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Thundercat: Apocalypse (Brainfeeder) 

Nowhere is the 21st-century post-postmodern breakdown of genre barriers more evident than in the positioning of artists like Thundercat and his frequent collaborator/producer Flying Lotus.

Apocalypse (like 2011's The Golden Age of the Apocalypse before it) successfully mingles dance/club music, jazz connoisseurship, '70s funk, hip-hop, psychedelic soul, prog rock and about a dozen other subgenres into something that not just rises, but soars, above simple pastiche. Stephen Bruner (aka Thundercat)—monstrously gifted bass player, former boy-band member and New Amerykah session player—is probably one of the safest bets for a musician who could be admired by cranky jazz purists, erstwhile suburban stoners, snobby art-school kids, trap music aficionados and "cool dads" the world over.

To wit, this might be the perfect summer companion album to Justin Timberlake's The 20/20 ExperienceApocalypse is the funk-based Stevie Wonder-on-LSD fantasia to Timberlake's orbital space disco. If 20/20 takes us just outside the Earth's atmosphere, Apocalypse drives us deep beyond the Oort cloud (or, listening to tracks like "Lotus and the Jondy" or "Tenfold," sends us on Dave Bowman's climactic trip beyond the infinite in 2001).

What's surprising is how many of these tracks play like bona fide songs, rather than the pure soundscapes and musical ideas of his 2011 debut. "Without You" is a straight-up summertime barbecue jam; "Special Stage" is an addictive aquafunk singalong; and latest single "Oh Sheit It's X" is perhaps the summer's purest affirmation of joie de vivre outside of Daft Punk's "Get Lucky."

More by Sean Bottai

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