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What's This?

It’s been a while since I’ve been so excited to review an album. I’ve been waiting with much anticipation for BBNG2, the second full-length, studio LP from Toronto jazz trio BADBADNOTGOOD. Perhaps it was their exuberant, all-caps Facebook musings, clearly a direct line to the band themselves as opposed to a PR representative, or maybe it was the fact that they proudly announced that “nobody over the age of 21 was involved in the making of this album.” There’s a sense of DIY about all of BBNG’s releases, and it makes them and their work all the more loveable.

However, they are nowhere near amateur. The three are Humber-educated, and it becomes clear upon first listen that they have the kind of chops that most musicians can only dream of. Even more impressive is the fact that the whole LP was recorded in only a single 10-hour session, and that pianist Matt Tavares was involved in the album’s production.

The album arrives riding a wave of hype, stemming largely from a recent collaboration with Tyler, The Creator and praise from his returning partner-in-rhyme Earl Sweatshirt. As a result, there is a clear and unabashed Odd Future acknowledgement in the inclusion of covers like “Earl” and a “Bastard-Lemonade” medley, with the latter featuring a wonderful sax solo. More unexpectedly, the young Torontonians break out two James Blake covers (although “Limit to Your Love” is a Feist track, it is played in the style Blake made so famous last year). The boys are no strangers to a cover, having included a version of Nas’ “The World is Yours” on their first LP, but these are different, a clear hat-tipping to two of the most interesting, unorthodox jazz-influenced acts to emerge in contemporary popular music. They don’t seem to trail off when it comes to their own tracks either, with the album flowing and grooving with simultaneous ease and urgency.

As is the case with most jazz music, it is difficult to describe the exact sensation I experienced while listening to BBNG2. The LP is as chilled-out and smooth as one would expect from the genre, but the hip-hop influence gives the music such swagger that it could as easily soundtrack a joyride in a convertible as a study session. But most importantly (in my opinion), BBNG2 is proof that young musicians are capable of much more than angst and electropop. BADBADNOTGOOD, along with peers like Blake and Odd Future, are bringing jazz back to the younger generations the way early hip-hop did, and I, for one, am immensely grateful.

It is also worth mentioning that the release is absolutely free to download from the band’s website, and we would advise that you take advantage.

(If you have the pleasure of attending this year’s Coachella festival, you can see BADBADNOTGOOD serving as the “resident jazz band”, playing sets prior to gates opening and after close.)

Ben McArthur

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