The Bad Plus, "Never Stop II" (Legbreaker)
Since 1990, this scientific threesome of progressive jazzbos has been unified toward one goal: an angular, post post-bop version of math rock. Twin Cities natives Reid Anderson (bass) and Dave King (drums) and Wisconsin-bred Ethan Iverson (piano) were brothers in askew rhythm and complex songsmithing, so much so that every element of their eccentric improvisation was driven by instinct and intuition.
So then any interruption of such — say, 2017's departure of Iverson — could spell disaster, if not for the arrival of smart and soulful daredevil pianist Orrin Evans of Philadelphia.
Rather than replace Iverson, Evans — a Plus-pal with a solo career's equal footing in the avant-garde and romantic melodicism — makes his own Bad mark, quickly, with his own brand of piano noise and nuance. Though he fits within the role of strident piano player on compositions such as Anderson's throbbing "Salvages" and King's haunting "Lean in the Archway," Evans is truly a Bad comrade-in-arms when it comes to their compositional stakes.
The sidesplitting "Boffadem" and the poignant "Commitment" with their passionate rests and busy, buoyant codas sound as much a part of Evans' catalog as it does (or will) that of the Bad Plus going forward. "Never Stop II" is such a nice welcome to an old friend.
A.D. Amorosi, Philadelphia Inquirer
Tune-Yards, "5 Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life" (4AD)
On Tune-Yards' latest album, Merrill Garbus unflinchingly interrogates herself. As she pulls apart her contradictions and self-delusions, she calls upon her deepening understanding of dance music to keep the air from getting too murky.
The merger of a furrowed-brow intellect and hip-freeing rhythm has been a Tune-Yards constant since Garbus made her 2009 bedroom recording, "Bird-Brains." The new album is both more refined and yet more raw. Garbus is a powerhouse singer, but she's also exploring more nuanced melodies and phrasing, even as she confronts big subjects: white privilege, cultural appropriation, the end of the world. It never sounds like heavy lifting because the music was built to be blasted through big speakers in a dance club.
Tune-Yards revel in rhythmic changeups and unexpected juxtapositions. The mind-body dialogue drives the album until coming to a midpoint rest on "Home," in which Garbus' angelic voice sings: "She's a fool." The "fool" is the narrator herself, and she concludes: No progress without confrontation, and that includes those who hold themselves blameless while a community or a planet burns.
GREG KOT, Chicago Tribune
• Migos, "Culture II"
• Rick Springfield, "The Snake King"
• Calexico, "The Thread That Keeps Us"
• Ty Segall, "Freedom's Goblin"