This has been a really great year for albums. Just off the top of my head, we had To Pimp a Butterfly, Cherry Bomb, The Album About Nothing, B4.Da.$$, Vulnicura, If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, Carrie and Lowell, Uptown Special, Tetsuo and Youth, Wilder Mind, How Bold How Blue How Beautiful, American Beauty/American Psycho, Sour Soul, Dark Sky Paradise, Froot, and Fly International Luxurious Art. A few of these wouldn’t be out of place on a list of my favorite albums, and Tetsuo and Youth, To Pimp a Butterfly, and Cherry Bomb all made it onto a list of my top ten best albums of the past five years. So it’s with great reluctance that I say this: Surf is the best album of 2015.
It’s stripped. It’s massive. It’s familiar. It’s different. It’s hip hop. It’s jazz. It’s funk. It’s pop. It features everyone from Erykah Badu to Quavo to Busta Rhymes, and no one feels out of place. One could call the album an extension of ACIDRAP, but truth be told it’s much more of a Social Experiment album than a Chance one. There are more than a few songs, especially in the second half of the album, that don’t feature Chance at all. And that’s the beauty of it.
While the album flows perfectly and every song feels like a logical jump from the previous one, you never know exactly what to expect. It can go from old-school soul hip-hop (“Warm Enough”) to an emotional instrumental (“Nothing Came to Me”) to an inspirational ballad about being true to yourself (“Wanna Be Cool”) in the blink of an eye. But it works.
Chance says there’s about 50 people on every song on this album, and it feels that way. This is a big band album above all else, and you pick up something new every time you listen to one of its songs. When it does go into familiar territory, it does them in a new and clever way, like Chance, King Louie, and Quavo’s ode to basic bitches, “Familiar”.
I’d talk about the album’s worse tracks, but nothing really sticks out. If I had to, I might bring up “Just Wait” as a track that didn’t leave much of an impact on me, but I still remember it by name. So since I don’t have a ton to talk about, here are a few miscellaneous observations:
- Quavo had the worst verse on the album
- Where has B.o.B. been?
- Great to hear from Erykah Badu again
- I’ll have to check out Kyle and Noname Gypsy, despite her vaguely racist name. If she makes it big she’ll probably change it.
- Chance actually had some really impressive bars on this album too, especially on “Rememory”
- The album felt like a bit of a chore to get through, but I think that’s just because I was at school at 1:30 on a Friday
- I feel like I’ve talked too much about Chance, since once again this isn’t really his album. Donnie Trumpet is great, Jamilla Woods is great, Nate Fox is great.
- This album is kind of similar to To Pimp a Butterfly, which is also its closest competition for album of the year.
- Wasn’t Busta supposed to drop E.L.E. 2 one of these days?
Overall, I give it an A+. Listen to it on SoundCloud; it’s free. Like this post if you like it, comment if you’ve got something to say, follow my blog for more disjointed stream-of-consciousness album reviews, follow me on Twitter @BreakingPOORLY, and be on the lookout for reviews of Tomorrowland, Pitch Perfect 2, and probably some other stuff idk.