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Album Review: BADBADNOTGOOD – IV

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Five years after the release of their debut album, the Canadian jazz band BADBADNOTGOOD has made a name for themselves as one of the most versatile quartets to enter the music scene. BBNG has evolved plenty; they’ve been touring the world and working on music continuously throughout this past decade. It’s fascinating to hear the evolution unfold and witness into which directions the band is willing to venture. They demonstrate a brilliant idea of what jazz music could sound like if hip hop artists were to tackle the genre. After having covered Odd Future, J Dilla, James Blake and Flying Lotus tracks, and worked on an entire collaboration album with Wu-Tang member Ghostface Killah, now BADBADNOTGOOD has released their fourth solo effort appropriately named IV. This album is the band’s most confident and endearing project so far; it exhibits a style that has been crafted by inspired young artists. The production is brighter, cleaner and as engrossing as ever thanks to the talented guests featured on the project.  

Sam Herring from the alternative pop rock band Future Islands lays down the most sensual vocals on “Time Moves Slow”. The track radiates warmth and feels like good company on a sad rainy day when you’re all alone with no plans. Sizzling high hats midway through the song played by Alexander Sowinski add to the overall gloomy feeling. Sam’s approach to singing adds emphasis to the idea of how time feels like it’s just barely moving when you long for the one person with whom you are in love. It’s such a beautiful delivery, with so many emotions behind what Sam’s saying, that the track makes you take time to think about how you can relate with these emotions.

“In Your Eyes” features soulful vocals provided by Toronto artist Charlotte Day Wilson and is another blissfully sexy track on the LP. The soft piano keys at the beginning of the track set the tone for the rest of the song. Charlotte’s singing is effortlessly complementary to the luscious production that BBNG provides for her; it’s almost as if the band wrote the song with Charlotte in mind. With the support of the instrumental work and Charlotte’s style on the verses, “In Your Eyes” feels like an archaic track. However, it still maintains the modern day feeling with crisp production.

“Speaking Gently” features synthed piano keys that sound similar to the ones that jangle pop artist Mac DeMarco would use. It’s bright and has a luscious saxophone solo midway through the track that’s beautifully pulled off. Leland Whittys contributions have been provided many times in the past on BBNG songs, but now he is a full time member and the addition of a saxophonist to the original trio was a long time coming. Gearing down towards the last minute and a half on the title track, Leland’s excellent skills as a saxophone player shine once again, establishing him as an official BBNG band member.

The only song I couldn’t enjoy was “Lavender,” featuring production from Montréal local Kaytranada. The instrumentals sound too spaced out from one another and created an odd effect that wasn’t appealing to me every time I played that song. I can see the direction that the band was heading in; it just wasn’t suited for me. The sax playing in the back is neat, but ultimately doesn’t do much to save the track. It’s a shame too since BBNG and Kaytranada have worked together before and the results were stellar.

Chicago raised rapper Mick Jenkins spits verses on “Hyssop of Love”. The MC’s capabilities of matching his vocals to what’s happening sonically within the instrumentation is interesting. BBNG and Mick Jenkins work off one another in a complementary way, from the mystic atmosphere that the quartet is producing, to Mick’s cynical tone of voice narrating the song. It’s a fantastic feature to have on the final cut of the album and makes the song stand out from the rest of the tracklist.

IV is BADBADNOTGOOD’s most captivating release from their entire catalogue of albums yet. The production is overall glossier with a clear focus for what they want to sound like. The basslines provided by Chester Hansen are smooth and gripping as they supports all the kind of work that the rest of the band members are putting in. Matthew Tavares plays the keys beautifully with his juicy piano playing abilities. It’s been inspiring witnessing the journey of the band change from their first album to where they’re at now. It’s just as reflective from their cover art as it is in their music. Going from a plain grey cover on BBNG to the bright blue cover with a picture of all four members soaking in the sun on IV, BBNG has delivered us another solid release.

-Review by Michael Eidelson