Soulsters, I warned you. This year has been an exceptional year for music on my end. I had a host of amazing albums that were on steady repeat for days on end. As you all know, my list is usually about 10 albums deep. But this year, I figured – what the hell, let me be a bit extra and share in most of the goodness. I say most because truly, I could have gone on with this list. I will most likely list a few honourable mentions on the bottom and that still will not cover everything. Anyhow, I stayed focused y’all and below is my list of the Top 15 Albums that had me in a tizzy for 2013. In no particular order:
1) She by Alice Smith: Alice Smith took a break from the music scene to have a little one, take care of family and create. After seeing her perform in NYC a few years ago, I totally understood what all of the fuss was about. Ms. Smith dropped her album She and boy, did she come out with a bang. Upon its release, the internet was a buzz for a few weeks. This album is exactly what fans have been waiting for. Her vocals are beyond amazing. If you were not a fan before, after one listens, I’m sure she will have you exactly where she wants you. Aural Stimulation: ”Cabaret,” ”The One” and ”Another Love.”
2) Undercover Remixes by Tortured Soul: If you need a little kick in your step and you’re a certified house-head, this is the album for you. Honestly, I haven’t come across a Tortured Soul album that I didn’t like. But this one here? The remixes are heavenly. With the added touches of Mark de Clive Lowe, DJ Spinna, Quentin Harris and more, this album is everything you need to get your soul clap on like it’s going out of style. Undercover Remixes is a melange of new, rare and remixed joints all put together and mixed by Jask. Ladies and gents, get your soul clap on. Aural Stimulation: ”Might Do Something Wrong” featuring N’Dea Davenport
3) Wake Me Up EP by Aloe Blacc: Aloe Blacc left his mark with the catchy hook of ”I Need A Dollar” on the tip of our tongues. This year, his breakout hit ”Wake Me Up” was all over the radiowaves thanks to his collaboration with EDM mastermind Aviici. Unbeknownst to many (I had to school someone at work one day), Mr. Blacc is a musical force himself and this EP was magnificent and how I wished for it to be an LP each and every time I gave it a play. If a taste of this EP doesn’t make you excited to hear what Aloe Blacc has on the horizon, I have absolutely no words for you. Aural Stimulation: ”Love Is The Answer”
4) Yours Truly by Ariana Grande: It’s funny to me, but every time I mention Ariana Grande’s name to someone, they give me a puzzled look and add in a reference to Disney. The young lady is Nickelodeon alum, but don’t judge a book by its cover and don’t let that stop you from listening to Yours Truly. Ariana’s album is a far from bubble gum pop, it’s quite reminiscent of Mariah Carey in her early days. Ariana’s voice is absolutely beautiful. her4 octave range is flawless, and she is the most adorable thing on earth. I swear. The album infuses R&B, hip hop, pop and is definitely worth a listen. Aural Stimulation: ”Piano” and ”Tatooed Heart”
5) Avalanche by Quadron: Coco O and Robin Hannibal have been delivering the goods since 2009 and they just don’t stop. Avalanche is a fantastic compilation of electronic soulful grooves, that will keep you in the most groovetastic state of consciousness that it’s maddening. Even Kendrick Lamar’s cameo (the only cameo on the album at that) is a light and welcoming touch. You want grooves galore? Then play on. Yes, I did use grooves in the most obnoxious way. But if you didn’t get my point, I’m pretty sure you do now. Aural Stimulation: ”LFT” and ”Favorite Star”
6) The Yes Feeling by Honey Larochelle: This lady here is just as hot and fiery as that lovely red mane of hers. The Yes Feeling brought me back…way back. Honey tapped into a few eras, the Stax vault and sampled some goodies; then she added them to her melting pot and out came this fantastic piece of work. The heavy 90’s vibe of the album for me is unmistakable. Honey captures the years when R&B was unapologetic with its reign and gives us a taste of her Canadian/American roots. Get down with The Yes Feeling. Aural Stimulation: ”Baby” and ”Back of my Car”
7) Ace of Hearts by Cleveland P. Jones: This brother here. If Aretha Franklin and Otis Redding had a lovechild – good god. Cleveland P. Jones dropped the first single off of this album and I thought I was going to damn near lose my mind. This is another album that brought me back to listening to soul greats on Sunday morning with my Dad. I know if he were here today and heard this, he would be just as impressed as I was. Cleveland has a way of moulding the feeling of gut-wrenching pain to his will to deliver his gritty side of soul. He did just that all over Ace of Hearts and has amassed even more of a following along the way. Rightfully so. If you love yourself some Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Carla Thomas and such, then this is an album for you. Aural Stimulation: ”Free Yard Sale” and ”Back To Me”
8) A Place Called Love Land by Raheem DeVaughn: The Raheem I know and love returned to me. Not to say that he was completely out of commission since he did release a few things here and there, but this album right here? We are back to Raheem-baby-making-music and A Place Called Love Land is sensually delicious. I have been waiting for this for a long time and Raheem surely served it up on a platter for us all. Once you press play, you’re transported to a land of sex, love and lust, touching on every aspect of a relationship. Like the album cover, the music is a smorgasbord of emotions and desires. Aural Stimulation: ”Love Connection” and ”Pink Crush Velvet”
9) ManMade by Zo!: Zo! has been digging deep and cranking out the joints! Go back into Zo!’s catalogue and listen to each of his albums. It’s always a joy when you get a glimpse into an artists’ world and hear their growth. ManMade is one of those albums where you can hear that Zo! has been in his cave meticulously creating in his zone. The production is tight, the songs are on point and the cameos – Eric Roberson, Gwen Bunn, Phonte, Carmen Rodgers and more. I simply couldn’t and still can’t get enough. Aural Stimulation: ”Count To Five” ”Making Time” and ”We Are On The Move”
10) The 20/20 Experience by Justin Timberlake: I had been complaining for so long, it was inevitable that I was going to be silenced. The acting bug had seemed to have taken my little JT away from the sagnin’ if you will. But low and behold, the man finally decided to put down a script and pick up the microphone. And here enters The 20/20 Experience. working with his partner in crime Timbo, JT could do me no wrong with this one. The Bossanova, the pop, the soul, the straight up R&B. This was it for me, exactly what I asked for. It’s unfortunate that the second installment of the album doesn’t even hold a candle to the first one (honestly, it’s horrible for the exception of a couple of songs), but all in all, JT certainly brought the goods. Aural Stimulation: ”Pusher Love Girl” and ”Let The Groove Get In”
11) Love In The Future by John Legend: I wasn’t even excited about the news that John Legend was releasing an album. I have kind of fallen off the whole Legend bandwagon a long time ago because I was missing the flavour I fell in love with in the first place. However, what a surprise bestowed upon me once I decided to finally press play. Love In The Future brought me back to John’s first album Get Lifted. Perhaps being in love has opened up a whole other door of creativity for the singer. Whatever it is, it did John Legend and his fans right. Can I deny his duet with Seal? Nope. Can I deny his cover of ”Open Your Eyes” at all? Nope. His love songs are right on the money. Guess what y’all, I’m in love again. Aural Stimulation: ”All of Me” ”Made To Love” and ”We Loved It”
12) Pure Heroine by Lorde: Well, of course, this was going to be on the list. I was quite impressed by this young lady. Lorde managed to take her pop song and have my mother blaring it and singing away word for word around her house. That my friends is an accomplishment in itself. After listening to the album, for the life of me, I have no idea why the musical powers that be feel that Pure Heroine is a pop album. For me, it’s more of an alternative or maybe even a little dab of electronica. I’m not one for boxes, but hey, Lorde’s sound is definitely ear-catching goodness. Aural Stimulation: ”Royals” ”Team” and ”Glory and Gore”
13) Sing to the Moon by Laura Mvula: I remember receiving a promo email about this artist upon the release of her first single ”Green Garden.” The thing that made me press play was the picture sent with the press release. Quiet, reserved, beautiful – it all basically jumped off my screen. It’s the quiet ones who always get you. The single was beyond different, it was actually quite fresh and a breath of fresh air. With the release of Sing to the Moon, Ms. Mvula already had everyone’s attention with her fresh vocal and musical arrangements. She is awesome live, so if she is ever in your area, please experience everything that is Laura Mvula. Aural Stimulation: ”Green Garden” ”Make Me Lovely” and ”That’s Alright”
14) Love In Flying Colors by The Foreign Exchange: This should be two lines long. It’s The Foreign Exchange and each and every one of you know how I get down with this group. They have released phenomenal albums, and I do have my favourites. But I will be the first to tell you that there is not one album that they have released that I do not like. Love in Flying Colors is now my second favourite behind Leave It All Behind. The house vibes, the R&B injections, the all-around old school feel to it. I really love this album. The usual suspects are around: Gwen Bunn, Sy Smith, Eric Roberson and more. It’s FE at its best for me. Aural Stimulation: ”Better” ”Right After Midnight” and ”The Moment”
15) The Man by Omar: How long did we have to wait for this man to give us a little life?! Well, it was 7 years to be exact and what a wait it was. Omar went back and dug into his old roots on this one. With a little dash of reggae, R&B, soul and world – Omar’s The Man was highly anticipated and very well received by critics and fans alike. His duet with Caron Wheeler had everyone salivating, while his first single ”The Man” hit us just in the right spot. If you haven’t taken the time to revisit an old soul friend, this would be the time. Aural Stimulation: ”The Man” ”Bully” and ”Eeni Meeni Myni Mo”
Beyoncé by Beyoncé: I mean really, who else can put out an album overnight and have everyone losing their every last bit of sense? We have been talking about her since the release of Beyoncé. You can’t beat that at all. Let’s not forget to mention, I really do like the album. Try getting passed ”Drunk In Love.” The Dream wasn’t lying – Yoncé stay all on our mouths like likka.
Where Does This Door Go by Mayer Hawthorne: I really didn’t fully comprehend the greatness of this album until I saw him live. What a show and what an album. Listening to it, I got a bit of Earth Wind & Fire and Curtis Mayfield. I mean, he really went in on his throwback sound. Have you heard ”It’s A Crime” featuring Kendrick Lamar?! Yes, it’s that great.
High Heels & Sneakers by Tess Henley: I was supposed to write up and tell y’all about this album a long time ago. My apologies! But here I am singing its praises at the end of the year. Tess really didn’t play with this one, I love it. The album was produced by The Roots’ own Dice Raw and he really brought out the best in Tess. She sings her heart out and brings her attitude to the plate, giving us an infectious album from beginning to end. High Heels & Sneakers is filled with jazz, soul and R&B infusions that all compliment each other in the lovliest of ways.
Family Dinner Volume One by Snarky Puppy: The goodness that this collective is! Besides the fact that the crew is Grammy nominated for their track ”Something” featuring Lalah Hathaway, this album made me exhale when I played it. The collaborations are fantastic: Chante Caan, N’Dambi, Magda Giannikou and more. In the midst of the thumping drums, blaring horns and all, it’s always nice to find the centre of the storm and I found it here with Family Dinner. Can I get a Volume 2 soon, please? Thank you.
A Love Surreal by Bilal: I played this album non-stop upon its release. I mean, the driving guitar on ”Back To Love” and the cool flow on ”West Side Girl” and the amazing composition on ”Butterfly” featuring Robert Glasper, were all enough to win me over. The album, on the whole, was a winner for me and I know it as for a lot of fans as well. Upon every release, Bilal certifies his spot in our soul catalogues. It would be a shame if you missed out on this one.
My friends, I better stop now otherwise I shall be here all night. I hope you enjoyed the picks. You know the deal, reach out to me on Twitter or Facebook if there are any you would like to share. With that said, I would like to wish you and yours a very Happy New Year! Cheers to more love, prosperity and health in 2014! See you on the other side, Souslters.
See y’all soon…