If it’s not too cold, I usually take a walk around 8pm. I don’t mind walking in the dark, and if I go later at night the path isn’t as crowded. It’s a path that runs pretty much the length of the city I live in.

This path is only a few blocks away from the main streets, but its foliage and placement makes large stretches of the path feel far away from any city. It’s a nice effect. My biggest worry is whatever micro-interaction fellow walkers might try to instigate. My airpods aren’t visible under my hoodie (brag) so I wonder how many polite greetings I’ve blown past as music blares discreetly into my ear canals. My house is close to one end of the path, so many nights I just zone out and walk from one end to the other and back.

The album I reach for first on these walks is Goodbye Future Funk by Chance De La Soul. I found it in the early hours of December 31st, but it is easily my favourite album of 2020. It’s groovy. It’s energetic. Infectious. Rave, yet chill. Frenetic, yet reflective. I love it. Let’s get into it. The opening track Mysteries on the Dancefloor is a fun little ‘things getting started’ track. We move briskly on to —

Wanna Get By. Holy moly. This thing bops and jams and slams. It feels like it’s hacking my brain, honestly. Beats this thumping and repetitive should get obnoxious very quickly, but for some reason this one doesn’t. Something about this song brings more energy and fun into every bar, as the vocal chops win me over bit by bit. Exuberance spills from every beat, and the dominant flavor is Daft Punk Sugar High.

Do you feel like dancing? No, not really.

Fe-fee-feel like dancing/like dancing/oh! Okay, maybe a little bit.

Do you feel like dancing? Yeah I guess I do!

Fe-fee-feel like dancing/like dancing/oh! Alright alright I’m dancing!

We jump back and forth between 3 absolute earworm sections with the energy of a college football star training knee high tire jumps. From wannaget to do ya feel like dancing? to I’m waiting just for you, back and forth and then together at once. This is plunderphonics at its finest; each ingredient blended so finely, it broadsides the analytical part of my brain that wants to keep track of each sample. What three songs did Chance de la Soul pluck those three vocal parts from? Are they themselves knitted together from even more songs? Are the titular “wanna get” and “by” even from the same song? Artist? Genre? Decade?

It’s been a while since a song got me smiling and on my feet as consistently as Wanna Get By. It’s musical crack to me, and I’m confident it’ll take you no more than 3 listens before that opening wannaget(by) is stuck in your head. This thing is almost 6 minutes long, I enjoy every second of it, it’s over too soon every time, but that ending silence always leads me to -

Darling, which after everything I said about Wanna Get By, is my favourite song on this album. Oh em gee. There’s not much to say because it’s just so dang good just go listen to it right now whadya reading me for. Everything I said about Wanna Get is here, but the sugar buzz amps into an MDMA binge. This thing takes exactly 3 and a half minutes to reach into every corner of my brain and activate every dormant piece of dopamine and adrenaline. You might find it repetitive and obnoxious. That’s fair. Your complaints are valid. I just can’t hear them up here in heaven.

Le Knight Club Is Playing at My House eases up on the throttle, funky instrumentation carving out more space around the drums. The highlight sound in the mix is that vocal Oooh. Again, the question-asking part of my brain just turns off when I’m riding the waves this song slides under me. Where is that vocal from? What language is she singing? Who cares, just enjoy it.

I think here we have a key difference between “sample-based hip-hop” and “plunderphonics”. It’s fun to listen to artists like Kanye West and mentally tab every sample that flies by. Hey that was Michael Jackson! And that’s Smokey Robinson! Nina Simone! You can’t keep up like that in the world of plunderphonics. The amount and variety of samples is a mental whirlwind, you just have to let yourself get swept away.

This song also demonstrates the constant referencing that is the bread and butter of internet-born music styles. Or I guess just memes in general. The more obscure the references, the greater the reward for whoever recognizes them off the bat, or takes the time to research them. This is a play on LCD Soundsystem’s Daft Punk Is Playing at My House (MY HOUSE), with the typical hipster one-up-manship — Le Knight Club is a side project of one of the members of Daft Punk. Obscurity point cha-ching.

But the nod makes sense. Le Knight Club’s music isn’t available on Spotify, but here’s a sampling. You can see where Chance de la Soul is taking a lot of their cues. It might just be youtube’s terrible audio, but that metallic edge and rhythmic bounce is just so Daft Punk.

But Daft Punk’s style itself was based around heavy sampling and French house conventions n stuff. That Knight Club song is based around sampling this song, which after extensive research based in scrolling down to the video’s description, came like 20 years before Daft Punk got going.

There’s a wholesome roundness to this chain. Early 2020’s music drawing heavily from early 2000’s music which was deeply rooted in 1980’s tunes that nobody listened to at the time. References and samples radiate backwards down a myriad of paths. But all you hear is a great song, and the first time I heard it I felt like I’d heard it before.

Some Anime leans into that mildly uncanny, mental tip-of-my-tongue ‘now where have I heard that before’ familiarity. As the title implies, there is some anime involved, some sampled hyper-sounding dialogue that I’m honestly not a fan of. The synths pulsate warmly, the mood cools from track to track quite naturally, and I don’t feel like the excited chatter quite fits. But it doesn’t break the trance, the drums are still popping off, I’m still walking down this forest path. It’s all good.

I think a big part of vaporwave is a specific tandem emotion. Electronic noises conjure cold digital spaces that defy emotion, and yet are uncannily comforting. I see a lot of youtube comments describing vaporwave songs as ‘like you’re wandering through an empty supermarket’. That’s like a whole other can of worms. I mean, the baggage and neuroses of our generation, as we crave the emotional familiarity of childhoods lived within the decaying commercial spaces that are quickly becoming the mausoleums of late-stage (maybe even end-game) capitalism?? is a whole other topic that I probably shouldn’t get into. Right now. Stay on target Luke.

No Words is the real brake-tapper, and it decelerates very gracefully. This is a warm song. Some hip-hop crowd work stuff dissolves into the type of beat you’d see looped for 10 hours on youtube over some gif’d Miyazaki shot. A lil splash of Lo-Fi Hip-Hop Beats to Study Slash Chill To right when you could take a break. Chance is very, very good at keeping the drums high-energy while re-contextualizing the samples around them, a technique which also describes -

Sit Back. The disarming nature of this album is as strong as ever. Every time this comes on, I do indeed sit back. This is usually the part where the can’t-enjoy-anything part of my brain perks up enough to take note of how many textbook electronic techniques are in play. But even then I only notice how well they’re used to enhance the overall mood. The kick drops out, check, then a filter sweep to emphasize the kick returning to the low end, check. Cut to a pitched down + slowed version of the beat, then into the bridge, then back to the beat, repeat, etc. There’s so many woodwind samples beeping and booping around, they almost don’t fit, but the whole beat hits ‘relaxed’ than ‘sloppy’, after the rigid energy of the first half of the tracklist. The beat change leads to a very dreamy little interlude that feels almost Beatles-y. There’s a lovely variety of sounds and textures overall. The Chill intensifies even more with -

Move That Body, a song that trades driving drums for classical guitar, radio transmissions, and yet more psychedelic mid-career Beatles… stuff. Probably the most Lo-Fi Hip-Hop song of the bunch. The tonal jump from the acoustic “move that body move move your body” to the 60’s ‘la la la’s is always a disconnect I enjoy, but I get how headshake-inducing transitions are not everybody’s cup of tea. C’est la vie.

Wait you’re telling me after all those words I’m on track 9 of 14? I have a problem. Somebody shoot me.

Come With Me starts to get back to the high-energy of the first few tracks. Chance appears to have a bottomless bucket of endlessly pleasant, language-ambivalent female vocal samples to choose from. Some serious Rick Astley energy on the other side of the beat change. I’m running out of words to describe the pleasing way all these genres mash together. This music… it’s good. I like it. From there we do indeed ramp up the energy, but not into the frenetic rave soundtrack from before. Oh no no no. We get some stadium anthem vibes in the form of-

I Felt Your Love. The definition of a strong back-end track. This song is less fast than big. It feels live in a way the previous songs don’t, artificial tape/VHS hiss and flange swirl implies the gentle roar of a large crowd far away, without copy and pasting literal crowd noises in there (as far as I can tell. maybe they’re really buried in there.) The almost cheerleader-style chants are so dang catchy, and fits the open-air aesthetic. That mood is followed by Get With Me, which is barely over a minute but still nice.

Hello Future Funk has NO BUSINESS being this far back in the tracklist. You know an album is good when it has this problem. The gently soaring mood of the past couple tracks is honed to perfection. This is one of those songs that makes me mad. How dare this musician find such a good sample to start with. You gotta give it up for the song that grabs you in the first instant. There’s some very last-decade, electro-swing, Caravan Palace vibes in here, that quickly melts into (what I think is {please don’t fact check me}) classic 80’s funky Japanese pop. Time after time, a song starts in one genre, uses a second to bridge to a third, then fuses them all together. Which logically should create unappetizing play-doh brown music. But inside the world this album creates, the kaleidoscope of colours never loses its crisp definition. Whatever-the-heck-kinda-song started us off, we go to Japanese pop, the interlude Discouraged dives quickly through early hip-hop, and it all culminates in the glorious finale-

Amiga Deluxe. an 8-bit anthem to bow us out. Is that 2009 style, Owl City energy? Or just classic Sega Genesis vibes? I don’t know, but some guy reciting lines from what sounds like a medical drama, or maybe the first installment of a superhero radio series, cuts between a woman singing (what sounds like)-

People everywhere / I’m talking to you / You better get your mind together / Before it’s too late

That looks ominous written down, but as the mantra closing out such an energetic, textually scattered, psychedelically cathartic slideshow of an album…

This album makes me feel very carpe diem. Not in the punchliney joke way, the way the phrase carpe diem feels when you’re actually watching Dead Poets Society and remembering that it is still very much a completely fantastic, 10/10 movie that peels away the cynicism you forgot you were slipping into every day.
Write about that instead, maybe with less words alright alright my point is, beneath the electronic conventions and rap and anime culture, this album has an emotionally sincere heart, and (to my ears) that sincerity informs all the mishmashing genres and samples and beat change wEiRdNeSs. I feel a slice of the sincerity (I assume) this person feels about anime and new funk and old hip hop.

If that’s not how Chance de la Soul feels, boy have I been duped. But if I’m wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed being absolutely hoodwinked by this random soundcloud album. I hope I’ve shown you why it’s my favourite album of 2020, and I hope you check it out. It’s a wild and enjoyable ride, and I have many listens to go before these songs lose their luster. The first time I heard it, I smiled the whole time. I couldn’t help it. I still smile every time I hear it. And for the 20/21 Winter Season, that’s saying something.