Soul & Funk

Last week we rounded up some good ambient and R&B tracks. Now we’re taking a look at soul and funk, my go-to genres if I want to feel both chill and inspired. Considering art anxiety is an emotion I still haven’t quite gotten over, these will make the rounds on my playlists when I pull out my tablet pen and get ready for a few hours of sketching. This list is going to have a double-feature, followed by a few artists you may of heard of and may not have.

nao-inhale-exhale
1. “Inhale, Exhale” by Nao

First impressions go a long way and I’m still pretty peachy over this one. I’m a huge fan of any piece that immediately hooks you in by sheer force of personality, so ‘Inhale, Exhale’ shoots to the top of the list for being characteristic right off the bat. I love the brisk pace, the punctuated back beat and halting delivery. The hook comes in with an entirely different swing and it’s just oozing funky goodness. You can’t help but bob your head to it.

Nao’s vocals are sweet and a little odd, hard to pin down and making you all the more grateful for it. I initially thought the lyrics were discussing a relationship with another person (the default assumption, no doubt), but upon repeat listens I’m actually thinking they’re describing a troubling relationship with alcohol. Even as she recognizes the foolishness of her actions, she finds herself falling back into the spiral of metaphorical oceans and rivers with every ‘inhale and exhale’. A stylish melody with abstract lyrics. I like it.

Glass empty or full

Quench my thirsty tongue, I’m drinking it

nao-in-the-morning
2. “In The Morning” by Nao

I can’t put just one by her! Seriously, get Nao on your playlists now (heh) if you have even the faintest interest in musicians that kick mediocrity to the curb.

This song is emotional and minimalist, putting a lot of emphasis on the vocals and an occasional trickle of melancholy production. This is later switched up near the middle where the electronica suddenly takes center stage and transforms the piece into a pumping, visceral electro-soul track. Something you’ll see me praise a lot in this series are songs that unexpectedly switch up the melody or the chorus.

So much of lyrics are in the execution as much as the writing. I like how certain parts of the song layer over each other, the redundancy of expectation with a partner that wants one thing and keeps getting another. She sounds pained. You can almost feel how weary she is. It’s good stuff that sticks with you long after it’s over.

I can’t be who he wants me to be, in the morning

I can’t see whom he wants me to see, in the morning

lianna-la-havas-tokyo
3. “Tokyo” by Lianne La Havas

Ever search for a song that fits a really specific mood of yours? Lianna La Havas’ ‘Tokyo’ is ideal when you’ve got the travel bug. Both its presentation and its subject matter are perfect for when you need to lean back by a window and just stare off into the distance, whether it’s in the comfort of your room or on the train. We’ve all felt the monotonous drone of travel, how it causes your mind to wander and reflect on the past. The lyrics invite this in full force, making this a joy to listen to and nod off to.

La Havas’ vocals are buttery smooth and ethereal, lending a certain feel to her music that can’t be easily replicated — a song I don’t like at least a little is pretty rare. Hell, I may even make a ‘Sharing The Goodness’ post specifically for songs that are perfect for the open road. For now, ‘Tokyo’ is a piece that’s just right for when you’re feeling a little romantic or a little wanderlust.

Wrong place, wrong time

Alone in Tokyo

morcheeba-slow-down
4. “Slow Down” by Morcheeba

A friend shared this with me a few months back and, returning to it, I can see why it’s stuck with me. This one leans into trip hop territory, but has enough of a funky vibe to earn a spot on the list. An echoing guitar and sultry back beat pulls you in, establishing a mood straight out of a moody drama or thriller. Eventually a keyboard is tossed in, making this song both mellow and full of flavor.

While the lyrics and melody can get a little monotonous, it never seems to aim beyond anything more. Twangy and chill with just a touch of funk, ‘Slow Down’ will help you do exactly that.

Full of tension ’cause you love a chase

You just need your own space

bryson-tiller-trap-soul
5. “Right My Wrongs” by Bryson Tiller

Labeling himself as trap soul, Bryson Tiller is steadily becoming more well-known but I thought I’d share a personal favorite on the list regardless. I’ve perused his albums on and off throughout the year and this is one that’s still stuck in the recesses of my mind. It’s calm, introspective and has a gentle hook. Good for when you need to lean back and shrug off the day’s worries.

The singer is remorseful, expressing regret over the pain he’s put a significant other through throughout their relationship. The main hook helps us hear from her perspective, the audience learning how she feels like less of an individual in his eyes and more of a manifestation of his past mistakes. This song stresses, both musically and emotionally, that less truly is more.

All that I am is all that you see

You don’t need nobody else and you’re putting this all on me

What are your thoughts on the latest round-up? Got any suggestions? Join me for the next round-up where I’ll be sharing my favorite in alternative and chill pop!

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