Our favorite things this week include new music from Thundercat, Run the Jewels, and the soundtrack to "Steven Universe."

thundercat photo by patrick ainsworth for my spilt milk
Thundercat at Buku, by Patrick Ainsworth

Thundercat tours constantly and will return to Buku this year, but he found time to record a new album. On Wednesday, the bass god announced that Drunk will drop on February 24 with promising features from Kendrick Lamar, Pharrell, and Wiz Khalifa in addition to more surprising ones from Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald. Given Thundercat’s decidedly futuristic aesthetic, the presence of the two aging pop crooners well past their glory days on “Show You the Way” raised many an eyebrow.

Luckily, the world didn’t have to wait to find out what the collab would sound like. Thundercat released “Show You the Way” as Drunk’s first single, and it might be the smoothest thing I’ve ever heard. The track finds Thundercat’s generally virtuosic bass-playing toned way down in service of a laid back funk groove. Each singer is announced before his verse by a silky-voiced emcee, and each adds something a little different into the mix. Thundercats’s ethereal, soulful voice slides effortlessly into Loggins’ sensual falsetto, which in turn melts like butter into McDonald’s baritone warble. The arrangement is tight and simple, accenting the eccentricities of each vocalist and setting the backdrop for an exceptional piece of music. If “Show You the Way” is any indication of what the rest of Drunk will sound like (minus the grandpa star power). the world is in for a treat. (Raphael Helfand)

Recently, Buku added Run The Jewels, Grizmatik, and Cashmere Cat, just as Run The Jewels released its new album Run The Jewels 3--available free on the duo's homepage. Lyricist Killer Mike and producer El-P performed in the Ball Room at Buku in 2015, and that show was not only my introduction to their music but some of the most fun I've had at a hip-hop show.

Killer Mike publicly supported Bernie Sanders during the presidential election, so it’s no surprise that Run the Jewels 3 features political and social critiques of issues that oppress marginalized groups. My favorite track from the album is "Don't Get Captured" in which RTJ speaks on the systematic exploitation and oppression by powerful groups. El-P's verse from the point-of-view of a police officer represents the oppressive establishment. "When I file reports / what's right's what I write,” he says, alluding to the deference given to officers’ reports when they’re involved in fatal shootings of African-American males. Even though videos of these shootings, which El-P refers to as "snuff films," go viral quickly and are seen by millions, “the man” always wins. That kind of clear-eyed confrontation of power runs through Run the Jewels 3, which could not have come at a better time. (Ryan Knight)

The new season of Steven Universe debuted confusingly on a number of levels. Four new episodes dropped at once on Cartoon Network’s website earlier this month, but only one stayed up, and it—“Steven’s Dream”—begins with a mystery that eventually becomes clear except for the parts that don’t—and that’s okay. One of the strengths of the coming of age adventure of a boy and his gem-powered female alien protectors/family is that the show leaves a lot of questions unasked and unanswered until the hows and whys genuinely matter. Its unquestioned acceptance of gender fluidity, for example, has made it a favorite in the LGBTQ community. 

This season-opening series of shows isn’t as satisfying as some of the previous ones, but the return of Steven Universe has me addicted to the Soundcloud page for Aviv and Surasshu, whose chiptune and acoustic piano sound signals or undercuts the emotional gravity. At times, the show seems to borrow its score from a video game—I hear Katamari Damacy—but on other occasions they capitalize on having Estelle as the voice of Garnet and write dance club songs or down tempo, intimate jazz/R&B grooves. In a week when heaviness seemed to hang over everything, a light, sweet hour or more of melodic soundtrack music for a fundamentally optimistic, inclusive show felt right on time. (Alex Rawls)