Vulfpeck releases unimaginative full-length ‘Hill Climber’

by Vincent Costello

Vulfpeck releases unimaginative full-length ‘Hill Climber’

Hill Climber

Vulf Records · December 7, 2018

Vulfpeck releases unimaginative full-length ‘Hill Climber’

The laziness in the songwriting almost makes me believe that it is a parody.

With Vulfpeck’s third studio album Hill Climber, the band has released 34 minutes of the same old same old. If someone played me a part of this album and said it was one of those “how to imitate the sound of this band” YouTube videos for Vulfpeck, I would believe it. Across four studio albums (not including their EPs), I didn’t expect Vulfpeck to bring too much more to the table, but what I didn’t expect was no experimentation, no new sounds, no new anything. Even though Vulfpeck is relatively new to the music scene, they might have exhausted their sound and have completely satisfied their album title and are over the hill.

Right from the start, the first few songs set the scene of the album, imitating their previous releases along with the 80’s funk scene with nothing more to add to their discography or the funk genre. They will never attempt to do much more than that for the entire run of the album. The first 20 minutes of the album from ‘Half of the Way’ to ‘Love is a Beautiful Thing’ just sounds like if the Wiggles or Sesame Street crossed with Michael Jackson for a dated crossover, but the worst part: it is 2018 and it is Vulfpeck.

‘For Survival’ is one of the most annoying songs I’ve ever heard. If a song is going to repeat a title over twenty times in a song, it should be something catchy or meaningful. Saying “for survival” after things is a hard feat to pull off, and they just couldn’t make it fit at all. The laziness in the songwriting almost makes me believe that it is a parody. But it is apparent that they are serious. The main way the song is written is what Lonely Island does with their songs. They say something and then say a common response back. While Lonely Island uses silly phrases like ‘Like a Boss,’ Vulfpeck tries to use this format without being serious enough to not sound as silly as it does, or silly enough to make it at least funny. After that song, most of the rest of the album are instrumentals. I can see why they went that route after ‘For Survival.’ The second half of the album makes this release not a total dud. Even though the instrumentals aren’t as prolific as previous releases or have any of their signature poppy funkiness, the instrumentals were at least mostly enjoyable to listen to. The only song that I would maybe revisit in the future is the last instrumental on the album ‘It Gets Funkier IV.’ Though the funky title threw me off, it’s the most creative and experimental on the album by far. It at least tries out new sounds that they weren’t just reusing from previous releases.

My problems with this album are not that it has bad sounding songs, most of them are pretty pleasant sounding, nor is the musicianship at fault. It’s just flat out boring and lacks creativity. I do not understand the audience for this record. It is not poppy enough to appeal to most people. It doesn’t have the instrumentation to appeal to the more musical attentive listener. It isn’t funky or original enough to appeal to people that want to hear an older style done in a modern way. Most of their previous full-length releases never really had a full album feel to them that showed any sort of completeness, although this might just come from their style of music. However, they at least had a few bangers off each previous release that I couldn’t help but revisit. Even though it has been years since I have listened to some of their previous work such as the poppy ‘1612’ or the catchy ‘Dean Town,’ which has some of the best bass playing on tape I’ve ever heard, I was excited to revisit their music. I was left just wanting to revisit their old work after Hill Climber.

Listen to Hill Climber: