Soul

Drunk (CD)

Thundercat is on a roll with his latest LP, Drunk. The Los Angeles-based producer and singer brings some top-notch talent to his new jazz/soul/funk fusion masterpiece; with friends like Kendrick Lamar, Kamasi Washington, Flying Lotus, Wiz Khalifa, and Pharrell in the credits, you know you’re in for a treat. (There’s also the slightly weird addition of Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins to lead single “Show You the Way”…which believe it or not, totally works, in the best possible way.) Congrats to Thundercat on another sumptuous, richly textured record that’s sure to make many critics’ year end Top 10 lists.

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New Skin (CD)

In the ten months since her first single, "Hoops," dropped online, we've been patiently waiting for the debut by soul singer-songwriter Jones. With minimal production that's light on heavy melodies, it goes straight for bouncy, electronic beats that flow over a whispered guitar part. But this is all undermining her voice that has the sensitivity of Sade and the power of Rihanna. So it's a great pleasure to discover her first album is a warm, loving one that's carefully performed with quiet restraint and whose melodies are so chill they almost dissolve. Using music as a way to communicate her deep feelings and as a way to grow, New Skin is a mature, carefully constructed first album that shows her range of songwriting ability along with her uniquely sensuous voice. Her songs are so calm and intricate that you can almost feel the temperature of the room drop. "Melt" opens with a riff that sounds as if it's sampling Portishead, but crashes into a mellow love song about romantic repair. As she sings about the given problems and turmoil that come with any relationship, she has a chorus where she says, "We got the heat/melt with me," equally affectionate and psychedelic imagery. "Indulge" is a very personal song about obsessive love that feels like you're spying into her diary. Jones' imagery and fanatical lyrics make her undying love sympathetic and gives her voice a quiet respite that's easily the most intimate delivery on the album. New Skin doesn't have the shaggy quality so many first albums have. It's beautifully assembled and the result is one of the best soul albums of the year.

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Jardin (CD)

Many music fans know the name Gabriel Garzón-Montano because Drake sampled his early track “6 8” on “The Jungle,” but the Brooklyn-born French Colombian singer proves his own power on Jardin. Put out by Stones Throw, the album is lush and vibrant, with a bit of ‘70s haze and urban funk to round things out. It’s no wonder that labelmate Mayer Hawthorne is a fan; both artists traffic in the vivid musical traditions of the past while still managing to sound fresh and intriguing. The music on this debut effort is multi-layered and exquisite; put your headphones on, turn it up, and let yourself be transported.

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Yes Lawd! (CD)

On Yes Lawd!, Anderson .Paak and Knxwledge’s debut LP as NxWorries, the duo have crafted a sublime modern soul/funk record. With soaring strings, gritty vocals, and ultra cool cinematic flourishes that sound like the soundtrack to a forgotten Blaxploitation flick, the album manages to sound both super contemporary and like a bona fide classic. Despite its October release date, this is a definite summer record, essential for backyard BBQs, driving with the windows down, and sitting around the pool. .Paak himself has called the collaboration “my best work” and it’s definitely something special; let’s hope these two continue to make beautiful music together.

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