#19. Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment: Surf

Ever since Chance the Rapper started turning heads with his 2013 mixtape Acid Rap, fans have been eagerly awaiting his return. After bringing a backing band of friends on tour with him in the form of The Social Experiment, they began to release some joint singles together online. Eventually word got out about their upcoming project Surf, and the hype for a new Chance album seemed to be at an all-time high.

Surf finally arrived in May as a free download on iTunes, but its early billing as a Chance the Rapper album ended up being false advertising. Instead, fans got a project released under the name of band member Donnie Trumpet, which saw Chance playing a supporting role outside of the spotlight. But after the initial confusion settled regarding whom this project really belonged to, fans started appreciating Surf for what it was: some of the breeziest, feel-good summer sounds of 2015.

Surf isn’t a perfect album. Each member of the Social Experiment is a burgeoning songwriter in their own right, and the album doesn’t contain a single bad song, but some of the recordings feel lackluster and formless. Tracks like “Caretaker” feel more like promising demos than finished records. Other tracks feel like they didn’t even need to make it onto the final album at all, such as the three-and-a-half minutes of uninspired noodling from Donnie Trumpet literally titled “Nothing Came to Me.”

But while the band has room for improvement, there’s definitely magic that slips through the blur of laidback island jams. Album opener “Miracle” is an overlooked gem with a simple “life is good” message that surprisingly does not feel clichéd at all. And of course there’s Surf’s lead single “Sunday Candy,” which turned out to be one of the best records of the year.  At their worst, the band sounds like they just need a bit more time to hone their craft. And at their best, they’re already making hit records. Ultimately, Surf was an unexpected but pleasant detour on the road to what we all ultimately came to hear: Chance the Rapper’s next album.