The Internet’s latest offering is proof of what happens when you take a bunch of modern day superheroes who happen to make music then put them in the studio and convince them to join forces.
Hive Mind has successfully compressed the r&b, neo-soul, pop, funk and Motown sounds of its individual members. It was to the point where it was smooth enough to leave me unaware of the fact that it had restarted once I had completed my first listen.
It’s almost laughable how this group has a tendency to arrive right on schedule, at least on my end. Their mark appears to have been memorable across contexts since their notable project Ego Death (2015). One of my favorite songs off that record, Just Sayin/I Tried is now reminiscent of a little heartbreak during that same year, as well as Allison Howell Williams’ character Marnie Simpson in the series Girls. During the start of one episode, we witness Marnie walking down the street, with a set of headphones on appearing somewhat lost. She then bumps into what will later reveal itself as a bad decision; that bad decision being her ex boyfriend who is also a former junkie (or so she thought). She ends up falling for him during the course of a spontaneously wild day, only to finally discover a used needle in his bedroom. The same song played in the background at the beginning of that episode and I always seem to remember that about it.
After pursing solo projects following the mainstream success of Ego Death, it appears as though that separation did wonders for the band creatively – both individually and collectively. Hive Mind is not only strong enough to match the aforementioned mainstream success they have experienced before — but takes it a step further, demonstrating how their increasing enthusiasm for a soul meets funk sound is reciprocated by their listeners worldwide.
“Going out on our own got us battle wounds that we can all relate to. We all move in a unit now”
— Syd (talking to Beats 1 host Zane Lowe)
In considering the complete body of work, it is safe to say that the song selection feels more methodical than their previous project which would be an obvious testament to their growth as artists.
But more than that, this sort of evolution, if we may, exposes how intentional the vocals and arrangements are on and across different songs. It’s almost as though they can stand as singles in your library and one would be still be satisfied. However, the experience is undeniably more explosive when you listen to them in the order in which they are placed on the album — ultimately leaving the listener with a more well-rounded sound; further amplifying the power in being deliberate about achieving a sense of unity.
In a similar sense, without the lead vocals of Syd ever feeling too overbearing or as though they are taking center stage, there is an effortless way in which her runs and storytelling are carried by the other members; lifting the sound to where it needs to be. The same concept applies even when she isn’t the head of that table. In one of their more hard-hitting songs Roll (Burbank Funk); Steve Lacy (who is definitely singing more on this album) takes charge of the lead vocals while Syd assists with the backing. Without a single member being present, a portion of the magic disappears.
At the expense of not over-stanning, the overall sound is gloriously good. A true testament of what happens when everyone shows up to the group assignment.