Monday, January 25th, 2016

Esperanza Spalding – Good Lava

Beat Biebs to the Best New Artist Grammy!


Alfred Soto: The vocal swoops, careening past electric guitar, are the most striking element: she’s after something molten that emerges unbidden. Busy though.

Thomas Inskeep: Well, this is one hell of a left turn: Spalding, one of jazz’s pre-eminent bassists, has gone all rock-power-trio on us, making a single that sounds like Cream-cum-Zappa. Her vocal here sounds more Joni Mitchell (in the ’70s especially) than I’ve heard her before, singing strongly and bravely and forcefully. Unexpected, and good more than great. 

Iain Mew: She sings like she has flames in her eyes and summons guitar pyroclastics on cue — for such a complicated sound, the appeal of its conceptual success is rather simple.

Jonathan Bogart: Despite George Clinton’s best efforts in the 70s, prog-funk is still relatively virgin territory; shaking asses in 7/8 time has, for some reason, never caught on among the masses. Esperanza Spalding, best known as a clever jazz bassist and singer who leans decidedly post-third stream, has broken out her inner Me’shell Ndegeocello, Neneh Cherry, or even Janelle Monáe, for something harsher, tauter, and more theatrical than her chamber-music history would have predicted, and the result is, if not quite pop, then using the elements of pop to create a more vibrant, colorful work of art than she ever has before.

Will Adams: “Good Lava” begins like a freight train slowly coming into view; before long you need to either hop on for the ride or let it run over you.

Dorian Sinclair: “Good Lava” has a simmer to it that is exactly right for the title, and Spalding’s vocal is really confident in how she navigates the odd dips and jumps in the melody. I do wish the bass was more prominent in the mix — she really is a superb bassist. But overall, “Good Lava” makes a solid initial impression and I think I’ll only grow fonder of it with time.

Katherine St Asaph: I take back everything I said about Spalding being MOR. “Good Lava” flows exactly like its namesake, and Spalding coaxes every last bit of wordplay, delivery and implication out of the title. The first few seconds could be Susanne Sundfør; the remainder, though underdeveloped, could incinerate in a ten-mile radius.

Mo Kim: The splintered electric guitar textures tower over Spalding’s arrangement, but Spalding herself is action heroine, weaving and dodging her way through the chaos, trusting the listener won’t let go of her hand. Lava is an apt description: this menaces, burns, creeps, and most of all it flows.

Brad Shoup: So the album’s pronounced “D-Plus Evolution,” as in “barely having the tools that you need, but having to move forward”. And few things move as powerfully and as slowly as lava. I thought her guitarist was treading on Annie Clark’s territory, but after the initial flash he settles for scratching behind the family vocals. This could have flowed in any of a dozen directions, and it hasn’t yet, but I’m still watching.

Reader average: [7] (1 vote)

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