch of magic to the proceedings. The ghost of Stevie Wonder is constantly in evidence and despite all the modern day production techniques (Fly Lo is on board as co-producer) it's the mid 70s high points of Wonder's catalogue that this album most resembles.
Excellent songwriting, clever playing and never spilling over into indulgence (OK, maybe the tail end of ‘Lotus and the Jondy’ but that's 9 tracks in). More than the overly lauded Daft Punk opus this sprawling, inventive but hugely listenable album could be the real soundtrack to the summer.
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- Apocalypse by Thundercat
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