BADBADNOTGOOD’s fourth full length LP is a captivating and sometimes tense album.
The jazz trio grew into a quartet for this record, adding Leland Whitty on saxophone. The group is known for adding jazzy composition to hip-hop and R&B beats, but IV departs slightly from hip hop to fully explore the intensity that only they seem able to create.
The album starts off with “And That, Too,” a title similar to songs on their previous album III like “Differently, Still” and “Since You Asked Kindly.” The tension starts fairly high, held taut between the keys and rhythm section. An ensemble of instruments, including clarinet and synth, take turns carrying a conversational and relatively relaxed melody which slowly builds before breaking into rapid solos with a hounding sense of immediacy. It sounds like it could put a room of people on edge, but in a very engaging way for more attentive listeners.
Things then break out into a steadier, rolling song with “Speaking Gently,” which sounds like an extension of the first track. It sounds similar to what one might expect from the group based on their previous albums, with a consistently building level of intensity while retaining a rhythmic and bouncy groove. BADBADNOTGOOD keeps delivering on what they do best.
The third track sticks out in comparison as it’s the first hint towards the theme of collaboration that emerges throughout the album. “Time Moves Slow,” featuring Sam Herring, is a slow, subtle and sublime experience of what sounds like a breakup song. The main refrain “time moves slow, when you’re all alone” at the beginning of the pre-chorus hints towards the blunt yet endearing story of the song. Herring’s voice hits the ear in the right spot with the almost spooky synth sound that keys player Matthew Tavares uses for a portion of the album.
The two next tracks kick right back into what one expects from BADBADNOTGOOD. This group has mastered energetic, groovy songwriting that holds a sense of anticipation over the listener. They pull you along on a thin string through well-crafted musical landscapes.
The addition of Whitty on saxophone in every song changes the overall tone for IV in comparison to the band’s previous albums. The addition of another reed instrument plus the occasional flute or clarinet, adds complexity and more room for melody to the former trio. The group goes full jazz on this album, leaving behind a number of the more obvious markers of hip hop in their previous releases. They move to an incredibly satisfying place with the addition of new instruments.
The album also features a number of guest performers. Charlotte Day Wilson, Kaytranadad, Colin Stetson, and Mick Jenkins join those contributors to the project already mentioned. The track Jenkins contributes to, “Hyssop of Love,” jumps right back into hip hop. The rap gets steady and intense before lightening up into an airy, relaxing chorus. That nagging sense of something being around the corner does not leave the tone of the album, but Jenkins’ lyrics add additional exposition of the vague sense of suspicion toward the forces of greed and hate.
Where there are usually instrumental solos and story-like melodies on their previous albums, this album provides delightful vocal contributions that expand BADBADNOTGOOD’s sound all around.