Could it be that the kids in Odd Future—one of the most provocative hip-hop clans—are growing up? It started in April when the group’s ringleader, Tyler, The Creator, 22, released his third album, Wolf, that was dubbed by critics as more discerning than his former works. Then Earl Sweatshirt, 19, followed suit with the release of his long-awaited debut, Doris. In a GQ interview about the album, Sweatshirt proclaimed that he’s “fucking grown now.” So what caused the teen to wise-up? “I was a little-ass kid in 2009. I’ve figured shit out,” he told them. The same could be said of Odd Future members Syd tha Kyd, 21, and Matt Martians, 25, of the Internet, except that the duo might have figured shit out even sooner than their Odd Future comrades did (minus Frank Ocean, whose music displays a similar sophistication).
On their 2012 debut, Purple Naked Ladies (Odd Future Records), The Internet experimented with grown-folk sensibilities on sleek alternative R&B tunes, two of which featured Coco of the neo-soul outfit, Quadron. That might explain why the duo’s music often felt displaced among the teen anguished, frisked-out, we-don’t-give-a-fuck bag of tricks that once defined its young counterparts—though the duo has dabbled in a similar care-free realm (See “C*nt,” “She DGAF” and “Cocaine”). But The Internet was merely testing the waters with Purple Naked Ladies. On Feel Good, they’ve decided to altogether embrace their cultivated sound.
“Tellem (intro),” the album’s woozy, ramble-dosed appetizer, roams like a lost soul before meandering into “Sunset,” a more soothingly compact and harmonious track featuring Malaysian songstress, Yuna. The album’s main attraction comes earlier than expected with “Dont’Cha,” a track produced by the Neptunes. It’s outfitted with a jumpy bassline that’s welded into a glitzy yet suave dance groove. “Soaring through your galaxy, star-struck on all of you,” sings Syd before returning to the song’s sugarcoated “Dontcha dontcha dontcha want me?” hook, which takes her cutesy voice on a sweet dash. The Tay Walker-led, head-bobbling chorus of “Runnin’” retains a certain kind of sunniness too, but it’s The Internet’s duet with Mac Miller on “Wanders Of The Mind” that really embodies their artfully slacker sound. “Never thought life would’ve end up like this/My mind, it wanders/I find that it’s hard to realize…,” Mac drowsily raps. He trades in his frat boy rhymes for a foggy delivery that’s almost identical to the way he raps on his druggy single, “Objects in the Mirror,” which features production from the Los Angeles-based duo. But with or without features, The Internet reaches an equally blithe high all on their own.
On “Red Balloon,” Syd dangles in midair to reach an elusive love, then triumphing in the art of seduction on “Shadow Dance.” The coda of most of the songs floats into drawn-out instrumentals that are zoned out to the max. Where current pop trends make generous use of studio beats, Feel Good favors live instrumentation. The complex instrumentals also camouflage the shortcomings of Syd’s murmurs. They rescue her more than once on songs like “You Don’t Even Know” (where Walker outperforms her) and “Cloud of Our Own,” where her voice yields to noisy instrumentation that exhausts itself into a lovely downpour similar to the second half of “Pupil I The Patience.”
Because Feel Good emulates an improvisational music session or live concert, it can be a taxing album to listen to the first time around. Its stargazed, overly ambitious arrangements sometimes become so intricate that they deplete some of the fun. That said, multiple spins produce a mind-numbing experience that echoes the duo’s desired midnight, candlelight aura.