In the contemporary musical and social climate, there’s really not enough to be said for joy. From EDM to indie rock to rap, pure unadulterated ebullience has grown increasingly rare. Not so with Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment’s (Surf. This surprise record from Chance the Rapper’s touring band bursts forth with unbridled optimism, playful libido and old-time religion. What’s more, it sounds beautiful. A polyphonous mélange of experimental jazz, classic R&B and modern hip-hop, Surf bounces sporadically from idea to idea, offering a multitude of surprise cameos and stirring instrumentals. It’s one of the best good-time records you will hear this year.

Obviously the record gets its highest billing from Chance the Rapper, who serves as the master of ceremonies for Surf and provides guest verses on over half of its tracks. The real star of the show, however, is Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment, an incredibly tight, exuberant jazz band that gives the record its boundless energy. Grooves interlock effortlessly and resolve to curious melodies, as on the psychedelic reflections of “Nothing Came to Me” and “Warm Enough.” The band expertly acquits itself at a number of genres, ranging from the Erykah Badu-assisted neo-soul of “Rememory” to the island-inflected “Pass the Vibes” to the bouncy disco of “Go.” Stirring strings, warm horns and stuttering beats coalesce perfectly with the guest vocalists and rappers, never overpowering the performer but always fully establishing their presence. More than anything else, the band members sound like they’re having fun, and their positivity is infectious.

It also helps that Surf offers some certified jams that number among some of the year’s best tracks. “Sunday Candy” joyfully mixes sex and religion for a bouncy, gospel-tinged standout. “Wanna Be Cool” opens with a highly processed a cappella vocal sample, only to erupt into a soaring keyboard-heavy ode to self-respect aided by Big Sean. Best of all is party-starter “Slip Slide,” juxtaposing Busta Rhymes’ and B.o.B.’s triumphant verses with a tumbling, onomatopoetic trumpet chorus. Smiling is inevitable, resistance is futile.

Much like its music, Surf’s lyrical preoccupations range far and wide. There are of course the requisite discussions of social media, sex, fame and “making it.” The more touching moments, however, occur when the album narrows in on simpler pleasures, such as the sweetly sentimental opener “Miracle.” Singers gently purr over atmospheric bass, “homies breathing/ Families eating/ Mama singing/ Is a miracle.” That more innocent brand of happiness is what fundamentally underlies Surf’s best moments, and makes the album worthy of repeated summertime rotations.

With its frequent digressions and collectivist spirit, it’s probably better to think of Surf as a mixtape rather than an album. It’s not the most coherent record, its interludes not all offering the consistent energy of its standout tracks. “Caretaker” and “Smthnthtlwnt” emerge more as half-baked premises than fully-formed songs, but those rare faltering moments are perhaps unavoidable with an album of this exuberantly distractible spirit.

Surf’s willing embrace of the instrumental complexities of historically African-American genres of music places the record in a similar sonic space with Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly, itself also concerned with Black musical legacy. Yet, while that latter record harnessed jazz, R&B and gospel to call attention to the internal combustion occurring in America’s streets, Surf’s goals are decidedly more optimistic. In today’s increasingly unsettling sociopolitical climate, Donnie Trumpet and his band of merrymakers are here to remind us that a little bit of joy goes a long way. If you ask me, that’s quite the social experiment.

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