Esperanza Spalding

Songwrights Apothecary Lab

Stressing music’s therapeutic qualities is a goal both noble and lofty. Timbres, cadences and mantras are often key elements for those artists concocting treatments for the parade of ills tainting life, and of late, Esperanza Spalding has wielded them with aplomb.

With Songwrights Apothecary Lab crafting a suite of 12 fetching art-songs with curative intentions, Spalding consulted with therapists and neuroscientists to shape the program as an antidote to modern maladies. Scrutinizing it on that level is slippery, but the insightful way her decidedly non-pop song structures work to foster pop-adjacent ditties remains impressive.

Each track is deemed a “formwela” and entitled numerically. “Formwella 5” is more Reichian than Reikian, with a repeated piano pattern grabbing the ear. Number six is a whispered prayer by Spalding and Corey D King over a thrusting bass ostinato.

Spalding’s influences are many, as you’d expect from a Grammy-winning Harvard professor with a bevy of critical kudos. So flecks of prog motifs share space with folkie tangents, and the 11-minute romp in the middle of the album harkens Abdullah Ibrahim’s gentle excursions. Not sure of the record’s specific medicinal impact, but I do know I feel better when this imaginative songwright’s music is swirling inside my head.

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