2020 release Thundercat the bassist and Thundercat the lyricist arise from separate sides of Stephen Bruner’s brain. The former is a fleet-fingered virtuoso, plucking out lines as dazzling and complex as a star system. The words on top of those basslines, meanwhile, are far less methodical, fraught with hazy existential questions, references to getting so smashed he can’t find his shoes, and shout-outs to his cat. Together, they form songs that sound equally enchanting and unfinished, frivolous and deep. Drunk, his 2017 opus, effortlessly toed the line between Bruner as mighty bandleader and introverted doodler, with immense funk grooves slotted next to sonnets about feeling strange. It Is What It Is could serve as a companion piece to Drunk, even though it arrives more than three years later. Bruner is still getting tipsy and pondering what waits for us in the beyond. There’s growth and acceptance in that wonder—the title suggests as much— but not necessarily in the songwriting. The album lacks the anchoring power of a full-bodied jam like “Them Changes,” “Heartbreaks + Setbacks,” or even his 2011 George Duke cover “For Love I Come,” leaving us lost inside Bruner’s mind. That isn’t always a bad place to be. “I Love Louis Cole” (featuring—who else?—Brainfeeder artist Louis Cole) could score the Willy Wonka Tunnel Of Terror with its ominous strings and increasingly wild-sounding drums. It ends abruptly, just as Wonka’s boat trip does, on an orchestral flourish. On the other end of the spectrum, “King Of The Hill” is the most pared-down we’ve heard Bruner in a while, as he hums over a refreshingly simple and spooky beat made with the help of Flying Lotus and BADBADNOTGOOD. More here: https://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/thundercat-it-is-what-it-is/
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