One of the many charms of Thundercat's first album, The Golden Age of Apocalypse, was the manner in which the supernaturally skilled bassist seemed to wing his way through songwriting -- stumbling upon ideas, going with the flow, goofing off -- and come up with brilliance. On his sharper, more focused second album, he works through anguish -- the loss of close friend and musical partner Austin Peralta -- with some staggeringly emotive and tightly composed content. There's less room for instrumentals and noodling, but even those moments are purposeful. The half-ebullient, half-turbulent, wholly absorbing "The Life Aquatic" adds some timely lightness after the heavy-hearted opening combination of "Tenfold" and "Heartbreaks + Setbacks." The odd-signatured "Seven," part of which resembles one of those wild-card Yes interludes, is an alternately showy and frivolous set-up for the delirious dancefloor funk jam "Oh Sheit It's X." For all the darkness and depth, one of the most moving songs here is "Tron Song," a falsetto ode to his cat and the greatest example of his fearlessness. Animal-loving touring musicians finally have a song that speaks directly to them: "I always come back to you/Don't you worry about me." Even the melodic ditties that skirt smooth soul and soft rock supply more resonance here; the sweetly forlorn "Without You" comes across like a missing Twennynine-era Don Blackman cut. The driving "Lotus and the Jondy," like early-2000s Radiohead with humor and fusion chops, is a fantastical adventure with moody riffing. Executive producer Flying Lotus and Peralta evidently are present as characters in the story, "Straight trippin' in the darkness, straight-up seein' goblins," while Thundercat's older brother Ronald is present in material/musical form to finish it with a supreme drum freak-out. Denser and fathoms deeper, this is some kind of leap. ~ Andy Kellman