ALBUM OF THE DAY Bad Ambassadors, “Bad Ambassadors” By Phillip Mlynar · January 08, 2020 Formats: Cassette, Digital

Trying to stay grounded while gentrification is swallowing the city around you is a dominant concern on Bad Ambassadors’ six track self-titled EP. Vocalist Rich Jones and producer Walkingshoe recorded the album in a basement studio in Chicago’s Avondale neighborhood—a majority-Hispanic community that’s under siege from real estate developers creeping in from the next door, and now-gentrified, Logan Square neighborhood. On “Pardon,” over a stripped-down backdrop of aqueous bass and ominous hand claps, Jones documents the way construction rips apart a community’s soul: “Let the sounds of progress sink in / A skyline no longer mine, at least not the way it was,” he sings, “New neighbors, same neighborhood? Nope / Labor under delusions that change is just fine / They don’t ask for opinions—yours or mine.”

Walkingshoe’s shape-shifting production serves to accent Jones’s verse, often transforming in style mid-song. Opener “Who Me” blends acoustic guitar with a breakbeat that’s reminiscent of early Beck; “Mornings With You” begins as a pulsing four-to-the-floor workout before becoming the sort of sultry electronic R&B ballad Timbaland perfected around the turn of the millennium. The constantly moving backdrop subtly reflects Jones’s lyrics about the changing environment around him. The album’s theme culminates on closer “Saturday,” featuring extended organ lines that waver up and down, managing to sound both mournful and soothing. “Summer hasn’t been summer for far too long,” he says, struggling to hold on to the things that are dearest to him: “Though you’re right beside me, I cannot reach out / For fear that you would disappear, disappear.”

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