Soul, Folk & Lounge

Feeling tired lately? So are these songs. I rounded up some stuff that’s perfect for leaning back and filtering through whatever has you stressed, the audio equivalent of a back massage or epsom salt soak. Let’s skip the pleasantries (they’re too tiring, anyway) and get straight to the good stuff.

Check out my last list where I rounded up some of my alternative rock favorites!

september superior elevation

1. “September” by Foner (sample of ‘(It Was) September’ by Superior Elevation)

It may not be autumn anymore, but it doesn’t mean we can’t relish in music that makes our soul crave chilly evenings and turning leaves. Foner‘s ‘September’ is a lovely little piece that should be a staple at most cafes, because it’s a song I want to curl up with a mug of tea every single time I press play.

Almost groovy in its sound, ‘September’ hearkens to its signature season and oozes nostalgia out of every pore — considering it samples and mixes up 1981’s single ‘(It Was) September’ by Superior Elevation, it’s small wonder it feels a little timeless. A little shorter and more focused, the guitar is still lovely and flows throughout the entire piece with a strong bassline, the lead singer rounding out an already full package with great vocals. The subject matter is only touched on briefly, adding an air of mystery that soon dissolves into a wonderful horn outro. I’ve been a fan of this song for a few years and I don’t see this love fading anytime soon. Give ‘September’ a try, or even check out the original, when you’re feeling nostalgia’s itch and need something to scratch it out.

Oh, September, it’s when she went away

She said she’s gonna stay

nao apple cherry

2. “Apple Cherry” by NAO

Double-feature winner NAO is someone I really can’t get enough of. She’s got a sound you only stumble on rarely, making nearly every single piece she puts out a gem worthy of bragging about. ‘Apple Cherry’ is yet another winner, which you could already tell by the title alone. Cherries that look like tiny apples? Apples that taste like cherries? Eh, I love it.

Straight-up charming, give this song a few beats to get going through its ponderous and almost empty intro. Once she’s crooning and hissing the hook, you’ll be swept off your feet to Repeatville. NAO‘s propensity for melodies that are just a little strange is a personal favorite of mine and, frankly, it’s only a matter of time before you find out the part you can’t get enough of.

How would it feel if I gave you up

You’d be craving me like a honey plum

charlotte day work

3. “Work” by Charlotte Day Wilson

Don’t let the title fool you. It’s time to mellow out with Charlotte Day Wilson‘s smooth and relaxed ‘Work’, a chill little number that practically magnetizes your hand to your chin.

The lyrics are not unlike the gentle advice of a friend or family member, helping you through a rough time with some homespun wisdom. Won’t lie, it’s the kind of quiet cheerleader I can use when I’m struggling with the truth of needing more hustle in my life. With mental illness and poverty regularly banging on my door, being reminded that what I both need and want can be boiled down to work can make the complex simple. No one song will ever have the entire answer, but at least a soft, affectionate number can take the bite out of a painful day.

It’s gonna take a bit of work

Oh, oh, work

the internet girl

4. “Girl” by The Internet ft. KAYTRANADA

I’ve got my eye on this group. Having recently released a new album and with a rather dedicated fanbase, The Internet (whose name no doubt makes searching them a touch taxing) is a powerhouse of old-school sound and modern production. Nowhere is this more clear than ‘Girl’, a low-key song that wouldn’t sound out of place in the underground 90’s scene.

I’ll have to pull out a tiny soapbox for this one when it comes to the subject matter. I know I’m not the only one to grow more than a little sick of lyrics that celebrate low self-esteem in their subject matter (throw a rock and hit any number of singles on the Billboard that apply to this). The Internet‘s ‘Girl’? Completely throws that nonsense in the trash where it belongs and croons about the titular girl being worth it in every single way. It’s something that feels surprisingly new with a sound that’s classic as they come. The video is also an afrofuturist trip, as if there wasn’t already plenty to like.

If I told you that you rock my world, I want you around me

Would you let me call you my girl, my girlfriend

bonobo stay the same

5. “Stay The Same” by Bonobo ft. Andreya

Rounding out the list with something more visceral, ‘Stay The Same’ is a cold drive down a long highway as the evening comes to a close. Pulling no punches from the first few plucks of the guitar and whispering back notes, I’ve had this song on my iPod for a good long while.

The song is just plainly beautiful, filled with all sorts of interesting artistic catches, stylistic off-key notes and audio tweaks. The horns that filter through the hook are nothing short of heartwrenching and one of its biggest strengths is through Andreya‘s stunning voice. The song both feels and straight-up talks about the uncertainty of life and the future. How your personal change isn’t predictable, only guaranteed. Soulful and jazzy, ‘Stay The Same’ plucks at your subconscious and tugs at your heartstrings with all the care in the world.

Seasons change, it will never be the same

I’m hoping I won’t stay the same

Like what you hear? Got any suggestions? Stay tuned for next week where I’ll take a look at some more ambient and R&B!

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