‘Funk the Fear’ with Esperanza Spalding

By Theadora Lecour, Contributing Writer

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Esperanza Spalding performing her latest album, “Emily’s D+Evolution.” Photo courtesy of Javier Egas (Flickr)
Esperanza Spalding performing her latest album, “Emily’s D+Evolution.”
Photo courtesy of Javier Egas (Flickr)

Ever tried intergalactic time travel? If not, “Emily’s D+Evolution” would be your first step. Esperanza Spalding, who has been a Berklee professor of music since age 20, will take you where you’ve never been before with her fifth and latest solo album.

On March 4, Spalding released a record that reminds us what rock composition is all about. Electric guitar, drums and vocals melt like butter over your speakers to assure you that the rock/soul music scene isn’t dead — it’s just hiding for its life from the Top 40.

Maybe 20 years from now, a pop star will stumble upon this gem and sample it in a poor attempt to emulate what Spalding has achieved with Concord Records today. Her jazz melodies and bass rhythms don’t quit for 16 tracks.

The song “Good Lava” introduces a cohesive venture that displays a vocal performance unlike what we’re used to hearing from the young prodigy. Fluttering whispers mound in anticipation of cathartic releases of musical pleasure, and the singer invites listeners to “see this pretty girl flow.” You’ll want to experience the flow over and over.

The second track, “Unconditional Love,” is probably the most previewed item from the album and for good reason. It is a crowd-pleaser and feel-good song all around. “We can change the whole story of love,” is just one lyric that can’t help but bring a smile to any of Spalding’s fans — old or new.

Esperanza Spalding on the upright bass. Photo courtesy of Alessandra Fregula (Flickr)
Esperanza Spalding on the
upright bass.
Photo courtesy of Alessandra Fregula (Flickr)

One of my personal favorites on the album is “Ebony and Ivy.” On this track, a futuristic robotic vocal performance precedes a rock anthem that speaks like political poetry. “It’s been hard to grow outside / growin’ good, and act happy / and pretend that the ivy vines / didn’t weigh our branch down.” Spalding accomplishes meaningful lyricism without sacrificing a smidge of musical integrity.

Other impressive tracks include “Change Us,” “Funk the Fear” and the final track, “Unconditional Love (Alternate Version),” which will put you in a bright mood for the whole day.

It’s hard not to appreciate the artist’s latest release. Anyone with gratitude for music will recognize how this young woman is pushing today’s artists to step up their game. “Emily’s D+Evolution” is probably Spalding’s most unapologetic and well-defined album yet, and listeners are bound to hear a change from her previous album release, “Radio Music Society.”

Trippy album art adorns the record, and fans who buy the album get a fun mini-poster in the cover. Spalding plays with surrealist and naturalist themes that create a visual appetizer for her newest project. Just like the music, the artist’s album art is theatrical and organized, completing the entire package.

Even after this project, fans are hungry for more from this developing young talent. If you’re one of those folks who can’t get enough of Spalding’s artistry, you may want to see one of her upcoming concerts. Spalding will tour at select locations along the East Coast until May, so make sure you catch her now. After those performances, she will be touring in East Asia and Australia.

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