Shit We Like

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Esperanza Spalding | Emily’s D+Evolution | EMI

Emily’s D+Evolution begins with a bass drum thump and Spalding’s immense voice singing, “See this pretty girl/Watch this pretty girl flow,” and flow she does. On the last word, the band kicks in with a skronky bass and guitar funk riff that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on a Brecker Brothers album from the 70’s. Blending fusion with impeccable singer-songwriter instincts and hints of prog rock, it’s tempting to see Spalding’s latest as a sonic tour through the “best of the 70’s.” But no, this album doesn’t drift through its sounds, it synthesizes them, recombines them, and spits them back out as something new. Whether it’s the gorgeous Joni Mitchel-esque jazz pop of “Unconditional Love” and “One” (the latter of which channels Mitchell to extraordinary ends) or the operatic fusion of “Earth to Heaven,” Spalding has put together a wonderful set of songs that are as exciting as they are impressive. Loosely hung on the idea that Spalding is speaking through Emily, an alter-ego of sorts, these are songs about idealism and reinvention, each finding a thematic counterpart in the searching, exploratory, and satisfyingly exhaustive arrangements that make the album an exuberant act of joy. —James Brubaker

Aloha | “Signal Drift” | Polyvinyl Records

Five-plus years after the release of their accomplished Home Acres, Aloha has announced a new album, Little Windows Cut Right Through, and shared a lead single, “Signal Drift.” And what a lead single it is—Cale Parks’ drums and Matt Gengler’s bass elegantly buoy the song while Tony Cavallario’s plaintive vocals slide atop what are either T.J. Lipple’s keyboards or actual  flutes—I can’t tell, but whichever, it sounds fantastic. While Aloha have always been deft at crafting and manipulating texture in their songs, “Signal Drift” takes those impulses to new heights. This song is light and airy without ever feeling too light, anchoring itself in one of the key ingredients that’s been a part of Aloha from their beginning: urgency. In the song’s opening moments, Cavallario asks, “Signal drift, what are you running from?/Why are you fading?” and we’re hooked, caught up in yet another of the band’s desperate tales of loss and connection. —James Brubaker

Fivethirtyeight Elections | Podcast | Fivethirtyeight.com

Let’s face it—election years blow. They ruin friendships, they make family gatherings interminable, and don’t even get me started on what they do to commercial breaks on television. In 2012, I was lucky enough to get hooked on Nate Silver’s statistical analysis of the polls and election narratives that drove that year’s contest between Obama and Romney. When, the day after the election, my parents called and said, “We thought for sure Romney was going to win,” I suppressed a chuckle and directed them to Mr. Silver’s blog, and that was that. Now, just in time for the ever increasing drama of primary season, Nate Silver and members of his esteemed Fivethirtyeight team (usually Jody Avirgan, Clare Malone, and Harry Enten) have started a new podcast focusing on the candidates, the polls, and the narratives that tie it all together. Make no mistake about it: this shit is life. As campaign cycles grow increasingly heated, emotional, and irrational, the Fivethirtyeight Elections Podcast is the rational, analytical voice some of us need to stay sane. Whether they’re tossing off a quick “special edition” podcast to address a recent primary, caucus, or polling trend (their reoccurring segment/question “Good use of polling or bad use of polling” is always thoroughly enjoyable), getting together for one of their regularly scheduled weekly chats, or sharing a mini-podcast documentary about a past election (the one they did about the Dean Scream was phenomenal), this crew approaches their reading of the election cycle with the kind of grace and insight that is lacking from the world of twenty-four news channels and punditry in general. —James Brubaker

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