Last year, when I served up my list of top soul albums of 2011, I started things off by saying it had been a great one for soul music. Well, turns out that the great sounds kept on rolling into 2012. Take a look at my picks for this year's best:
Clementine Sun, Khari Cabral: If you picked up the 2012 edition of CL's "Best of Atlanta" issue, you may know that Clementine Sun already garnered the "Best Soul Album" of the year award - so it shouldn't be a surprise that it's found a place on this list. Khari Cabral's (aka Khari Simmons) first solo offering, Clementine Sun boasts the bassist's trademarked blend of Brazilian and soul sounds, and features near-flawless vocal appearances by singers like Chantae Cann, India. Arie, Monday Michiro, and more.
Tawk Tomahawk, Hiatus Kaiyote: This Australian-based, four-piece band seemingly came out of nowhere with an album that pushes the boundaries of "future soul." Tawk Tomahawk collects a mellowed-out congregagtion of tunes that mix '90s-era soul with jazz, Latin, and Dilla-influenced electronic beats, among other goodies.
Love Out Loud, Anthony David: I've said it dozens of times before: Anthony David is undoubtedly Atlanta's most prolific soul artist. He made my "Top 10 Soul Albums" list last year, and he earns a place on this year's list with his newest project Love Out Loud. His latest album deftly presents a crop of brand-new songs that succeed by subtly referencing old-school sounds without being held hostage by them.
(OK, the next three picks are bound to be controversial ... And that's because they could easily be considered jazz albums, instead of soul. But they belong on this list because by dipping their toes so much in the soul pool, as well as other musical styles, they clearly defy standard categorization).
Mercury, Darryl Reeves: With the support of on-the-rise vocalists like Carmen Rodgers and Gwen Bunn (and more), locally based saxophonist Darryl Reeves has crafted a CD filled with fresh, funky, and sonically beautiful tracks.
Radio Music Society, Esperanza Spalding: Returning to the game after releasing the somber Chamber Music Society, Esperanza Spalding's newest album, Radio Music Society, is light and accessible.
Black Radio, Robert Glasper: Who didn't get an earful of Black Radio this year? Well, with guest spots by singers like Musiq Soulchild, Lalah Hathaway, Bilal, and more, the ubiquitous nature of Robert Glasper's most successful album is totally deserved.
(And that's the end of my jazz-flavored picks. Feel free to hang me in the comment section ... In the meantime, back to my more straight-ahead soul selections.)
Black Eagle, Iva Lamkum: Straight outta New Zealand, singer Iva Lamkum hasn't made a lot of headlines in the United States (so far) and that's a shame. Her debut CD, Black Eagle, expertly pairs classic soul vocal stylings with unconventional arrangements and ultra-catchy hooks.
Everlasting, DJ Kemit: Atlanta turntable legend DJ Kemit dropped his first solo project Everlasting in 2012, which yielded a string of songs that are perfect for the dance floor. The album features guest appearances by notables like Lady Alma, Frank McComb, Eric Roberson, and more.
Be Free, Moonchild: Much like Hiatus Kaiyote, this L.A.-based trio appeared to come from out of nowhere and dropped an album heavily influenced by '90s-eral soul. The result is Be Free, a super-smooth-yet-funk-fueled CD that's perfect for chilling and/or for two-stepping.
F_CK, LOVE, Kameron Corvet: It may only be a seven-song EP and it may have only been released as a free download, but F_CK, LOVE is easily the seminal work by ATL-based singer/guitarist Kameron Corvet. The project brims with a sound that's a little bit rock, a little bit hip-hop, a little bit pop, and a whole lot of soul.
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