The Stepkids

The Stepkids

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With their modern take on psychedelic funk, classic R&B, and roots-based soul, the Stepkids self-titled debut is straight out of left field, even Stones Throw's. But as far out as it is, their genre-fusing style was a likely match for the label, since Peanut Butter Wolf and so many of his hip-hop acts dip from the same pool of influences. The ghosts of Sly and Eric Burdon are heard in the slinky grooves, and Electric Ladyland and Maggot Brain play a part in shaping The Stepkids' stoney decadence. In fact, because the record is such a carbon copy of a golden oldie in its shimmering, analog warmth and imaginative instrumentation, it often feels like a classic itself. Tim Walsh, Jeff Gitelman, and Dan Edinberg have the precision of seasoned studio musicians, but play effortlessly, at times laying it down all mellow and sexy (“Legend in My Own Mind”) and in others funking it up with acidity (the bass-laden “Shadows on Behalf”). All three members take turns singing lead and have exceptional range, turning soulful falsettos into sun-saturated 5th Dimension harmonies. Dense orchestral settings and spaced-out electronic textures keep things interesting, and while the bells and whistles that make for good headphone candy are highly ambitious, the album never seems overloaded. Everything’s easy and natural, and the Stepkids sound more like purveyors of the genre than imitators. Quite an accomplishment.

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