Listen to This: Thundercat

You may recognize the name Thundercat (L.A. native Stephen Bruner) from Kendrick Lamar’s groundbreaking album “To Pimp a Butterfly.” He’s credited as one of the nineteen total producers and can be heard singing the hooks on “Wesley’s Theory” and “These Walls.”

But Thundercat’s solo work is just as worthy of checking out; his album from last year called “The Beyond/Where the Giants Roam” quickly became one of my favorite releases of 2015. It’s a short and sweet sixteen minutes with just six total songs; Thundercat calls it a “mini-album” rather than an EP.

Though he plays several instruments, he is first and foremost a bassist, and it’s clear on this album. The looping bass line on “Them Changes” is easily the defining sound of the entire project. His other strength is his voice, which is hard to describe as anything other than ethereal.

As short as it is, this album feels innovative in its understated—but meticulously crafted—sound. Any shorter, the project wouldn’t be entirely fleshed out; any longer, it would lose some of its impact.

I’m convinced that a bit of background info will make this album recommendation even more enticing. “The Beyond” is, in a sense, one third of a series of projects. It was recorded at the same time as Kendrick’s “TPAB” and “You’re Dead!,” an album by Flying Lotus (another “TPAB” producer). The artists have said that they influenced one another in the creation of their respective works, and knowing this can make listening to any one of the albums a more fulfilling experience.

Flying Lotus, who I’ve mentioned in this column before, is a longtime friend of Thundercat, and the two frequently collaborate on albums (Lotus is on three “The Beyond” tracks). In many respects, they mirror one another in their works. If you like this album and want to keep an eye on Thundercat’s career, Flying Lotus should also be on your radar.

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