Exclaim!'s Top 15 Soul and R&B Albums Best of 2016



12. Esperanza Spalding
Emily's D+Evolution
(Concord)
 
Esperanza Spalding's Emily's D+Evolution firmly establishes her as a visionary, unafraid to pursue her artistic aims to their fullest extent. The agility with which her alter-ego/muse — the titular Emily — dances between the norms of prog, metal, jazz and funk has drawn positive comparisons to such disparate geniuses as Prince, Cream, Flying Lotus and Joni Mitchell.
 
With her acrobatic vocals and fretless bass in tow, wrapped in rich layers of poetry asserting her individuality, Spalding pushes against musical boundaries (genre, vocal range) as well as social ones (gender, race, religion). She does this with both a sweet sense of whimsy and the conviction of a freedom fighter.
 
If you pass a stranger on the street and they are looking up at the sky, you may very naturally also want to look up, too. Spalding's new "play," the adventurous Emily's D+Evolution, tilts our heads back in this way too.
Peter Ellman