Albums of the year – March 2016
‘See this pretty girl, watch this pretty girl flow.’ And so began Esperanza Spalding’s confident album of theatrical tunes, fusing contemporary jazz, art rock, funk and soul with ease. From the outset, Emily’s D+Evolution meandered its way through a kaleidoscopic adventure, held together by an undeniable talent.
Having established herself as a multi-instrumentalist, Spalding also proved she was blessed with a voice as free as the music accompanying it. Dripping with warmth at one point, switching to rapid spoken word at another, and then soaring to the dizzying heights of Kate Bush elsewhere, it barely sounded like a sweat was being broken.
Emily’s D+Evolution was a confrontational piece of work where each song had it’s own identity. And like all personalities, they were hard to pin down. Even its most straightforward song, Unconditional Love, steered in a direction you weren’t expecting it to go.
Unusually for an album, it was at its best during the final third. Farewell Dolly was both beautiful and strange, while Spalding sounded her most self-assured on Elevate or Operate and Funk the Fear. Ending with a cover of Veruca Salt’s bratty I Want it Now could have easily been a misstep in someone else’s hands. But Spalding delivered a version that not only suggested she wanted the whole world, she was damn well claiming it.
Although the vision is hers, you can hear hints of Prince, Jimi Hendrix and Joni Mitchell throughout. More albums like this and Spalding will soon be on par with the idols that have clearly inspired her.
Anna Meredith: Varmints
The Range: Potential