MUSIC REVIEWS: Esperanza Spalding and CSS

Esperanza Spalding
(Heads Up)

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Some words that can best describe the sound of Esperanza Spalding’s promising sophomore album Esperanza are hybrid and eclectic. At 23, this young bassist and vocalist has her ear tuned into all different types of music. Her reworking of Milton Nascimento’s “Ponta de Areia” not only foreshadows the Brazilian influence heard throughout this album, but also blends in Spalding’s jazz roots along with tinges of R&B and gospel. And like the album’s first song, Esperanza offers a little bit of everything for everyone. “I Know You Know” and “Espera” are straddled in between jazz and R&B. There are moments on “Espera” when you think you hear hints of Bill Wither’s “Use Me.” Spalding offers pure jazz on “Mela” and “Cuerpo y Alma,” a Spanish rendition of the standard “Body and Soul” in 5/4 time. Both songs allow Spalding’s beautifully rhythmic bass playing to serve as the focal point. But her vocal on “Cuerpo y Alma” sounds as if she’s trying too hard. Her scatting, however, comes across more organically, especially on “I Adore You.” With a blend of Afro-Latin percussion from Jamey Haddad, Spalding’s playful scatting, and contemplative piano playing from Leo Genovese, “I Adore You” captures the mood of Carnival time in Brazil. Overall, Esperanza is a nicely woven blanket of love and idealism. The wave of media attention bestowed upon Spalding, including being voted by JazzTimes as one of the “new visionaries” of jazz, is well deserved. Although she is young, Esperanza Spalding has talent and listeners will hear this artist’s growth in the years ahead.

Shannon J. Effinger

(Sub Pop)

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Summer has ended, and you’re looking for something to reenergize you: CSS to the rescue. The band’s sophomore album Donkey, released through Sub Pop Records, kicks it into high gear without a moment of hesitation.

Originally from Sao Paulo, Brazil, the aptly-named Cansei de Ser Sexy allegedly got their name from Beyonce, who, one day, claimed she was “tired of being sexy”. CSS is pretty damn sexy, as well as sassy, and these lyrical elements are backed by an indie/electro/pop sound that’s more guitar-driven than their previous album. Some of my favorite tracks include “Jager Yoga,” with its burst of energy at the beginning of the album and “Let’s Reggae All Night,” a really hilarious track that’s absolutely contagious; and the sexy “Believe Achieve.”

Clearly, CSS “didn’t come into this world to walk around.” I’ve listened to this album nearly thirty times now and it’s really grown on me. There’s a depth to it beyond the party elements this band brings with them wherever they go. Hopefully they won’t really get tired of doing this anytime soon.

Download – CSS – Rat Is Dead (Rage).Mp3

Christine Thelen

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