Hive Mind can get too comfortable for its own good.
Just as The Internet showed strength in unity in its third album, Ego Death, the band splintered to work on different projects. The band’s co-founders Syd and Matt Martians each focused on their solo debuts, Fin and The Drum Chord Theory, respectively. Guitarist Steve Lacy meanwhile established a name for himself, both through his own music with the Steve Lacy’s Demo EP and producer work for others, notably for Ravyn Lenae’s Crush this year.
After spending quality time apart, the members of The Internet put their solo work aside for the collective good in Hive Mind. While the group perfected its live-band R&B sound in Ego Death, the band further refine its musical chops to deliver the most professional record. The collective polishes off any of its remaining garage-band looseness to present the tightest performances: the guitars sound rich and spotless while the drumming locks into a pristine beat. With the production drawing the most out of the languid textures, Hive Mind is one expensive chill-out record to come from the year.
While The Internet mostly sticks to the script, it allows itself some moments to go off course. The smooth talk of “Come Over” transitions into a rougher jam toward its end with Lacy ad-libbing a spontaneous idea; “Next Time/Humble Pie” is a full-on two-part track with Syd revealing opposite sides of her personality, singing bashful in the first then agitated in another. Everyone lets go in the sticky disco of “La Di Da,” and Syd at one point enthusiastically announces the bridge section. Though each member strives for a compromise through collaboration, Hive Mind is at its best when it highlights an individual.
Syd in particular continues to showcase her knack for sticky hooks, flipping bashful confessions into pop catchphrases. Her more self-aggrandizing attitude heard on Fin mellows down to suit the softness of The Internet, and she turns more to sincerity for her love songs. She asks the titular question of “Stay the Night” more as an advice in concern for safety than an opportunity to fool around. The chorus of “Wanna Be” is endearing in its innocent honesty, with her nervously confessing, “do you want to be my girl,” and the slow funk played by the band further sugar-coats her lyrics as if they’re written in bubble letters.
The tenderness may be comforting to pair with the band’s obsession for chillness, but the overall singular mood of the album hinders as much as it helps. Excitement of “Roll (Burbank Funk)” feels relatively the same in temperature as the resigned melancholy of “Come Over” or the regret of “Next Time/Humble Pie.” The intended emotion of individual tracks remain ambiguous as the collective favors accessibility over all else. While The Internet excels in mood-setting, the band often leaves too much to the imagination.
It’s also difficult at times to get a read of how certain situations affect Syd emotionally with her voice settled in a middle range. She may express an aching loss, though she usually lets out a soft sigh even in her most devastated moments. Granted, her songs deal with rather low-stakes matter: the farthest she’s willing to go with her crush is spending the night together, but even then, she’s often too shy to actually act upon her feelings. From the music to the singing, Hive Mind can get too comfortable for its own good.
The soft-spoken voice of Syd as well as her casual lyrics play best in “It Gets Better (With Time).” She pulls herself back down to reality from her shy-girl daydreams to comfort the heartbroken, torn romantically or otherwise. The tranquil funk of The Internet extends the gesture by playing just sunny enough to get through the day. The band likewise tries its best to locate a happy medium between the dramatic highs and lows throughout Hive Mind. If everyone’s feeling good together, that’s all that matters.