Exclaim!'s Best of 2013: Top 10 Soul and R&B Albums



3. Thundercat
Apocalypse
(Brainfeeder)

Few artists sum up the welcome manner in which contemporary musicians are trampling down genre boundaries and thumbing their collective noses at the aesthetic and stylistic rulebook of what is and isn't off limits as an influence than Brainfeeder's Thundercat. L.A.-based Stephen Bruner blends predominantly '70s influences from jazz to prog-rock and funk together with contemporary pop, electronica and R&B in a gloriously unholy marriage, all underpinned by Bruner's bass guitar virtuosity.

Executive produced by Flying Lotus, Apocalypse follows on neatly from 2011's The Golden Age of Apocalypse, which was also made in close collaboration with FlyLo. The album highlight is undeniably the irresistible "Heartbreaks + Setbacks" — surely a serious contender for song of the year — but Apocalypse is a real thrill listened to in its entirety, and like his debut full-length, it's a pretty trippy journey.

Apocalypse ranges from the forward-moving groove of opener "Tenfold" through several R&B-influenced gems to the Zappa-esque "Seven" and the cosmic funk of the "Oh Sheit It's X." Given how many opposing elements and styles are being mashed together here, you'd expect a much more jarring result, but on Apocalypse, Thundercat has managed to build on his debut, weaving an album that's more stylistically cohesive and also more emotionally complex. And despite its druggy spirituality, occasional comedy, awkward time signatures and ADHD nature, it's also somehow strangely comforting. Apocalypse is one of the most interesting musical statements of 2013. (Vincent Pollard)