‘Delivered with humour and expert finesse’
Grace Almond
11:28 1st April 2020

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Thundercat’s latest record, It Is What It Is, gives us music that floats between genres, with fresh takes on jazz and funk. In Stephen Lee Bruner’s own words, it’s “about love, loss, life and the ups and downs that come with that”. The record is considerate and nuanced and it’s delivered with humour and expert finesse.

‘Lost In Space / Great Scott / 22-26’ and ‘Innerstellar Love’ interconnect, the former transitioning into the latter with intelligent, sleek jazz percussion. Thundercat’s gentle vocals hover over an uplifting melody, which moves into a lively instrumental. 

‘I Love Louis Cole’ jumpstarts the album, taking it from the more tender sounds to something danceable. What starts as a cinematic melody turns into a frenzied rhythm, shifting what, on initial listen seems like more of a jazz-orientated album, to a far more electronic feel.

Laidback funk flickers across ‘Black Qualls’, and big names feature with the ever-recognisable presence of Steve Lacy, Steve Arrington and Childish Gambino. It’s another danceable track and a classic move from Thundercat.

Throughout the album, Bruner’s artistic voice is so prominent that it’s clear how much he’s grown as a musician and producer. Everything’s done with a sense of humour and effort that never once becomes overwhelming. Zack Fox’s final words on ‘Overseas’ are a hilarious take on a pilot’s overhead announcement, and introduce the next track, ‘Dragonball Durag’.

Thundercat drifts from genre to genre, from happiness to contemplation. 'Existential Dread’ feels very close to home, with reassuring lyrics, “I’m not sure of what’s coming next but I’ll be alright as long as I keep breathing”. At a time of widespread anxiety and uncertainty, Thundercat’s mellow record is a welcome release. It’s an incredibly easy album to listen to, but rather than blend into the noise of your setting, it holds your attention in full. It Is What It Is has an overwhelming sense of positivity – happy melodies overpower even the more reflective lyrics and give us the escape we need.

It Is What It Is is released on 3 April 2020 via Brainfeeder Records.

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