Alternative R&B And Soul

Fell behind on these, but it certainly wasn’t for a lack of songs. In fact, I’ve found far more than I even know what to do with. I’m learning more and more about all the varied categories, sub-categories and what-the-fuck categories as I go. Terms for specific genres I didn’t even know existed are popping up left and right, making it easier than ever to find songs that make my eyes glaze over with delight. That’s not just me, right? That can’t just be me.

If this isn’t your style, check out my last post where I looked at hip-hop and jazz!

glass animals gooey
1. “Gooey” by Glass Animals

Damn if it doesn’t feel great when you find a new group and discover they don’t just have a few decent singles, but their entire repertoire is addicting as candy. With only a few years to their name and an incredibly varied sound that gets more eclectic with each hit they put out, I can see Glass Animals only getting more successful from here. (They’ve actually got another fantastic single that I’ll have to put on another list for its entirely different genre)

‘Gooey”s title fits the song’s style perfectly — it’s like if melted butter was put to sound, almost bizarrely smooth and utterly sultry with each whispering note. A dreamy harp and the signature hissing croons of the lead singer create a brilliant atmosphere right off the bat, eventually pulling you into a rhythm that sways like a lullaby. I looped this song without mercy the first time I heard it, with each listen progressively better than the last to the point I had to share it with everyone I knew as soon as possible. It’s one of those.

I mean, when it comes down to it you just can’t go wrong with lyrics that include the lines ‘peanut-butter vibes’ and ‘icky, gooey womb’.

Ride my little pooh bear, wanna take a chance

Wanna sip this smooth air, kick it in the sand

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Hip-Hop & Jazz

I’ve got some real good stuff this week. Songs that get me jazzed up (heh) are ones that blur the lines between genres, bringing in the best of each and something entirely new all at the same time. Some of the hip-hop picks here are going to have some distinctively jazzy influences, but there’s bound to be something here for fans of both genres and all the little overlaps. Let’s just get to it!

If you’re interested in past posts, check out the last one where I revisited more of indie and acoustic.

 

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1. “Rose Golden” by Kid Cudi ft. Willow Smith
It’s a damn good feeling when you click on a song and know it’s gonna be good from the first few seconds. Kid Cudi and Willow Smith’s talents have crashed into one another like two planets, creating a result that’s as bombastic as it is unique.

Drawn in with classic harps and crooning only to suddenly swing into a pounding beat, the song all but grabs the listener by the proverbial hand and leads them on a journey — hip-hop, classical and indie are just a few of the influences on full blast here and make for something that’s as interesting as it is plainly catchy. Their vocals are fantastic — I’ve become a huge fan of Willow Smith over the past few years and Kid Cudi’s voice has taken a turn for the gravelly, providing a stellar contrast for an overall stunning piece.

It’s a full-package song through and through. I was drawn in by the lush instrumentation, swayed by the fascinating lyrics and left tingling by the sheer personality of all the incredible talent on board. There’s just so much to talk about to the point I risk overhyping. Just check ‘Rose Golden’ out — you won’t regret it.

Oh, since I was young, been grooving to my own drum

Ain’t that many teachers show me my potential

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Indie & Acoustic

Let’s face it. It can be really hard getting through the week with so much bad news pouring through social media and public programs like a stubborn leak. The kind of music I like to listen to in order to further my mood during rough times varies quite a bit — sometimes I want pounding, angry rock to offset hopelessness, while other times I seek out sugary pop to perk me up. As of this week? Indie and folk can be the ticket you need to pull out all those seemingly elusive artistic emotions when you need to create or just get a good cry going.

I’ll be putting a touch more emphasis on the acoustic part of folk in this list, if only because we all could use some low-key, wind-down music once in a while. If this is a genre that tickles your fancy, check out my previous indie and folk recommendations.

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1. “Wanna Be On Your Mind” by Valerie June

With one of the most charming set of pipes I’ve ever heard, Valerie June is a new favorite that’s found a permanent place in my playlists. You could even say she’s regularly on my mind! I’ll stop.

Her work is a vibrant blend of country and folk, leaning toward the latter with certain pieces and leaning back with others. If you’re like me and aren’t overly fond of country’s general sound, rest easy knowing Valerie June is versatile enough to cover a wide variety of approaches while retaining a strong identity. ‘Wanna Be On Your Mind’ is a jaunty acoustic-folk number, the almost earworm hook supplemented with a gentle keyboard and quirky chimes. I’ve even put on this song for a few friends and their organic head-bobbing only confirms what I already know.

I wanna be on your mind, stay there all the time

You can’t call my name

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Alternative & Chill-Pop

Alternative has always been a mainstay with me. It’s a slapdash of everything, the best of rock, pop, electronica, synth-pop, hip-hop and just about whatever it needs to hold your attention and lift your heart. A veritable delicious stew where you can’t figure out where one genre starts and the other ends. It’s just brilliant. If you’ve got a hankering for some quality soul and funk instead, check out my previous post here.

Since alternative is such a broad category, I’m going to switch it up a little with future Sharing The Goodness posts. Alternative and electronica or alternative and jazz, for example, are likely candidates for the future! ‘Til then, let’s take a look at the smooth and more relaxed end of things — alternative and chill-pop.

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1. “Sly” by Polographia ft. Winston Surfshirt

Double-feature time! I found this band pretty recently while browsing different playlists. With the political landscape getting more hectic by the second, I am in a constant need for something to slow down my heart rate and put me in a better headspace. Polographia’s fantastic old-school melodies and delightfully relaxed approach have since weaseled their way into my own ongoing playlists and I don’t think they’ll be leaving any time soon.

Don’t confuse relaxed with boring, however — their single ‘Sly’ has enough zest to get you moving, but is low-key enough to be as comfortable in a car radio while speeding down the highway as a temporary snooze on a warm beach. Alternative really is a little bit of everything! For those that want a solid first impression, ‘Sly’s throwback sound and vaporware music video are a prime place to start.

Who’s counting all the things you tried

Can’t remember how or why but in the end you’ve grown sly

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Ambient & R&B

Time for the second round-up! The first Sharing The Goodness focused on indie and folk — this time we’re touching on some atmospheric ambient and R&B. Since art is malleable and not always easily categorized, a few of these are going to have some soul and electronica flavorings.

These songs have been kicking around on my playlists for months, so it feels good to take a look at why they’ve affected me so much.

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1. “Message” by Kelela

You can’t go wrong with Kelela. It took me a little thinking as to which song to choose for the list and I ended up picking the one I keep coming back to. ‘Message’ is a piece that invokes the subconscious and steady nature of breathing, incredibly minimalist and slow with its swaying backbeats and emphasis on a strong vocal presence. Coupled with a deceptively simple music video that later transforms into a lush animated experiment, Kelela is an artist that really doesn’t mind playing around with your expectations.

The lyrics are brutally honest. I’m 100% down with a woman who’s fed the hell up with a significant others’ callous behavior, creating a foundation for a song that can either act as smooth catharsis or a pretty warning sign depending on where you stand. Personally? It helped mete out a few of my frustrated feelings during a break-up. Thanks, Kelela!

When you look at me, you’re somewhere else

And all we know is all we got

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Indie & Folk

This marks a new weekly segment: Sharing The Goodness! It’s exactly what it says on the tin — I’ll be sharing songs I’ve come across and feel could use a little more attention. Whether it’s a bouncy disco track I heard a week ago or an obscure acoustic number I’ve been bobbing my head to over the past month, I’ll be rounding them up five at a time every Saturday to help these artists get more exposure and to help you get some inspiration for the work week. Better yet, I’ll be grouping these up by genre(s) so you’ll know what you’re getting into. Not too fond of rock? Want to see more electronica or synth-pop? Just keep an eye out for my next piece.

After all, I want to share the goodness!

Starting off the list: indie and folk. Considering I’m a huge fan of this sound, expect me to re-visit these a lot in future posts. I’ll also occasionally put an artist on the list twice, if I feel their repertoire is just too damn grand to be confined to one suggestion. (Links in the titles!)

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1. “Sing To The Moon” by Laura Mvula

I was indirectly introduced to Laura Mvula by a mutual on Twitter, who then told me she’d make me cry, no less. Well, they weren’t wrong. British-born folk and neo-soul musician Laura Mvula is a tour-de-force, tugging on your heartstrings even as she sweeps you off your feet and ignites your imagination. ‘Sing To The Moon’ is the very definition of a showstopper — a gentle chorus and tender vocals initially draws you in, only to wrench at your heart with fanciful violins and harp strings. Even better? The lyrics are beautiful.

They hearken to a friend or a family member holding your hand through hard times, invoking hope when life is pushing anything but. Too many songs attempting to relate to a ‘general and impersonal audience’ can come off as overly vague or corny, but Laura Mvula knows exactly who she’s talking to and why. The despondent and the depressed, the hopeless regularly beaten down by reality yet turning their faces to the sky for one last look nonetheless.

Sing to the moon and the stars will shine,

Over you, lead you to the other side

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