So far this has been a kind of underwhelming year for album releases. From the stinking shit-turkeys (James Blake) to the mildly disappointing (Mount Kimbie). As for the long-awaited Young Echo album, I’m yet to get to grips with that so I won’t comment for now.
Instead, I’m going to talk about the first album this year to get me really excited: Apocalypse by Thundercat (the Keysound cd is great but it’s a compilation so doesn’t really count as a fully fledged album). Yeah, in this age of iTunes track-downloading plebs I remain the kind of refined gentleman who appreciates actual albums.
I’d been quite into Thundercat since seeing him live with Austin Peralta in 2011 and then buying his debut Golden Age of Apocalypse. The debut was a good album in itself, but apart from his “hit single” For Love I Come, there was a slight but unmistakable tendency towards noodling. Then I slowly began to lost interest in the LA/Brainfeeder/Low End Theory scenes and when Austin sadly passed on at such a young age I felt like it kind of naturally marked the end of that era in music. I still feel blessed that I’d witnessed Austin play live – if there’s ever going to be one single gig I ever bother telling my children about, it’ll be the night I witnessed Thundercat and Austin Peralta together in Hollywood. I’m convinced that before too long Austin will be in the hallowed pantheon of tragically deceased virtuosos along with Hendrix, Coltrane, Dolphy and Ayler.
But I digress. The point of this post is to say what an awesome surprise it has been to be floored by a release on Brainfeeder in 2013. Apocalypse marks a major step forward in Thundercat flexing his actual songwriting chops rather than just his noodlin’ muso chops. This is a refined modern jazz/soul album that should be embraced by every sophisticated modern casual in the same way that the 80s London lads embraced Frankie Beverley and Maze.
A lot of new fans will come to this because of “Oh Sheit It’s X”, the most disco and upbeat track on here, which makes Daft Punk’s recent “disco” efforts look like the work of soulless white amateurs. After just one week it’s already the feel-good jam of the summer for me. But while there’s nothing else as upbeat on here, it sits well in the middle of an album that flows coherently from start to finish, taking in some London broken-beat style moments and other tracks that take cues from the sound of Flying Lotus’ last album but are somehow a whole lot more interesting with the addition of Thundercat’s vocals and instrumental skills (like the beautiful opener “Tenfold”), and finishing up with the orchestral tribute “A Message for Austin”.
So album of the year so far for sure. Listen intensively, immediately.
Oh Sheit it’s X:
And just because I feel like it, some Frankie Beverley and Maze: