Our Take: 2.5/5 Stars
Thundercat’s long-awaited fourth album “It Is What It Is” dropped this past week and finds a way to seamlessly meld somber notes with psychedelic funk. As an artist, Thundercat is known for his classic funk and jazz fusion; he has a talent for magnifying the music above his vocals and putting emphasis on how the moving parts of each song come together. Thundercat also achieves the perfect combination of new school and old school R&B. Although past albums have utilized music sampling from hit songs, Thundercat shows in this album that he is also a talented musician in his own right. As a bassist and vocalist, he is able to thoroughly blend and mix the components of each of his songs, in turn creating an immersive experience for listeners.
The intro track to “It Is What It Is” is titled “Lost in Space / Great Scott / 22-26” and does a superb job of buckling up listeners and preparing them for a ride across the galaxy. This tune features calm and airy vocals that perfectly introduce listeners to who Thundercat is.
The following song “Innerstellar Love” is a quintessential Thundercat song and brings horns and percussive instruments to the forefront while placing less attention on his vocals. Thundercat proves to be a real artist’s artist and makes it obvious that he cares less about radio plays and more about creating passionate art.
If new listeners feel daunted by the length of the album and do not know where to start, the song “Black Qualls” is the place to jump right in. It has it all. This song interweaves R&B and funk from the past and today. A tight rhythm section and the combined vocals of Steve Lacy, Steve Arrington and Childish Gambino are blended to create a song that will make listeners want to go for a drive with the windows down on the hottest day of summer.
More comparable to the sounds of his previous albums is “Funny Thing.” The tune falls near the middle of the album creating a brilliant interlude to the latter half of the album. The main critique for this song is that it would have a bigger impact on the album as a whole if it were a bit longer. “Funny Thing” is a fantastic mid-tempo track to put on a party playlist.
Unfortunately, all of the notable songs on “It Is What It Is” fall in the first half of the album. There are few tracks that are extremely solid, but the album overall has many filler tracks. Thundercat relies less on sampling music from the past on this album and it could be the reason why it pales in comparison to his other bodies of work. If the album was judged based on its few standout tracks, then it would rank fairly high compared to his other albums. As a whole, “It Is What It Is” falls flat.