Blake Mills and Pino Palladino hit all the right spots on hazy instrumental ‘Just Wrong’

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Impulse! Records/Courtesy

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Grade: 3.5/5.0

The pairing of Blake Mills with Pino Palladino was bound to be one of the most exciting yet understated things to happen to music in 2021. They are each virtuosos in their own right, both highly sought after studio musicians with prolific resumes filled with various collaborations. Mills seems to leave his musical mark on everything he touches, producing excellent sounding albums for John Legend and Perfume Genius as well as adding textured guitar work to Bob Dylan’s latest LP. His own release, Mutable Set, was one of the best albums of last year. Palladino has performed with artists ranging from The Who and Nine Inch Nails to D’Angelo, Erykah Badu and Jacob Collier, and is probably most recognized as John Mayer’s bass player.

Their latest single “Just Wrong,” arrives ahead of their upcoming album together titled Notes With Attachments, out March 12 via New Deal Records/Impulse! The instrumental track, boasting an impressive roster of featured players, is a hazy, experimental concoction that effortlessly fuzes together elements of jazz, funk and folk. It hits all the right spots.

“Just Wrong” is all about interplay. The track begins with a repeated note that evolves into a flurry of different melodies. Palladino’s semi-acoustic bass provides the shifting foundation as Mills chimes in with a variety of instruments, from nylon-string guitar and berimbau to electric sitar. Whirring saxophone lines from musicians Sam Gendel and Larry Goldings, as well as unpredictably sly drumming patterns from Chris Dave shroud the arrangement in mystery as the track continues to propel forward. Violas provided by Rob Moose guide the unconventional melodies in their ascent, transitioning from orchestral flourishes to funk-based grooves without a second thought. Attempting to peel back the layers of the track is like turning corners in a never-ending maze.

Notes With Attachments was originally planned as a solo album for Palladino. According to a statement from Palladino, “As the project evolved in the first few weeks and months — even though the music was mostly coming from my original ideas, some of which I’d had for quite a while — [because of] Blake’s response to the ideas, it dawned on both of us that it would be a collaborative record.”

At the heart of the track is the spirit of spontaneous collaboration. Despite the talented personnel behind the wheel, the song prioritizes its sense of experimentation over technical prowess, allowing the mood to direct the music. “With a song like this, built-in layers, at various points along the road you look around and go: What is this? Where is the composition? Sometimes you end up drawing the blueprints of the house after it’s fully been built,” Mills said of the track.

“Just Wrong” is one glorious, cyclical musical question, immensely sonically satisfying despite a lack of resolution or definitive answers. It’s astonishing that something built so backward feels so right.

Contact Vincent Tran at [email protected].