Soul

The Alien Coast (CD)

St. Paul & the Broken Bones’ latest, The Alien Coast, is a real stunner. The Alabama eight-piece adds psych, funk, and rock ’n’ roll influences to their usual soulful sound, crafting an unstoppable powerhouse of an album that never lets up on its emotional grip. Vocalist Paul Janeway sounds like he’s channeling a higher power—at times you’ll feel like you’re on the verge of a revelation. The songwriting is transcendent and grand, with soaring highs and relatable lows. The Alien Coast is vivid, urgent, and essential listening.

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In Plain Sight (CD)

Neal Francis’ In Plain Sight is a throwback ’70s-style album with a serious amount of scruffy charm. The singer/songwriter just emotes golden-era-of-rock-n-roll-cool on this collection, and he’s joined by an excellent cast of collaborators, including Derek Trucks on slide guitar, and his bandmates Kellen Boersma on guitar, Collin O’Brien on drums, and Mike Starr on bass. The album was recorded on tape at a former church in Chicago where Francis found himself living after a breakup with his then girlfriend. That curious mood pervades the entire album; beneath the struggles and the turmoil, there’s a transcendence and a sense of possibility. A special album that should win over many new fans for the talented Francis.

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If Words Were Flowers (CD)

A bright star in the current soul revival, Curtis Harding truly delivers on his new album, If Words Were Flowers. The sound here is a colorful patchwork of vintage-meets-modern styles, which means fascinating tracks like “So Low” with its subtle auto-tune and modern vocal phrasing contrasted with retro electronic whirring. “With You” is hauntingly beautiful with understated vocals and ‘60s pop strings and guitar, while “Hopeful” - a centerpiece here - wraps Harding’s heartfelt rapping in classic soul with funky bass and gospel-style backing vocals.

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Stand For Myself (CD)

UK-born, Nashville-based singer Yola is a musical powerhouse with feet in two legendary traditions: country and soul. On her second album, Stand for Myself, her melodies swing along between Americana-inflected steppers and Motown-driven R&B, the good natured energy never flagging over the course of these twelve brilliant tracks. Stand for Myself is driven by such heart, soul, and unbelievable creative power, it almost feels like a religious experience. And with The Black Key’s Dan Auerbach holding down production duties, this is an album is made by two gifted people who know and love music, for people who know and love music.

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Temporary Highs In The Violet Skies (CD)

Snoh Aalegra’s Temporary Highs With Violet Skies is one of the most impressive pop/R&B releases of last year. With jewel-like, innovative production, smart and intensely-felt lyrics, and Aalegra’s silken, seductive vocals, these tracks hit harder than your average chart-topper. Her presence is commanding and nonchalantly cool, even as she digs deep in confronting heartbreak and pulling down emotional barriers. Not many artists can pull off what Aalegra does here: create songs that’ll move you to the dance floor, even as they move your heart.

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WE ARE (CD)

The versatile New Orleans artist behind Disney’s Soul soundtrack, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and much more, stirs up both smooth and gritty jazz, funk and soul as well as some hiphop on his new solo album.

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The Daptone Super Soul Revue Live! At the Apollo [Translucent Tie-Dye Teal Vinyl] (LP)

Few recordings really capture the magic of the live experience. The applause sounds like it was pulled from a library of stock sounds, the energy between audience and performer feels depleted, if the listener even thinks of it all. On the other end of the spectrum, there’s The Daptone Super Soul Revue Live! At the Apollo. (You know if anyone was gonna do it right, it was gonna be Daptone!) Featuring dynamic, booty-shaking, foot-stomping performances from legendary Daptone artists like Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, Charles Bradley and his Extraordinaires, Antibalas, The Budos Band, The Sugarman 3, and so many more, the album was recorded over three nights in 2014 in front of a sold out crowd at The World Famous Theater in Harlem, NY. High-energy emcee Binky Griptite anchors the proceedings, bringing the fervor and the fever pitch of those nights into your very own home. Turn it up loud and get down! This is what live recordings are meant to sound like.

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Chilombo (CD)

Jhené Aiko's third studio album Chilombo ranges from soul-searching sweetness to slinky R&B to down-and-dirty swaggering, all of which works with her hushed, sensual voice. There are plenty of '90s throwback R&B vibes here with updated production. "Born Tired" is a gently uplifting track with a lovely melody and "None of Your Concern" is reminiscent of something by Toni Braxton or her contemporaries, but with less melodrama. Then there's the highly explicit -- but sweetly sung -- "P*$$Y FAIRY," which features a video full of Aaliyah-style dancing.

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