Flying Lotus has always been a favorite of mine when I made the choice to expand my musical horizons. Ever since his second album, Los Angeles, I fell in love with the hip-hop beats and overall experimentation and how far his motifs would go. You’re Dead is one of those surreal gems that shows through the drips of jazz, jazz-fusion, straight-up hip-hop and rap, how talented he is and how years can put on influences you never thought you’d use.
During the opening tracks, “Theme”, “Tesla”, “Cold Dead”, and “Fkn Dead” you hear the grating electric guitars and the lovely and smooth saxophones that combine in a way that emphasizes the theme of the album: death. Besides the titles that just have the word “dead” sprinkled on it, the sounds throughout the record are dark, eerie, and even sometimes legitimately otherworldly in their execution. Of course the crown jewel in this album is the single with Kendrick Lemar, “Never Catch Me”. This has to be one of the best songs not only on this album, but in the entirety of FlyLo’s discography, and seeing him work with Kendrick on lyrics that push forth the contemplation of death and sometimes the injustice that happens when someone dies, is beyond gorgeous, it’s heavenly (pun completely intended)
As you get deeper into the album, you sometimes begin to question if this is actually him producing all of this (in a good way, I promise). “Turkey Dog Coma” is a fast-paced jazz jam complete with guitar that sounds like Yes, drums that come from the very essence of post-bop and avant-garde jazz, and the slightest flutters spread throughout the track that actually kind of remind me of the sea of floating lanterns in Tangled. “Stirring”, although short, is a throwback tribute to Bibio‘s Silver Wilkinson with the arpeggiated acoustic guitar; like a campfire near the River Styx. Speaking of the Styx, our ferryman, “Coronus, the Terminator” is a gospel meander through the sights of the Underworld. You can hear and see in the distance this lanky figure coming to pick you up in a dilapidated rowboat, and as you travel down you can see these strong but pale workers renovating the Underworld under their leader’s orders.
One of the most pleasant surprises is Angel Deradoorian, formerly of Dirty Projectors making an appropriate appearance on the woozy and dreamlike “Siren Song” that continues on the fantasy of the River Styx with some wah-wah guitars from an old Barry White song and a slow beat that grows just that much more cacophonous with each passing “ah” from her. “Turtles” has a vintage sound to it with the bass levels raised up a little more, still making this dream-like state a tribal R&B experience. “Ready Err Not” sounds like something out of an underwater level in an updated Super Mario game, and while… interesting to listen to, doesn’t really add that much for me. “Eyes Above” does come back with some beautiful jazz work again and immediately fades into “Moment of Hesitation”, which is subtly chaotic. Yeah, it’s an oxymoron, but with the tempo and style all over the place, but being played so soft, that’s really all you can describe it as.
The Thundercat vocal tracks have become a staple that I didn’t really feel needed to be included on the last album. “Mmmhmmm” was the exception, but they’re starting to sound the same. Case and point: “Descent into Madness”, good thing it’s mercifully short. And it’s a good thing that “The Boys Who Died In Their Sleep” is short too. The garbled vocals sounds like something I would just play with on GarageBand and is more distracting than interesting. The lyrics on the other hand are very sad and it’s touching, I just wish it didn’t have that intro. “Obligatory Cadence” is a little more funky and forgiving than “Coronus” but it still manages to get you interested in another dreamy walkabout track. Niki Randa‘s appearance is something I’ve been looking forward to since her songs on the last album. Her smooth, soulful, breathy and quiet voice gets a much needed boost by Ellison’s production in the spacey “Your Potential//The Beyond”. Finally, “The Protest” is an encouraging end to an album dealing with death with the chorus chanting “We will live on, forever and ever.” The ending beat actually sounds like the callback to Los Angeles, and I hope that means that album will continue to live on.