Soul

Ruby (CD)

Nobody makes music quite like Macy Gray. Ruby is the raspy-voiced singer’s tenth album and it’s packed with her signature smart, vivacious brand of retro-tinged R&B/soul. Lead single “Sugar Daddy” is a fittingly sweet and seductive walk through the candy shop — it’s a sophisticated, innuendo-laced late night jam. Also of note is guitarist Gary Clark Jr.’s appearance on the excellent “Buddha.” There’s something for everyone here, from uplifting, feel good strummers to lush throwback soul and jazz to outspoken, politically topical ballads.

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Everything Here (CD)

The Gulf Coast soul band The Suffers, led by the powerhouse vocals of Kam Franklin, is a contemporary version of classic R&B bands Earth, Wind & Fire, Kool & The Gang, The Commodores and others. Everything Here delivers a strong set of soul tracks that flow together to create a seamless, true album listening experience.

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Cocoa Sugar (CD)

Scottish trio Young Fathers stand out for their melodic fusion of hip hop, soul, and electronic beats. Perhaps their most accessible album, Cocoa Sugar is still fascinating in its hard-to-define sound while the lyrics touch on social, religious, and political issues, but emphasize emotion. “Turn” and “Toy” boast complicated, anxious synth & rhythm compositions that dance around the vocals. “In My View” is uplifting with a chorus that borders on a pop hook, while “Holy Ghost” has a funky, grinding rhythm that compliments the fast rhymes.

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Fear Of A Brown Planet (CD)

Brownout deliver a wonderful and serious reinterpretation of Public Enemy’s Fear Of A Black Planet. It is filtered through their lens of Latin, salsa, funk and breaks. This is great, don’t sleep on it.

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Good Thing (CD)

For retro soul stylist Leon Bridges, Good Thing represents big things on the horizon. His latest LP is drenched in Motown harmonies, jazz grooves, and stirring Southern delivery layered on top of crossover-friendly modern R&B that’ll appeal to fans of Adele and Sam Smith as well as neo soul connoisseurs. Bridges has plenty of vibrant retro soul diamonds in his treasure chest of throwback styles but he also ventures into ‘80s and ‘90s R&B, country twang, and polished pop-funk. Guaranteed to put a smile on the face of new and old fans alike.

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Worth It All (CD)

Classic R&B vocalist and L.T.D. frontman, Jeffrey Osborne follows up his 2013 album of standards with a rich, new record, Worth It All. His first self-produced album in 13 years, Worth It All celebrates the ups and downs of a long-term relationship, with funky tracks like “Let A Brotha Know” and “Just Can't Stand It,” as well as lavish, sincere ballads such as “Saving My Love” and the title track; the latter is a lovely spare number with electric piano and vocals, the lyrics summing up the message behind the album. The sultry “Work It” was co-written with his son Jeffrey Osborne, Jr. who also raps on the track.

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Soul Side Of Town (CD)

Perennial Oakland horn section/funk collective Tower of Power celebrates their 50th anniversary the only way they know how: with an epic, all night long rhythm & soul blowout. In production since 2012, the songs that comprise Soul Side of Town were pulled from four separate sessions in order to “make the best record of (their) career.” Whether or not it hits that lofty goal is up for debate, but rest assured that Soul Side is a worthy entry in ToP’s storied career and epitomizes the energetic, upbeat funk that they do best.

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TLC (CD)

The ‘90s might not seem so far away, but the ladies of TLC are definitely R&B icons in their own right. That’s why the tracks on their latest LP are so interesting; with only one guest appearance (from the mighty Snoop) and melodies that draw heavily from classic funk and soul, the focus here is squarely on the women, their legacy, and how they defined R&B. (There’s even a well-placed Earth, Wind & Fire sample on standout track “It’s Sunny,” just in case you need a reminder of how their work fits in with some of the biggest names in urban music.) Other memorable tracks include “Way Back;” nostalgic, infectious, and just straight up fun, it’s the perfect summer song while “Haters” is cool, confident, and laidback. Their new album is T-Boz and Chilli’s final release as a group, but TLC will leave you wanting more.

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