Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders and the London Symphony Orchestra, "Promises" (Luaka Bop)
Sanders is the 80-year-old American free jazz great who made his name teaming with John Coltrane and Sun Ra. Floating Points is the stage name of Sam Shepherd, a 34-year-old British electronic musician and composer who holds a Ph.D. in neuroepigenetics, specializing in how DNA plays a role in encoding pain. Together, they make music that soothes and heals, taking its sweet time over the course of 46 wordless minutes, patiently working variations on a simple, entrancing instrumental theme.
"Promises" is divided into nine movements that meld Shepherd's ambient keyboards and minimalist electronic squiggles with Sanders' tenor sax, not in the full-on "sheets of sound" approach he was known for when playing with Coltrane and Sun Ra, but in a more restrained mode.
Recorded over two weeks in 2019, this is music for tense times that surrounds the listener with a sense of trippy, transformative calm. It's unhurried in the extreme, but not without dramatic tension. Shepherd's washes of sound are always inviting, and Sanders gears up as he goes along in the album's latter stages as London Symphony Orchestra strings create an emotional crescendo. Throughout, Sanders' sax is quietly commanding, speaking loudest with what it leaves unsaid.
dan deluca, Philadelphia Inquirer
Evanescence, "The Bitter Truth" (BMG)
On its first album of new material in 10 years, Evanescence continues to own the space where frosty electronic currents collide with volcanic surges of metal catharsis and coagulate into hard rock candy. Tendrils of doo-wop nostalgia come up for air in the lead single "Wasted on You," and alt sirens Taylor Momsen and Lzzy Hale join a chorus of women in the stadium-size protest song "Use My Voice," which soundtracked a 2020 PSA by HeadCount urging fans to rock the vote.
suzy exposito, Los Angeles Times
• Rhiannon Giddens, "They're Calling Me Home"
• Brockhampton, "Roadrunner"
• Cheap Trick, "In Another World"
• Merry Clayton, "Beautiful Scars"