This has been the busiest weekend I’ve had in a very long time.
A few months ago, I heard about this festival called The Art of Cool out in Durham, NC. It had a lot of amazing acts attached to it, and since it was only about a six hour drive from here in Atlanta, I decided that I’d try and make time to attend. Then, some amazing women (shout out to Asiah and Sierra, even though neither of you could make it) had an even better idea: why not try and apply for press credentials?
In my mind, that’s a crazy idea. No way will that work. Why would a guy like me, someone with a small-time music podcast with a barebones website, ever get to have access to talk to artists like Anderson .Paak face to face? And yet, despite my pessimism, I was definitely accepted in the group for passes! So I took off a day from work, linked up with my high school friend Chris Russ (aka @faruhdey), and got into one of the greatest weekend experiences of my life. Listen to all of our stories, including casually running into Maségo and finding out he’s from the 757, re-encountering All Cows Eat Grass from the Hiatus Kaiyote concert, hearing Terrace Martin and Rapsody speak on To Pimp a Butterfly, and SO much more. (It’s a long episode, we barely had time to actually talk about new music!)
I’m not going to pretend like I wasn’t skeptical about this album…
I am a huge fan of Esperanza Spalding. One of my favorite jazz albums is her Grammy Award-winning 2008 album Esperanza and I’ve gone on record many times to say so. Between collaborations with Algebra Blessett and Janelle Monáe and covers of Michael Jackson songs, I’ve been sold on her for years now. But earlier this year, Esperanza released two singles from her new album —”One” and “Good Lava” — and afterwards, I found myself lost on how to feel. She’s always been known to shift sounds from album to album, but the sheer shock value coming from those singles, especially “Good Lava,” kept me at bay. I’d seen reviews from her tour that she went on last year in early promotion for this new project Emily’s D+Evolution and for some reason, a good number of them were negative, saying things like “everything was weird” and “there wasn’t any jazz.”
These people were right. This new album is definitely weird, and there really isn’t a whole lot of strictly by-the-books jazz to be found here, but I’ll be damned if my skepticism wasn’t misplaced. Emily’s D+Evolution is a great piece of work.
It starts off with the very song I turned my face up at (even though I quickly changed my mind on it after a full listen of the album), and slowly begins to ease you in to the world it’s building around you. There are loud guitar riffs, ridiculous drums, and skittish “pretty girl” flows everywhere. Each song gets better as it goes on – or maybe it’s that you grow more comfortable with the vibe with each track. I haven’t really figured it out yet, even after listening to it on shuffle. Once that initial “wow” has passed, a lot of the album becomes a lot easier to digest. There is a very childlike and bipolar quality to it as a whole, with songs shifting from protests to lullabies in mere seconds.
Esperanza’s soothing voice has always been a pleasant treat in her music, and even amongst all the chaos here, that still stands. Her voice is hypnotizing in songs like “Rest in Pleasure” and “Noble Nobles.” Oh, and did I mention that there’s a cover of a song from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory here? There’s a lot to love about this album, and I honestly feel dumb for doubting that Esperanza Spalding could pull off something so strange. I’ll make sure to apologize when I see her in April.
Judas, One, Rest In Pleasure, Noble Nobles, I Want It Now
Have you listened to this album yet? What did you think about it (and what did you think of this review? It’s been a while)? Drop your thoughts down in the comments.
Thanks for reading.