Whilst the Odd Future label lives strong, the group’s members have dispersed over the last four years, with Tyler, The Creator putting the nail in the coffin earlier this year. One of the spawns of these new directions from vocalist Syd tha Kyd and producer Matt Martians, with their West Coast neo-soul project The Internet, whose critical acclaim appeared to be based off Odd Future nepotism rather than their musical substance. But with the arrival of their third studio album Ego Death, the West Coast unleash a beast that is as sparkling as it is spooky. It sees a vast improvement on their previous work, with the evolution and maturing of the group a key narrative of the album.
Syd’s lyrics are heavily reliant on one reference point- the attention of a girl. Her vocals flicker between sweet and flat as often as her emotions do, traversing her way through yearning, envy and jealousy. At her most poignant, Syd hooks the listener into her world with a candid conversational tone. She does this best on Ego Death’s main drawcard, the Kaytranda-assisted centrepiece, ‘Girl’. A thick bassline rolls through a track as sparse as any on the record, cosmic keys slung throughout and Syd reserves the best vocal hooks that appear on the album and compacts them into this track.
A tendency to leave tracks sparse can be dangerous, because it leaves poor instrumentation out to dry. In their past work they jammed tracks with jarring percussion, blocking the imperfection in the other layers of the music. But for the most part on this album, the percussion takes a backseat with a minimalistic kick/snare and the space instead is taken up by winding (and at times thumping) bass-lines. The jazz keys and bluesy guitar licks also offer plenty for the listener. Short tracks like ‘Get Away’ and ‘Special Affair’ capture the listener’s attention immediately and hold it throughout, whereas longer tracks like ‘Penthouse Cloud’ and ‘Just Sayin/ I Tried’ churn a groove to the end of its tether before laying down a smooth beat change.
This record is the moment they cross the line from abstract hip-hop to a full-fledged neo-soul records that croons its way into your head. There’s only room for rapping features from Vic Mensa and Tyler, the Creator, who offer smart and innovative verses. ‘Palace/Curses’, the track that Tyler features on feels like a cut straight off his album Cherry Bomb which kind of feels out of place on this album.
It might not be an album that shatters any ground, but Ego Death polishes The Internet’s concepts into a decent record informed by a plethora of genres and funneled into a palatable neo-soul fusion.
Originally posted on Speaker TV – July 27th 2015