Allen Stone-Celebrate Tonight (Video)

The latest single from Allen Stone’s self-titled album, and another one that will endear him further to those soul heads.

Whilst his music is generally positive, this effort is about as upbeat and lively as he’s been, and it’s a style that suits him. The track opens in a subdued manner, with Allen crooning over little more than intermittent percussion hits, before the gradual inclusion of more instrumentation to build to the bright, vivacious hook. The track alternates between those two styles once more, before the vocals crank upwards to inject the track with even more warm positivity, making the climax a good example of infectious, catchy vocal work. The lengthy credits section offer another track, even livelier than its predecessor, with a fast-paced instrumental backdrop supporting sharp vocal work that rides along the musical backdrop with great control and rhythm.

If a video ever deserved to be called ‘nice’, this is it. It’s a feelgood clip set in a retirement home, as Allen performs for a group of delighted old folk, with their individual expressions and actions being a heartwarming watch. He’s probably poking fun at the view some hold that soul is for ‘old people’ too, and the carefree attitude of all involved here shows how little that viewpoint matters. A purely positive audiovisual, get the album now.

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Allen Stone-Sleep (Video)

One of my easiest picks for the 13 for ’13 list, Allen lets loose a brand new visual for a track from his self-titled debut album. This one’s a much more lively, pop-driven effort than the introductory track I offered of his, and it’s one that should open him up to mainstream audiences.

Whilst those vintage influences are still all over this in his flawless vocals and jazzy instrumentation, it’s coated in a modern-era shine that makes it very accessible to a wider base, helped particularly by the overall tempo of the piece and the rigid structuring of the song. The track clearly revolves around the bright and catchy hook, with the verses operating mostly as a build to that centre point rather than attempting to match it in musical engagement, though the old-school elements still shine through in places, particularly on the call-and-response bridge towards the end.

The video’s comprised of footage from live shows, which won’t be considered massively original, but unlike most live footage videos this has context, displaying why he ‘never gets sleep’. The quick shot changes help enhance the song’s speed, and it’s a solid accompaniment to a very energetic and upbeat audio. Grab that album now if you haven’t already.

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13 for '13

2013 v3(2)

Year after year, we change the format of the end-of-year OTU round-up (routine is boring), and this year I’ve opted for a forward-looking feature rather than reflecting on what was a rather disappointing year in the music world. Many are desperate to have their tastes for 2013 dictated to them by either the BBC Sound of 2013 or MTV’s Brand New for 2013, but the interesting thing is we’ve been championing some of the acts they’ve thrust upon you this past week for quite some time. The rest of them we probably don’t care about.

So, here’s a chance to get clued up with some genuine upcoming talents that I expect to release more fantastic material this year and break through that next barrier of success, whether it’s into mainstream consciousness or slightly wider underground appreciation. Note that I didn’t say commercial success. Whilst some will certainly find that and it is a facet of their potential growth this year, it’s far from essential, and each selection here deserves to be so on quality and potential more than anything. Regular reader or not, you’ll have heard of several of these selections before and be assured those acts are here on merit, not because a label asked us to do so; something the aforementioned 2013 ‘predictions’ from the mainstream outlets can’t honestly claim. Let’s go. → Continue Reading

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Allen Stone-Figure It Out

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.

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