Of all the R&B, pop and soul releases we’ve had this year, this is the project that trumps them all in terms of my pre-listening excitement, and that’s having heard 3 of the 7 tracks prior to this free release.
Fauntleroy, No I.D. and the other constituent members of this group (including Common, for one track at least) come together once more for a collection that thus far is excellently put together. Diverse styles of instrumentation, from the raw, acoustic styling of Lucid through to the smooth, more hip-hop driven beat of the Fly Ass Pisces, there’s a lot of diversity packed into here, with James Fauntleroy’s vocals being the consistent factor by virtue of their sheer command over melody. He’s one of the most sought-after songwriters in the R&B and pop world, and here he’s taken centre stage with his own performances and doesn’t disappoint, with good vocals and likeable writing supplementing the No I.D. beat work superbly. Worth a go for any music fan.
THIS IS NOT A DRILL. I repeat, this is not a drill. It’s been a long, long time coming but we’re finally treated to some brand new Maxwell from that upcoming Summers’ album (I finally believe that it is ‘upcoming’).
It’s only a rough cut and comes in at a mere 73 seconds, but there’s more than enough here to satisfy the starved Maxwell fans and offer some insight into the sound of the album. Those beautifully buttery vocals lace a minimal production, comprised of soft synths alongside more urgent synths, and a delicate percussion that gently holds everything together. The mix is very rough so it’s difficult to pick up too much more, but the two combine wonderfully throughout for a sultry, warming track that cuts off far too prematurely, and will leave you gasping for more. He’s the master of neo-soul, and I desperately await more of this.
I don’t think we’ve ever posted a ‘partial tracklist’, but given that this album is years overdue and we’ve had absolutely no information on it, any sliver of news is met with a full-on welcoming party in my household.
Click the image for a slightly larger look at the list, which offers absolutely nothing in terms of the musical direction, but nonetheless lets us fans know that something will be released eventually. He’s previously suggested this album may have a more diverse soundscape, with rumoured gospel and alternative influences, though either way I’m sure that the characteristically excellent Maxwell will ensure his high level of consistency runs through whatever sound style he chooses. If you’re still pining for more Maxwell and have exhausted his back catalogue, be sure to check out his feature on Alicia Keys’ newest album, and the rest of that album is worth a go too.
Quentin Tarantino: Frank Ocean wrote a fantastic ballad that was truly lovely and poetic in every way, there just wasn’t a scene for it, I could have thrown it in quickly just to have it, but that’s not why he wrote it and not his intention. So I didn’t want to cheapen his effort. But, the song is fantastic, and when Frank decides to unleash it on the public, they’ll realize it then.
Huge praise from Tarantino, the director of this song’s original destination, Django Unchained. The sharp, piercing guitar plucks give the track a strong backdrop to start, before Frank cuts loose with some emotional vocals that he seems to deliver with a slight Carribean accent. A great set of synths and strings then jump in, adding a quick burst of positivity and depth and enhancing the ‘your mother would be proud of you’ hook, which itself is part of an excellently-written piece that progresses the track from raw, blunt sections to the harmonised and notably more emotionally connected lines. An excellent all-rounder that genuinely feels cinematic at times, and deserving of Tarantino’s praise.
Compiled of Remixes MeLo has done through out the year mixed with original tracks, exclusives, and unreleased material this is one of the most extensive collections in the series so far.
This should be an excellent listen. With original tracks such as the superb Live from East Flatbush alongside his exceptional work with Cheri Coke and remixes of songs by Yuna, Azealia Banks, Rihanna and Marvin Gaye, there’s a ton of diversity to enjoy. Add that to the consistency of quality that MeLo brings to the table, and there’s no doubt this will be an enjoyable 14-track journey. Free grab below.
Interesting, to say the least. Combining James Brown’s The Payback with 2Pac’s Untouchable, Quentin Tarantino’s upcoming Django Unchained is benefitting from a mash-up between two of music’s genuine icons.
Mash-ups are ten to a penny, but this one is certainly unique, mainly because it’s not strictly a mash-up. Whilst the production and vocals for the verses are mostly borrowed from the James Brown track, the offering in the hook is an original, wild west-style piece with a jazzy, upbeat edge. Horns aplenty and distinctive western guitar strums combine to provide a frenetic soundscape, one which supplements 2Pac’s catchy and high intensity vocal work, whilst giving the track context in terms of the film. It also complements the more laidback production style of the verses, and hence provides a nice distinction between the two, whilst giving the track an easy-to-follow structure, something often missing from this type of remix. Likeable and worth a listen.
Considering I’m a big fan of both acts, you’d be well within your rights to assume I’d checked out their collaborative Zulu Guru album. Yet, I haven’t and not only that, I had to skip their album release show recently. Mum, if you disown me, I’ll understand.
Jesse’s soulful yet ever-experimental style seems a natural fit for MeLo, a producer who blends and transcends genres seemingly with ease. It’s that category-bending style that comes to the fore here, mostly provided by an offbeat production that’ll throw you initially, before gathering more solidity as the track progresses-the clunky percussion is first joined by Jesse’s whispery voice, before keys, synths and plenty more are added to the mix. It never loses that unusual aspect, but the latter additions add just enough regularity to keep this one listenable, even if it does become quite hard work after the full 4 minutes or so. Surprising to hear Melo rap on this one too, and he does a good job of keeping his delivery consistent over a production that would frighten most rappers. One that’s worth a couple of plays, but with the abilities these two possess you’d be forgiven for expecting something as eclectic but slightly more polished.
USA Today has called Allen Stone a “pitch-perfect powerhouse” and The New York Times has likened his socially conscious music to that of Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Donny Hathaway and Bill Withers. But the 25-year-old singer-songwriter just sees himself as “a hippie with soul”.
This guy’s credentials are crazy, and it’s only a matter of time before he’s a household name. He’s a wonderfully talented vocalist with a lovely vintage soul style. Think Maxwell meets Stevie Wonder.
His buttery vocals are a real treat on the ears, and it’s near-terrifying how consistently good his vocal work is throughout this track. Unlike many, his technical excellence doesn’t come at the cost of believable emotion (not that shouty ballad stuff that convinces the idiots), with his hopeful lyricism delivered with a passion that’s tempered by the smoothness of his vocal work, particularly on the hook, ensuring it never ruins the laidback vibe of the song. The instrumentation blends superbly with Allen’s output, combining soft guitar strums, bouncy bass and dashes of horns and keys with lively percussion for a jazzy production that does an awful lot of work, but still remains subservient to the vocals. Catch Allen at Cargo on Wednesday night, and grab the track here.
Always a pleasure to have new material from Matt Martians and Syd Tha Kyd (who appear to have dropped ‘The’ from their name), and they’re gearing up to release their first project since dropping off the excellent Purple Naked Ladies album just under a year ago. The laidback soul stylings of that album made for excellent listening, and their upcoming Feel Good EP will hopefully provide more of that next month.
This track is much livelier and more positive than the chilled, sometimes downbeat approach their LP took, and the title of the forthcoming EP could suggest a shift towards this style. It doesn’t sacrifice their natural smoothness, but instead layers it up with a more summery vibe courtesy of perky guitar plucks, sharp and bouncy percussion, and vocals that operate much more in the foreground than their previous works. The lyricism still has hints of bittersweet qualities, creating a nice consistency with their regular produce, and this is one that definitely feels like a step forward for the duo without detracting from what they’re good at.
In honor of the 1 year anniversary of ‘How Do You Do’ – here’s a free collection of remixes from some of my favorite producers. Bump it loud in the trap. Hallelujah holla back.
Whilst soul is unquestionably one of my favourite genres of music, I do find it difficult getting into Mayer’s work. I’m not sure why that is, but the ample amount of his material I own hasn’t quite commanded the control over me I expected it to. Nonetheless, he’s clearly a very talented act and let’s hope this collection of remixes changes that, as it packs plenty of promise thanks to the inclusion of some solid producers including RAC, who recently dropped off a good Bloc Party remix. Free stream and grab below.
Miguel’s release style for this album has been commendably unique, and finally we’re treated to his entire sophomore LP. With that 2nd October release date a little over a week away, this is a step by Miguel that suggests he has absolute confidence in the material.
Many Miguel fans will be familiar with large chunks of this album, but there’s plenty of new work to enjoy. Truthfully, his debut album was disappointing, but his stock has risen again considerably since putting out a series of EPs earlier this year. He’s demonstrated the skills, consistency and beat selections to back up all of that ever-increasing hype, a trait I expect to continue through the 11-tracks here, and one that should erase memories of his disappointing debut.
His diversity has shone through across his material in the last year, and hence he’s not someone who needs features due to the ever-changing nature of his style. However, the lone Alicia Keys feature will definitely warrant some attention. Shouts to NPR for the early release stream, be sure to grab the LP next Tuesday.
Without question this was my favourite track from Phonte’s Charity Starts At Home album, released almost exactly a year ago. An easy one to miss for casual fans, but don’t miss it this time.
The influence his work with The Foreign Exchange has had on him is at its most evident throughout this one, particularly in the production. The beat is laidback and wintery, combining soft and meandering synths with relatively sharp percussion for a clash of styles that works nicely. The combination of vocals from Phonte and Carlitta adds a warmth and depth to the atmospheric production, moulding that beat into something less ‘cold’ and more into a vital component of what is a relaxing and sultry soul/R&B track. Carlitta’s vocals in particular work as a nice break between Phonte’s singing and rapping, giving the track some diversity.
The visual further enhances the relatability of the track, with initimate nighttime scenes and performance close-ups combining for a very human and down-to-earth audiovisual. A great track that would have probably escaped your attention initially. Don’t let it happen again: iTunes.
Two of the more unique and upcoming talents in the music game hook up for a remix to Yuna’s lead single from her self-titled album. I’ve waxed lyrical about both Yuna and the aforementioned album at length previously, and hence I’ll spare you me doing that again. This is however a nice reminder and refresh of a relaxing yet perky track, arguably one of the more ‘upbeat’ efforts from the album, with the short Theophilus verse adding a contrast to Yuna’s soft vocals. Not a great deal else to be said on this one, as otherwise it’s identical to the previously-reviewed original, but if you’re unfamiliar with Yuna this is an excellent starting point.
Big fan of this song when it dropped back in July, and this video is a great reminder of its quality.
Elle’s vocals are at their raw, emotional best throughout this one, whilst her lyricism is honest and largely unfussy: the resulting combination is a ton of relatability and piles of listenability, and whilst the production tries at various points to overthrow Elle’s command over the track, her excellent presence both on the mic and in the video ensures that never happens.
The clip solidifies her as one of the more likeable upcoming talents, with plenty of facetime spread across regular performance shots and some more intimate moments, capturing the audio’s hybrid combination of bedroom music and powerful soul. There’s not much to dislike here, and I’m sure the R&B and soul heads will enjoy this. Grab the track on her Perfectly Imperfect album now.
It’s been one hell of a year for this guy, and he got a much deserved slot at last night’s VMA’s, which I believe air on our shores tonight for those of you interested.
In honesty, for me it’s only the performances that are worth watching nowadays, and one from Frank makes this even more of a must-watch. The stage setup seems to be going for that campfire under the star-lit sky effect, one which is perfectly suited to this wonderfully tender audio, and certainly fitting for the stripped back version that’s performed here.
Truthfully, the minimal guitar work here doesn’t really work for me as it sounds off-beat most of the time and doesn’t seem to sync with Frank’s vocals for any decent length of time. That leaves Frank to carry the performance with a fantastic performance of the track, capturing the song’s mood and emotion excellently, whilst doing a good job with the many difficult notes in the track. Worth a watch for sure.
That sample would be the slice of excellence you’ve just pressed play on, the 2007 single from the ‘The Screaming Eagle of Soul’ (what I wouldn’t give to be the ‘screaming eagle’ of something), a track packed with deliciously bright instrumentation and vintage vocals right out of the 1950-60′s. In fact, the throwback nature of the track is so strong that on initially listening to the sample in the aforementioned rap tracks, I (and many others) believed it was from that golden era. It’s almost unbelievable that he only became a fully active performer 10 years ago, as there’s clearly a great deal of confidence in what he does, derived mostly from the outpouring of raw emotion throughout the track that often opposes the uplifting instrumental resulting in what is actually a rather bittersweet song. Frankly, I’m relieved to know there are acts out there still intent on making classic soul, and pulling it off as exquisitely as this. Support great music and an old soul just doing what he loves by grabbing this on iTunes now.
Zodiac, or Jeremy Rose, is said to be one of the producers behind The Weeknd’s House of Balloons but failed to recieve credit for his work on early versions of The Morning and What You Need. As two of that project’s best tracks, it’s with great excitement that I gave this a go, with the feature of one of the finer upcoming vocalists being another very good reason to do so.
That gloomy, winter feeling that cascaded through the aforementioned album is driven right through this one, fusing haunting synths with soft, barely-there percussion for verses that feel pulled straight from a dream sequence. The hook throws in a dulled tambourine for an injection of comparative liveliness, and the soundscape ends up being one that competes with any ‘downbeat R&B’ of this nature. JB3′s never disappoints vocally and his performance is tailored skilfully to the production, delivering a whispery and almost fragile performance that throws forth plenty of emotion without resorting to ‘passion’ to do so. A superb track with some great subtleties, and you’ll want to keep an eye out for the full 5-track EP on 24th September.
This Autumn, Flying Lotus releases Until The Quiet Comes, the long-awaited follow-up to 2010’s Cosmogramma. Featuring the inimitable queen of leftfield R&B herself, Erykah Badu, ‘See Thru To U’ is one of the many highlights of an album composed, according to Flylo, as “a collage of mystical states, dreams, sleep and lullabies”.
I’ve not got much of Lotus’ previous material, and if you’re anything like me, this is a great place to start. The production fuses all sorts of influences together, and the outcome is a jazz-style production with a heavy neo-soul sensibility. A modern sound in a vintage packaging. Erykah’s drifty vocals are seeded in an almost freeform manner throughout the track, and instead of the usual production-vocal division her tones are instead used in as another ‘instrument’, moulding into the production excellently and embellishing it in a non-extravagant manner.
Zulu Guru is the first full-length collaboration from singer/songwriter Jesse Boykins III and producer/MC MeLo-X. With Zulu Guru, they bring together a collection of songs that reflect and define a new direction in Hip Hop and R&B.
This track was originally released around 6 months ago to rapturous applause, and JB3 comes through with some visuals to help promote the above annoucement. That collabo project sound frankly awesome, and it’ll be great seeing one of the best soul vocalists on the rise joining up with a massively underrated beatmaker for a whole album.
Visually, this one’s an interesting blend of simplicity with a little messaging, as scenes shot in front of a serene temple are juxtaposed with those of cityscapes and trains, before slowly unravelling into a more freedom-driven clip with nature, live shows and a dancer on the beach. It’s an easy watch that matches the style of the audio well, and I’d recommend giving it a watch and a listen if you haven’t already.
Rocki Evans came into the studio, heard the beat one time and went in to the studio and cut this… Video is on Youtube.com/TruthStudiosTV – Watch the whole thing… It was one live cut.
Rocki’s undoubtedly a great talent, and this is a fantastic example of that. With a bluesy production packed with wailing guitars, velvety bass and sharp yet intermittent percussion, it’s about as ‘old soul’ a production as we’ve ever heard him on, and the vocal performance is adjusted excellently to match that. There’s lots of lengthened notes, empassioned deliveries and rightfully simple lyricism, as Rocki does a great job of conveying raw, unfiltered emotion throughout the track. What helps is the relatively loose structure of the vocal work, not strictly adhering to a verse-hook-verse style, and instead furthering that edgy blues style by simply crooning when he quite feels like it. Though Rocki’s always been an eclectic act this could be a style he could really nail down for a full project, and as a very enjoyable throwback to the old-school, I’d recommend this to the soul heads for sure.
Big statement time. Yuna is my favourite vocalist in the world right now, without any doubt. I managed to grab both her self-titled album and the Decorate EP, and it’s incredibly replayable music right the way through on both projects with plenty of diversity.
Her voice has a fantastic genuinity, with tons of real feeling thrown in with bundles of skill and lots of versatility. Pretty much all of that is on show here, as she tackles what is still many fans’ favourite Frank Ocean song, so loved for its bare and honest vocals and lyrics, but ensuring her own mark is left on the cover. A live performance in which she provides her own backup, the vocals are typically flawless from start to finish, capturing the raw essence of the original whilst enhancing the delicacy and gentleness of the track.
Anticipated doesn’t even begin to describe it. Frank’s album has long been the talk of the industry, and with it being officially released next Tuesday, he took to his Tumblr to let loose of an official stream of the album.
I’ve always viewed artists making full LP streams available as a confident move, and for the relatively humble Frank Ocean to drop this off early suggests he’s got full belief in his body of work here. Not only that, but it’s generally clever: many people that illegally download albums do so as a ‘sampler’, so they know whether to go out and buy the CD, and this almost removes that first step.
I’ll drop off a full album review in the coming days, but one very quick playthrough suggests none of us will be disappointed with this, and the classic (too early?) Frank Ocean formula is in full effect. I’d like to avoid any more premature hype and such so I’ll not comment too much on the individual quality of the tracks, and frankly you can do it yourself with the stream available in this very post, and a comments section below should you be so inclined.
Frank has kindly liberated another track from the upcoming Channel Orange album (which is now a mere 11 days away), this time showing off his work with Pharrel, who helms the production here.
Pharrell’s recent board work has shown a return to form and this is no different, capturing that quintessential N*E*R*D vibe with soft keys, crashing live percussion and huge verse-to-hook steps, providing the sort of eclectic backdrop that Frank thrives upon. The vocals are an excellent mix of effortless in the verses and passionate on the hook, following the pattern of the production and actually making for one of the more conventionally structured tracks we’ve heard from him. It’s a classy performance that blends soul, alternative and R&B, and added to the strong production, the signs are good heading into that LP.
Cheri Coke and MeLo-X presents the brain child of late night sessions at the Bermuda home studio in Brooklyn. The X/COKE EP is an exploration into a new plateau for Cheri and MeLo respectively. From bass knocking rhythms to spaced out echos that travel around the proverbial sound scape this project is a natural high for all who listen.
Big fan of MeLo-X’s production style, and pairing him with a smooth vocalist in Cheri Coke is a move destined to really bring the best out of those beats. I’ve heard one track from this already, Free, and thoroughly enjoyed the laidback vibes of the song, making for the perfect relaxation music on a nice summer day. Free project too, so you’ve really got nothing to lose; hit that link below for the stream and download. Cheri Coke and MeLo-X-X/COKE EP
Alicia Keys and Swizz Beatz don’t just make babies, with the husband and wife combo working excellently as Swizz lays down a beat for Alicia’s first single from her upcoming album.
The production is very lively, with a marching band-esque percussion really injecting some power and energy into the track, whilst the progressive keys and thick synths add an uplifting vibe to the track. Of course, Alicia rarely disappoints with the vocals and delivers a rousing performance, matching the positive style of the beat step-for-step with a lyrical and vocal set that moves away from her usual melodic style into a more pop-driven fare that feels much more positive than previous material. Probably one that’ll get much more club airplay than her back catalogue, this is one the mainstream heads will definitely enjoy.
Great new cover from the lovely Yasmin, as she takes on Frank Ocean’s excellent American Wedding.
Making comparisons between the original and the cover is somewhat redunant so I’ll bypass that, and instead praise this for the fresh take on the track that it is. Whilst Yasmin’s singing credentials generally haven’t been questioned, there are still some who are to be convinced, and this will go some way to doing that. There’s a rich, addictive soulfulness to Yasmin’s voice here that’s not been properly explored in her material to date, with the complexities of the track pulling her vocals into areas previously unchartered (at least, to our knowledge), and makes this cover just as much about the showcasing artist as it is about paying homage to a great song.
An enjoyable, unique take on the track and its worth a watch for fans of the original, and/or fans of a little laidback soul material. Yasmin’s Light single is due for release on 15th Jan too, be sure to grab that one.
Relaxing soul vibes to warm you up this cold evening, with the latest visuals from the talented Jesse Boykins III.
Certainly one of my favourite songs from his back catalogue, Zoner has an easygoing vibe that is deliciously addictive, courtesy of a light string melody pretty much being the lone piece of production, with Jesse’s wispy, naturally hushed vocals blending beautifully with those plucks.
The video is trippy and choppy, switching from scene to scene quickly and combining a mostly calm colour palette with bright lighting for an interesting mix of relaxation and vibrancy. The actions in the scenes are more simple, with a combination of JB3 enjoying some introspection and also spending time with a couple of models. A solid video to fit a very easy listening song.
Along with Frank Ocean, The Internet (at this stage) looks like the next entity to emerge from OFWGKTA with some genuine longevity about them. Their music boasts a much wider, more mature and probabaly more lucrative appeal than the violent Odd Future raps, and we’re now treated to a trailer for their upcoming Purple Naked Ladies album, set to be released on 20th December.
One of my favourite elements about The Internet is Matt Martian’s continuation of the atmospheric, slightly trippy style he utilised heavily on The Jet Age of Tomorrow’s Journey to the 5th Echelon, and it certainly lends itself to the soft, soulful vocals of Syd the Kyd. This trailer captures both factors well, opening with a lovely ambience, and closing with mellow yet vibrant vocals that synergise excellently with the production. Very excited for this album, and hopefully it matches the quality of their previous two releases.