>>On Vulfpeck’s latest release ‘Hill Climber,’ the avant-garde set of multi-instrumentalists continue to revolutionize funk music with electrifying melodies and imaginative lyrics.
Vulfpeck’s fourth studio album ‘Hill Climber,’ illustrates that the band has not wavered in producing memorable tracks that reinvent the expectations of modern funk music. Divided into two distinct sections, the first half of the album features tracks which highlight the band’s immense command of the written word and creative capacity. The album’s second song “Darwin Derby,” pairs an infectiously upbeat melody and tuneful bass line with a break into a set of mischievous lyrics on Darwin’s theory of natural section: “Of all the creatures in the sea, my favorite is the bass / It climbs up all the rocks and trees /And slides down on its hands and knees / But why does the shark have teeth? /The shark has teeth to eat, I see /And why does the whale have feet? / Well it- I don't know.” Switching tones in the album’s third track, the acoustically arranged “Lonely Town,” acts as a simple yet powerful elegy to the personification of ‘loneliness,’ holding stylistically similar melodic qualities to tracks off of The Beatles’ ‘White Album.’ Driven by Joe Dart’s powerful bass lines, the second half of ‘Hill Climber,’ showcases the band’s technical prowess and mastery of their respective instruments in funkadelic pieces such as “Lost My Treble Long Ago,” and the closing track “It Gets Funkier IV.” Revolutionizing their closing track over a seven-year period of time, the fourth iteration of “It Gets Funkier,” takes the composition to the next level-- utilizing the dexterous abilities of well-known jazz drummer Louis Cole.
On an album that’s this carefully crafted, it seems more appropriate to point out what’s ‘not as good,’ rather than what’s explicitly ‘bad.’ There are a number of mind-blowingly addicting and repeat-worthy tracks on ‘Hill Climber,’ but the album opener “Half of the Way,” isn’t one of them. Possessing conventional lyrics and a predictable melody line, “Half of the Way,” gives a deceptively underwhelming entry into an otherwise excitingly creative album-- lacking the modernity and avant-garde spin that Vulfpeck generally infuses into their music. The album’s main vocalist Theo Katz gives a phenomenal performance on fast-paced bass-heavy tracks including “Darwin Derby,” but his delivery seems to have a shortage of the rich undertones necessary to drive songs such as the bossa-nova tune “Love is a Beautiful Thing.” While incorporating a mix of slow-paced love songs into the album shows the band’s level of musical diversity, it becomes apparent after multiple listens that these tracks do not hold the same level of staying power as their funkadelic counterparts.
Overall, this is an absolutely fantastic album which reinforces Vulfpeck’s ability to consistently produce high-quality inventive tracks. From Joe Dart’s powerful ascending bass line on “For Survival,” to the 70s-influenced keyboard solos of Woody Gross on “Disco Ulysses,” ‘Hill Climber’ offers a level of musical variety deserving of a second, third, and fourth listen. Those who have already completed their list of ‘2018’s Albums of the Year’ should highly consider giving a spot to this late-blooming full-length release. 4.6/5 <<