Matt Martians' design for Ego Death asserts that the Internet, which the producer co-pilots with singer/songwriter and producer/engineer Sydney Bennett, should be considered a band, not a duo. The names of the additional four -- keyboardist Jameel Bruner, guitarist Steve Lacy, bassist Patrick Paige II, and drummer Christopher Allan Smith -- along with those of numerous associates and guest artists, appear throughout the credits of the Internet's third and best album. While part of the appeal of Purple Naked Ladies and Feel Good was in their off-the-cuff and unassuming qualities, some of the songs verged on sketches and happenstance tangents that merely evoked a chemically enhanced and/or intimate mood. The majority of Ego Death is tighter. Bennett has refined her songwriting without reducing the candid approach that colors her past compositions. Additionally, the tangents are fewer and more substantive. It doesn't pick up where Feel Good left off. Instead of opening with a free-flowing mood-setter, the album starts with Bennett's voice barely above a whisper, declaring "Now she wanna fuck with me," daydreaming about escape, in tandem with trudging bass and lapping percussion. Much of what follows is similarly direct, or at least as concise. "Girl," co-produced by Bruner and Kaytranada, is a dimly lit gem of a ballad, a simple love song with loping bass and fluttering synthesizer evoking heartache with as much resonance as Bennett's words. Other nuanced, low-key standouts sound like they started as informal jam sessions and were shaped into near perfection. In the cloud surfing, James Fauntleroy-assisted "For the World," Bennett's consciousness is so altered that she blissfully slurs to a lover that she's willing to kill for her, then dismisses the thought with "We're chillin' instead, give me a kiss." Bennett's sharp pen and ability to convey a mix of emotions are also in top form in "Under Control," where she impels a relationship with a lot of conviction and a little anxiety. One of the best noncommercial R&B albums of 2015, Ego Death is perfectly timed, in sync with -- and distinct from -- other standout releases connected to the thriving L.A. community, including Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp a Butterfly, Kamasi Washington's The Epic, Miguel's WILDHEART, and Bilal's Adrian Younge-produced In Another Life. ~ Andy Kellman
Rolling Stone - 3.5 stars out of 5 -- "The best tracks fade away into gravity-defying instrumental outros that make Syd's heartache feel sublimely serene."
Pitchfork (Website) - "EGO DEATH is both spare and quietly musical, its crisp low end anchored in hip-hop as the rest of the band coolly branches out into jazz, funk, and rock."