Esperanza Spalding’s sound is hard to define and her latest record, Emily’s D+Evolution, won’t make it any simpler. From the dissonant opening notes on “Good Lava”, we are transported into a messy, imperfect, wildly uninhibited world Spalding has dreamed up. Emily’s D+Evolution is theatrical, poetic, retro, noisy and deeply artistic. It’s an oddball of an album, and while it can seem a little all over the place aesthetically, it is actually arranged so tightly that even the notes that seem out of place are exactly where they’re meant to be.
Spalding plays with elements of jazz, classical, classic rock, pop and punk on Emily’s D+Evolution, and as you listen, it begins to feel almost experimental. She seems to be stretching herself into all the corners of her imagination, stretching her range even more. “Earth to Heaven” features a jazzy, low key tempo with hints of funk in the harmonies. And “Good Lava” finds Spalding exploring spaced out garage punk and rocking out hard, pushing herself to her sharper edges. “One” is a lovely, shimmering explosion of electric guitars paired with Spalding’s epic buildup of harmony. She plays with fire on “Ebony and Ivy”, a partially spoken-word dosage of dreamy poetry that is as mind-bending as it is beautiful.
Each track on Emily’s D+Evolution is so sonically different from the others, yet they all fit together just right. Overall, it is an artfully cacophonous record that may leave you a little jolted, but will not fail to please your ears. The arrangements and vocals play off each other exuberantly, like a cocktail with a million unexpectedly complementary ingredients that allow you to experience each flavor in a new and thrilling way. From the lush, indulgent cover of Veruca Salt (the spoiled brat from Willy Wonka, not the band) song “I Want it Now”, to the vivid, trippy, hip-hop tinged protest song “Funk the Fear”, Spalding is keeping us on our toes.