If you tend to keep abreast of the latest music industry trends and topics, you may have noticed a ripple in the ever-controversial arena of streaming music last spring when Vulfpeck made waves with their creative “Sleepify” campaign. By requesting their fans stream a completely silent album on Spotify as they slept, the LA-via-Ann Arbor quartet managed to successfully raise $20,000 to fund their upcoming tour.
But though this stunt generated many a cursory speculative thinkpiece, Vulfpeck’s actual music remained relatively obscure — their most recent analog-styled instrumental funk release, the dazzingly superb 2014 EP Fugue State, was well-received among their legions of loyal fans, but received surprisingly little attention among the journalistic establishment that had previously so enthusiastically embraced Sleepify. For whatever reason, the pop appeal of Sleepify’s relatable “up yours, Spotify!” sensibility didn’t manage to carry over into lasting, deserved renown for the band.
That’s all about to change, however, with their upcoming album Thrill Of The Arts. Vulfpeck’s official full length debut finds the band coming fully into their own as the embodiment of bandleader Jack Stratton’s original vision: an expert rhythm section, backing up featured vocalists with their trademark hand-crafted, old-school funk compositions.
The album’s utterly charming lead single “Back Pocket” is a promising preview of that fusion, showcasing the vocal talent of the band’s very own Theo Katzman (who also wrote the song) alongside guest vocalist Christine Hucal. Katzman’s melodic pop stylings find a comfortable home in Vulfpeck’s expressive instrumentation, and with an expanded palette that includes congas and a featured clarinet solo by Mark Dover, the tune is sonically adventurous in ways that new music rarely manages to be. With a light-hearted lyrical storyline involving a timeless tale of elementary-school enamoration, Hucal and Katzman trade off sweet-talking serenades while Joe Dart’s heavenly bassline kicks into high gear. “Oh gee, oh gosh,” sings Katzman, with a fifth-grade honesty that will leave any listener grinning.
The song is carefree and insanely enjoyable, from its immediately apparent catchiness all the way down to its tight composition and adept mixing and mastering. Vulfpeck is already well-known among a certain circle of jam-band enthusiasts and funk/soul fans for their consistently excellent output (Dart in particular is regarded as a bass god), but with “Back Pocket” a sure bet for a break-out, it’s a guarantee that these purveyors of the most glorious sounds this side of the 1960s won’t be “that silent band” for much longer.