April 16, 2013

Thundercat theoretically seems like the least likely suspect for Flying Lotus to produce pop records. The guy has Erykah Badu and any other number of equally gifted chanteuses in his iPhone, so why aim to top the Passion Pits of the world with the guy who occasionally slaps the bass for Suicidal Tendencies. The answer is that you aren’t supposed to question it. Great jazz musicians move off instinct and feel. They go with what works, not what should work. At heart, these two are experimentalists who inevitably smoked their way through a dozen discarded ideas before settling on “Heartbreak + Setbacks.”

The first single from Thundercat’s sophomore album is pop in the most traditional sense. It is a swooning love song about make ups and break ups. On the surface, there is nothing revolutionary about it, especially in contrast to “Daylight,” which sort of sounded like a really good Joe Jackson song. But there is something harder about this — from the drums to the synths that feel almost radioactive. There is something sad and toxic and seraphic about it, which are three qualities that aren’t supposed to co-exist. It can work on your sad bastard mixtape or at your favorite spring Saturnalia (the original Coachella). This might be the most pop thing either Lotus or Thundercat has done. It’s tribute to the power of shedding inherited logic and a bassline that demolishes everything in its path.

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