Lush R&B is often the perfect supplement for a sweltering hot summer, and given the fine weather here in the UK I’ve been willing myself to enjoy Hive Mind as though it was some sort of enriching movement propelling British Summertime to a new beyond. Unfortunately, I don’t actually get much from the record, and I think it falls into the trap of being a vibey experience rather than something of genuine substance. This might seem slightly unfair given the sincerity of Syd’s tales of devotion, desire and heartbreak, but ultimately nothing here really sticks. Swooning tunes fade into the background as if not to bother potential listeners. To its credit, nothing on Hive Mind seems forced, and there are genuine sparks that almost ignite into something sizeable. The Internet stumble on some excellent rhythmic arrangements, often propelled by Steve Lacy’s superb guitar work, whilst Syd has a keen ear for alluring vocal melodies. Unfortunately, her hushed vocals are also a significant reason as to why the album seems strangely disposable. They’re not nearly strong enough to maintain attention for the album’s hour-long duration, particularly when the instrumentals get lost so easily in their initial grooves. Each song starts promisingly enough, but Hive Mind is guilty of not taking its ideas further. the record stagnates into a smooth R&B mood, though admittedly a rather lavish one. It’s frustrating to hear an album so content with being unrefined. It’s very likely that some of these tracks will be on constant rotation in a number of summertime party playlists. It’s also very likely that by the next summer we’ll have forgotten all about it.6 10
Favourite tracks // Come Over
La Di Da
Stay the Night
It’s clear why someone would want to like Hive Mind. Talented people coming together to share in the joy of creation and music sounds like a good deal, especially in the summer. Unfortunately, most of the album is relaxed to the point of inconsequence. It’s dozy. The low-key delivery and subtle groove puts most of the album out of focus. It’s not just the songwriting either. The production is dazed and murky, and the hour-long runtime doesn’t help matters. The lasting impression is of something nice. Boring and nice.
Hive Mind does have its moments. “Come Over” pulls off the slo-mo R&B flow better than most of the other tracks, and “It Gets Better (With Time)” has a soft, vulnerable openness to it that I like a lot. The latter is one of Syd’s vocal highlights. The problem is I don’t even like my favourite tracks that much. They mimic the soul and measure of Solange’s A Seat at the Table, but they don’t have the staying power.
This barely feels like a missed opportunity; more a half-chance that’s been shrugged away because life is short. I can dig that kind of looseness. It can work… just not here. With a bit more polish (and cutting) this could have been what it wanted to be. As it is, Hive Mind feels like a lazy Sunday that’s gotten a bit too lazy.5 10
Favourite tracks // It Gets Better (With Time)
At face value, Hive Mind is a sound of summer, bringing an idyllic hour of R&B to the table. Although it thrives in creating some great moments of music, it falls down when it comes to memorability and development. Unfortunately, my time with this release has been a downhill journey. From initially enjoying the overall package and trying to glean insight into individual tracks, I grew weary of its hour-long play time and found only a handful of tracks that did something substantial with their initial ideas. Many instrumentals on Hive Mind are backed by beats that feel unloved, with the exception of “Bravo” which feels like a beat that has been positively tortured going by the sound of its abrasive snare. Besides rhythm, a good majority of the instrumentals here carry the whole track, with some lovely guitar work in the likes of “Come Over” and “La Di Da”. What stops them from really excelling is their tendency to pick up a groove and sit into it for the remainder of the track. While this isn’t extraordinary for the genre, there’s little else to keep tracks engaging and without instrumental development it’s easy to grow tired of each groove.
The lead vocals aren’t bad at all but don’t pull the weight they need to, and often end up lost in the overall vibe of each track. Those tracks with a wealth of backing vocals, on the other hand, do come alive, giving a far more distinctive atmosphere than anything else. My favourite tracks are those that go against the grain, as “Beat Goes On” and “Next Time / Humble Pie” take total diversions mid-track, developing instrumentals reminiscent of Frank Ocean’s previous work and adding a bit more heft to the vocals. Meanwhile, “La Di Da” packs far more punch than its counterparts, with notable percussion, expressive vocals and an enjoyable overall instrumental. It’s a shame, in that case, to critique Hive Mind quite so heavy-handedly when there is some good music to be found here, but when an album is more a search for gems in the rough than a consistent, enjoyable experience, I prefer to take the gems and leave the rest behind.5 10
Favourite tracks // Next Time/Humble Pie
Beat Goes On
La Di Da