Vulfpeck is a funk group from Ann Arbor, Michigan that formed in 2011. Essentially a rhythm section, the group has backed numerous singers and even done some soundtrack work. Though other musicians occasionally contribute, the core members are Jack Stratton, Theo Katzman, Woody Goss, and Joe Dart. Every player is a multi-instrumentalist with the exception of Dart, who sticks to bass for every song.
My First Car is the third EP release from Vulfpeck. This six-song collection mainly sticks to the formula that was cultivated on their first two releases but with a smoother, more produced sound. Slinky drum grooves, thunderous bass lines, vintage keyboards and scratchy guitar lines all weave together to create a sound that recalls older funk music while still having a modern sound.
The first song, “Wait For The Moment” kicks off the EP with a relaxed R&B feel. The track features Antwaun Stanley on vocals, and marks the first time Vulfpeck has released a track featuring a singer. The band lays down a sparse but effective framework of bass, drums, and electric piano for Stanley to croon over. His performance is impressive, and the playful lyrics come across as both sincere and slightly tongue-in-cheek.
Vulfpeck’s “Wait For The Moment”
Next up is “The Birdwatcher.” This short tune features a fun synthesizer line that sounds a bit like a bird singing. Dart’s bass line and Katzman’s guitar lock together to create a groove so deep that it is easy to miss the fact that there are no drums on this track, just hand claps.
“The Birdwatcher” gives way to “The Speedwalker,” an infectiously uplifting jam with a bit of a disco vibe. The drums propel the song with a relentlessly steady part that feels like it could go on forever. Like many of Vulfpeck’s compositions, this one is essentially just a couple of parts that repeat over and over throughout. This type of structure allows for an almost hypnotic feel as the song goes on.
Vulfpeck’s “The Birdwatcher”
The title track has more of a minor key, Prince-like funk feel. This song also features a simple but effective guitar part and some descending, reverb-drenched keyboard lines that add a nice atmospheric effect. Dart does some fantastic bass work on this song. He excels at keeping a huge groove going while still throwing in the occasional fill. None of the bass on My First Car is as outwardly flashy as something like “Beastly” from the first Vulfpeck EP, but Dart’s playing is creative and impressive throughout.
“Kuhmilch 74 BPM” is interesting because it has a hip-hop sound that hasn’t been present in most of Vulfpeck’s material. At barely over two minutes, it is over quickly and moves right into the final track. “It Gets Funkier III” is the third arrangement of a song that has been featured on each of the group’s releases. The first was a piano-heavy rendition with an aggressively raw bass performance from Dart. The second was a more lo-fi version with stripped down drums and synthesizers. The new arrangement’s synth and keyboard tones make it sound almost Stevie Wonder-esque.
The overall sound of My First Car is slicker and more polished than Vulfpeck’s previous material. This takes away some of the raw energy that was such a great aspect of their first two releases. As a result, the live-in-the-studio feel of their past work is missed. However, it is still a fitting addition to a unique catalog of music from a group of tremendously talented players. Anyone looking for some laid-back, deep pocket funk should definitely consider checking it out.
Written by Wib Schneider
OurVinyl | Contributor