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The Vanguard


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Jun 02, 2014



(Innovative Leisure) 

If you want to get an idea of what BADBADNOTGOOD is all about, there's a very simple introduction. The video for “Can’t Leave the Night”—the third, brooding single off of their new album III—showcases the band’s humor perfectly. The video is tongue-in-cheek of what listeners visualize for songs like “Night”; it has the elements of a “dramatic” music video (lasers, money, emotion, etc.) but not in the way one would expect. (No spoilers, watch it for yourself and laugh.) Not only does the video show the band’s humor, it also symbolizes how the band subverts listeners’ expectations of what jazz should be.


Their first album of all-original material, III sees BADBADNOTGOOD further stretching the boundaries of jazz, hip-hop, and even electronic music. Prior to the album, the band has collaborated with the likes of Odd Future (The Odd Future Sessions) and Danny Brown (“Float On”). They’ve also done covers of Kanye West, Waka Flocka Flame, My Bloody Valentine, & even “Song of Storms” and “Saria’s Song” from Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. On III, the band successfully combines their diverse range of influences to create captivating music that defies genre boundaries.

The album starts with “Triangle”, one of the III’s most immediate and satisfying tracks. The track features a driving drum and bass section from Alexander Sowinski and Chester Hansen and incredible piano from Matt Tavares. It’s definitely a hell of a way to start an album. After “Triangle” comes “Can’t Leave the Night”, which features a trip-hop-like atmosphere with its combination of lush instrumentation and a hip-hop influenced rhythm. Even the rumbling drums and bass in the track are reminiscent of the production styles of Lex Luger, Young Chop, and TNGHT.


The track “Confessions” has a smooth-as-hell saxophone part over light piano lines as well as crisp drums and builds ups to a point where sax, piano, and drums all get to shine. “Kaleidoscope” switches between frenetic drum-centric passages and lush, triumphant sections where horns and piano take over. In the track “Eyes Closed” builds from a quiet drum rhythm to an awe-inspiring blend of piano, bass, and drums.

“Hedron” opens with a short electric piano passage that the band builds upon as the track progresses. “Differently, Still” is one of the more conventionally jazz-like tracks on the album, but that does not mean it is one of the lesser tracks in III. Tavares’ work on the piano is nothing short of amazing in “Differently”. BADBADNOTGOOD experiments with electronic music in “Since You Asked Kindly”, where steady synthesizer arpeggios serve as the basis for the track. Along with the drums’ driving rhythm, “Kindly” reminds me a lot of Portishead’s “The Rip”. The album’s last track, “CS60”, features another nod to BADBADNOTGOOD’s hip-hop/trap influences. It’s a hell of a way to end the album and to leave listeners coming back for more.


With III, BADBADNOTGOOD combines the drive of hip-hop music with the instrumentation of jazz to create their own voice. The incredible musicianship and interplay of all three band members, along with the captivating blend of diverse musical genres, will keep listeners coming back for more. Not only does III successfully subverts the idea of what jazz should be, it also successfully shows what jazz can be.

Jian Nocon