Well, here we have one of the finest on-paper collaborations one could imagine in this era as James Blake mixes his version of spacious, emotional electronic composition with the assistance of Brian Eno (aka the master of such things). "Digital Lion" is what you'd expect and executed to perfection as soulful vocals collide with a rolling sculpture of drums and bass that should make most bedroom producers blush.
It's finally real. Soulful electronic whiz-kid James Blake premiered his long-awaited new single "Retrograde" on BBC Radio 1 at the hands of very-loud-DJ Zane Lowe. In typical hyperbolic fashion, Lowe declared this 'the hottest record in the world,' and, for once, he just might have a point. This kicks-off the cycle for Blake's upcoming album Overgrown (April 8 on Republic) and hints at a more mature sound with less womp-womps and wobbles than on his eponymous debut. And just listen to those vocals. Homeboy is sounding smoother than ever.
Smooth, sultry, electronic and soulful, "Uphill" is the first single from female solo artist George Maple, and it should be of interest if you spent time all watery-eyed and fist-clenched listening to Jessie Ware last year. The song's low-key electronic vamp is tentative yet warm and her restrained voice is practically waiting to explode. Let's just hope it does soon.
Light In The Attic – probably the best reissue label going right now – has had one of its hottest years in 2012. Take this recent revisit of the previously-unknown A Fire Somewhere by Ray Stinnett – a vast, homespun LP that dances around rock, soul, folk and everything else that seems timeless nowadays. "Honey Suckle Song" is loping, countrified and natural, forming a perfect organic combo for fans of artists like The Band.
Lady, a new outfit from Terri Walker and Nicole Wray, has old school soul theatrics locked down, but the duo will try to bring those classic formulas into new contemporary territory on their upcoming self-titled debut. "Money" is a smooth shaker with rolling bass, chippy funky guitar and lyrics about the almighty dollar. "I get a little worried when you focus on my money," it goes. "All the kissing and the hugging, acting like you're my best buddy." So, basically, deadbeat dudes need not apply in Lady's world.
Smooth, timeless, from another world or just plain mood music, Menahan Street Band has the soulful instrumental game lock. On "The Crossing," the Daptone Records band engages in some harp trickery, lovely snaking horns and a bouncy beat that should be primed for hip-hop sampling just like many of the gems on their 2008 debut Make The Road By Walking. This one is the title track from their new album, which is out now.
We might as well consider Laura Mvula's voice a weapon. On "Like The Morning Dew," the British singer stretches from affable and intimate to bombastic multi-part harmonies that would please both Brian Wilson and the crowd at a Broadway play. Hear more on She – her new EP, which is out now on RCA.
As Sinkane preps Mars, his full-length DFA debut, for October 23, it's instructive to revisit the single that kicked it all off. "Runnin'" has the organic burn of a '70s funk jam with falsetto vocals and a jumped-up drum beat. Its remix by Daphni, aka Caribou, keeps the original's feel but submerges most everything else in modular synthesis. Then there's the Chandeliers mix, which is a little more interplanetary, erasing song structure and using the wah-wah as a rhythmic springboard. Download it up and then go stream Mars via NPR.
Good to have an outlier back in action! Cody Chesnutt, weirdo songwriter, funkster, hip-hopper and Roots associate, is back in the game after a lengthy hiatus. What does he sound like these days? Real talk: Chesnutt still knows how to write a song. "Till I Met Thee" is a horn-laden funky slice of soul that brings up visions of Marvin Gaye and contemporary dudes like Aloe Blacc. It's a single for his upcoming Landing On A Hundred.
When we last visited with our protagonist, one R. Kelly, he was at the club searching for a release from a harsh world populated with ex-girlfriends and unfortunate drama. Well, according to this remix of "Single Ladies," he's still on the prowl, has a good attitude going and the applications are pouring in. Oh, and the song? It has a vague island vibe with a clopping beat, smooth R&B setup and lyrics about how single ladies with 'no baby daddy drama' need to let him know what's up. He also rhymes 'remix' with 'tired of his shit,' which is the best.