Funk & Soul

Music Year-End List || Dennis’ Favorite Singles and EP’s of 2021

You’ve already seen our lists with favorite albums – here‘s Niek’s list and there‘s mine – but also many shorter format releases were wantlist worthy. Below you can listen to an overview of the Top 50 singles and EPs that I thought were the best from 2021. I’ve excluded releases with songs that also appear on my album list. Links point to Discogs or Bandcamp (the headings), and to previously posted reviews (in the body text) – add to your wantlist (or collection) what you like!

1. Noah C Lekas || Sounds From The Shadow Factory
[Beat Poetry, US || Blind Owl] To be honest I haven’t been able to give this one as much attention as I would have liked. Not only because I mainly spent my time on full-length albums, but also for practical reasons: only two songs are shared on Bandcamp, YouTube, Soundcloud and Spotify, and unfortunately a physical copy wasn’t available in Europe (and sold out quickly in the US). Still, I didn’t doubt for a moment whether this should be at the top, simply because this was the most impressive release of the past year in all respects. Poems and rock music form a great combination here: “It’s jazz for the mind // It’s blues for the soul.” It’s Art!

Music Year-End List || Dennis’ Favorite Albums of 2021

All year long we look forward to this moment of looking back, escaping the continuous flow of new releases for a while, taking the time to recap what really stood out these 12 months. In 2021 I took my FOMO more seriously than ever: I’ve checked out 2,200+ new albums, twice as many as last year (this hobby is getting out of hand). The disadvantage of this is that you don’t get any sleep, but still it isn’t possible to give anything that looks promising the attention it deserves. Anyway, along the way I built up a longlist of 120+ LPs that are wantlist-worthy, which I now have brought down to a Top 50.

In any post on this website, we try to put into words which artists are involved, how their instruments and vocals sound, whether their songs are catchy or dreamy or energetic or dark, where their inspiration for lyrics came from, etc., but I have my year-end list compiled as I always have, simply in order of what I loved and played the most – personal taste preference as the debatable deciding factor. My choices are all about guitar-driven, authentic indie rock, power pop, garage rock, roots, and jangle pop, plus a little bit of soul, country, folk, and alternative rock.

Dusted || The 10 Best Cover Songs Of November 2021

Not all new music is really new, as many artists cover songs. Sometimes these are songs by their favorite artists, eg as a tribute to such a musical hero for a special reason, or they simply feel that a song deserves to be dusted and polished to reacquaint fans with great songs from the past. Other times, bands cover songs as a parody. Regardless of intent, some of those cover versions are so good or so much fun, we’d like to put a spotlight on them. Chosen from a wide range, here are – in random order – ten of our favorite covers from last month – links to the pages where you can add them to your wantlist included.

Overdose || Cover: Supersuckers || Original: AC/DC
Friday December 3rd, Magnetic Eye Records will release the 2LP Best of AC/CD [Redux], featuring 13 cover versions of classics by the Australian hard rock band. The choice cut of the experienced musicians of Supersuckers was already shared last month – their cover of Let There Be Rock‘s Overdose is a heavy, excellent tribute, where you can hear for 6 minutes that they are true AC/DC fans.

New single: Thee Baby Cuffs || You’re My Reason

The monthly overview of most expensive items sold on Discogs often contains 50-year-old soul singles. For example, Jonathan Capree’s Gonna Build Me A Mountain (Way Up High) (1970) recently did $2,500.00. At the same time, new 45 rpm 7″ records are being released that imho are just as good. Listen to You’re My Reason by Thee Baby Cuffs backed by Cold Diamond & Mink, and you’ll see what I mean. Joe Narvaez (sweet talking), Gilberto Rodriguez (in Spanish), Dave Herrera, and Reality Jonez (incredible falsetto) try to convince the woman to whom the song is addressed that there may be a million girls in the whole wide world, but she’s the special one: “Without you, there’s no me.” It’s the classic Chicano Soul sound, produced by J.M. Valle, with dynamic vocals, bilingual lyrics, harmony and a skilled rhythm section. It’s yours for just € 7.50 (or € 10 for limited edition magenta-colored vinyl), a good investment in every way.

You’re My Reason is out now digitally and on 7″ vinyl through Timmion Records.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: The Grease Traps || Solid Ground

Fans of James Brown, Curtis Mayfield, Durand Jones & The Indications and Blaxploitation soundtracks can get their dancing shoes on again, and hip-hop producers searching for fresh samples should open their ears. US eight-piece The Grease Traps have released their debut LP Solid Ground, featuring eleven slices of great hard-driving funk and lowdown soul, both originals and (rare) covers. Raw and energetic on the one hand, perfect and honest on the other. The band spent six years working on the album’s recording and mixing; as fans of the old school analog sound, the album was recorded straight to 8-track tape on a Tascam 388, which also graces the cover art. Kevin O’Dea (guitar, triangle), Aaron Julin (keys, tambourine, trombone), Goopy Rossi (bass), Dave Brick (drums), The Gata (lead vocals), Chris Brown (trumpet), Dave Salvatore (tenor sax ), and Mike Maricle (baritone sax) master their instruments like The JB’s did in the past, and their sound is as clear and big as can be. A solid debut that blows the roof off.

Solid Ground is out now digitally, on CD and vinyl LP through Record Kicks. This will be a new classic in the genre, you’re just in time to get your hands on the first pressing.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Discogs

New album: Teddy Grey || The Great Failed Romances Of The Twentieth Century

There are worse, much worse ideas for a concept album than The Great Failed Romances Of The Twentieth Century. It’s the focus of an ambitious project by NY based artist Teddy Grey. Grey picked and wrote songs about 30 celebrity romances that went wrong, including iconic couples (Sid & Nancy, Hepburn & Tracy, Ike & Tina, Sonny & Cher, Lindsey Buckingham & Stevie Nicks), but also weird ones (Vanilla Ice & Madonna), and romances that may not have actually occured (Monroe & JFK, Brando & Dean). An extensive supporting cast of musicians helped out in the recordings.

Part satire, part heartfelt tribute to pop culture history, The Great Failed Romances Of The Twentieth Century is packed with wit and catchy melodies. Musically, the record is all over the place with each song sounding differently, from pop punk to arena rock, from ballads to retro pop, giving the record a theatrical, musical vibe that harbors more than a touch of Weird Al Yankovich as well. Consequently, the record can be hit or miss depending on your taste. Put differently, you are unlikely to care for all 84 minutes of the record, but there will be a little bit for everyone. It’s no surprise that Grey describes his music as “Rock N Roll McDonalds.”

Highlights for me are the Sid & Nancy jam There’s Nothing That I Love (But You Come Close), Unwritten Gay Romantic History (Greta & Mercedes), Little Black Book (James & Marlon), and Letters (Virginia & Vita). Cool concept, fun tunes.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

Dusted || The 10 Best Cover Songs Of September 2021

Not all new music is really new, as many artists occasionally play a song they know from one of their heroes. Often they are songs that deserve to be dusted and polished, simply because they should not be forgotten. Some of those cover versions are so good, we’d like to put a spotlight on them. Chosen from a wide range, here are – in alphabetical order – ten of our favorite covers from last month – links to the pages where you can add them to your wantlist included.

96 Tears || Cover: Oort Clod || Original: ? & The Mysterians
Manchester-based five-piece Oort Clod released a nice 12-track split EP (together with Priceless Bodies), on which the 1966 garage rock single is doused with a post-punk sauce. Out on cassette through Alphaville Records.

New album: Jackie Venson || Love Transcends

“They say freedom is in the mind // Well we lose our freedom when we get too scared to fight // One step forward is another step farther behind.” After half a minute of music, with these first lines, you know this is a special release. We are talking about Love Transcends, the new full-length album by American singer / songwriter / guitarist Jackie Venson. She wrote the songs across a decade (and added a new version of the classics Down By The Riverside and Up Above My Head), recorded them in a pandemic, played in a style a century old, but completely contemporary in every way. This is soulful blues rock, where Venson’s awesome, powerful distinctive vocals take your breath away, whether she screams or whispers. As if that isn’t impressive enough, she also throws out some stunning guitar solos, and she’s joined by a great band (Marcus Clark on bass, Jon Deas on piano and organ, Rodney Hyder on drums). This is Jackie Venson’s unique sound, the sound of a great star in the making.

Love Transcends is out now digitally and on CD. Add to wantlist: Bandcamp 

PS  Do yourself a favor and also watch the recording of the live concert that Jackie Venson gave in Texas late last year. Enchanting.

Throwback Thursday: Silk Rhodes || Pains

Now that I’ve finally watched High Fidelity, the American television series starring Zoë Kravitz, Jake Lacy, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, and David H. Holmes, I’m kind of addicted to Pains by Silk Rhodes. The standout song of the rich and varied soundtrack, featured in episode 9 and 10,  comes from the first and only full-length album (self-titled, 2014) by producer Michael Collins and vocalist Sasha Desree. It’s cinematic soul with an early 70’s vibe, which once again proves how music can enhance images, and the other way around. RIYL The Delfonics, Bobby Oroza, Portishead.

“All things must change and remain // Growing pains”

Silk Rhodes is available digitally, on cassette, CD, and vinyl LP through Stones Throw.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Discogs

New album: Black Light Animals || Playboys of the Western World

As noted earlier this week: strange can be good. Playboys of the Western World, the debut album from American psychedelic soul group Black Light Animals, is another solid proof of that finding. They describe their music quite adequately as a sprawling, decadent examination of what it means to be a human being through the lens of horror movie organs, spaghetti western guitars, hip hop grooves, psychedelic sojourns, and ballads crooned to lovers in the night, although that list is not complete, because you’ll also hear rock, dub, and glam influences. It sounds like Isaac Hayes, Portishead, Ennio Morricone, and Portugal. The Man were experimenting together — that shouldn’t work, but it does. These are trippy, cinematic and mysterious songs that come into their own after dark when you’ve had a drink or two. Great work by Cole Bales (vocals / guitar / bass / piano / keyboards / synth / organ / percussion), Cody Calhoun (guitar / percussion), Zach Harris (drums / percussion / synth), Branden Moser (bass / guitar / keyboards / synth / organ / percussion), and some friends who added piano, viola and violin. Watch the video for standout track Halo.

Stream the full album below.

Playboys of the Western World is out now digitally, on CD and vinyl LP through Groove King Records.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

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