by Robert Kerstens
Returning from a three-year hiatus that saw several members of the band pursue their solo careers, the Internet picks up right where they left off with another album of funky neo-soul R&B. Thematically, Hive Mind shares Ego Death’s focus on seduction and the intimacy that follows. The sound is just as sensuous, but the Odd Future spin-offs lean harder into the funk than ever before, with tight grooves all over the project. It may be a little bouncier, but it still goes down like white wine on the beach.
Quintessentially Southern Californian, the band’s approach seems implausibly casual. Yet the talent of each member shines through the relaxed atmosphere, balancing and complementing each other without showing off. Although Syd’s honey-glazed vocals are still the stars of the show, Hive Mind sees guitarist Steve Lacy come out of his shell with some crooning of his own, building on the vocal talent he first showcased on his demo in 2017. Matt Martians’ unconventional drum loops propel the album, blending organic and synthetic textures with ease and laying the snapping, shuffling foundation for the band’s back-porch jams.
From the very first track, ‘Come Together,’ delicate flutes and Rhodes piano waft through the backdrop to let you know this is going to be a very chill record, and you might want to be outside to listen to it. It’s a strong start to the album, and it picks up steam on the next track ‘Roll (Burbank Funk).’ True to the title, it’s a very funky tune with an irresistible bass line. Carrying on into singles ‘Come Over’ and ‘La Di Da,’ the momentum through the first few tracks is undeniably one of the hottest stretches in the Internet’s career. Like a loose fitting t-shirt, it’s cozy, comfortable, and just plain fun.
But as the album goes on, it can start to feel a little too comfortable, as the band fall back on familiar SoCal neo-soul tropes they helped define. ‘Stay the Night’ doesn’t really bring anything new to the table, a whispered vignette of intimacy the likes of which Syd has practically built her career on. ‘Bravo’ is similarly tepid, with Syd lamenting a regrettable relationship over sparse rhythm and soft lit guitar. ‘It Gets Better (With Time)’ might be the least inspired song on the album, a languid pep talk with a rapped outro from bassist Patrick Paige that could have been cut from any neo-soul or jazz rap album of the last half decade. If you were expecting the energy of the singles to fill the whole album, you would be mistaken.
Although the music won’t always get you on your feet, with instrumentation this lush, you won’t mind staying in your seat. Subtle flourishes like soothing background vocals, warm horns and sunny guitars fill out the sound without crowding out the melodies. Post-production adds another layer of psychedelia, with strategic pans, filters, delays and reverb lending the sound a decadent richness. The band is easy on the ears from front to back here, especially on dreamy tracks like ‘Mood,’ ‘Wanna Be,’ or the satin smooth closer ‘Hold On.’
Several tracks have multiple complementary but distinct parts within a single track. ‘Next Time, Humble Pie’ starts off sunny, but liquifies into slippery trip-hop halfway through. ‘Beat Goes On’ is similarly trippy, with splashy, skittering drums laying down a tight, funky groove for Steve Lacy’s spaced out vocals.
The Internet sound most exciting on Hive Mind when they’re experimenting, pushing their established sound into new directions while playing to the strengths of each member. While some of the tracks on here might not be the most groundbreaking stylistically for the band, they sound more gorgeous than ever with significant improvements in production since Ego Death. It’s a promising update from the Internet, and the perfect album for the doggy dog days of summer.