The Best New Soul on Bandcamp: May 2017

Charlie Curtis-Beard

Charlie Curtis-Beard. Illustration by Gabriel Alcala.

Each month, we bring you the best new soul music on Bandcamp. Here, Skullkid and brandon* usher you into the summer, and Mel Alston Jr. and Emilee Strong remind us that we all catch romantic feelings (and eventually you have to sing about them). If these new releases are any indication, it’s time to shed the doldrums of winter and bask gleefully in the sun.

Mel Alston Jr., Mel Alston Jr.

Mel Alston Jr. likes living in the clouds. “I don’t know if the sun rises or sun sets without you,” he croons on “The Day After Forever”: “You got me thinking that God wrote the heavens about you.” Who could mad at that? Alston Jr. recalls the best of 1970s Philly soul, like Teddy Pendergrass and The Delfonics. With songs like “Dream” and “Come Back,” Alston Jr. emits an old-school vibe that feels remarkably current.

Skullkid, Sleepless EP

If you like beats with your daily meditation, Skullkid is the zen master you need. The artist serves six tracks of smooth instrumentation, and with track names like “walking,” “hoodie weather,” and “snow,” you’d think they were created in wintertime New York, not Atlanta, Georgia. Even if you’re not trying to free your chi, the EP is ideal for downtime with your significant other, when you just wanna chill without the turn up.

Charlie Curtis-Beard, DONEish

You know that weird, mellow roughness you get from an Odd Future track, and then Frank Ocean comes in? You’re listening to a beautiful ballad and a perfectly synthesized beat, but the lyrics take the song to an entirely different direction? That’s what DONEish is like. The Chicago native might be thought of as a rapper, but his beats and emotions are all soul. He can go from Kanye-rough to nearly Slick Rick-mellow, like on the song “Comfortable,” which emotes on the beauty of finding that person with whom you can just be. Still in his early 20s, his youth is canonized on “Peter Pan,” the album’s final track, where it’s clear he likes to party. All good, though, as many of us have been there.

Diggs Duke, Suckas, Hoes & Self-Control

With a title like Suckas, Hoes & Self-Control, you wouldn’t expect delicate, synthesized soul, but that’s exactly what you get from Diggs Duke’s latest EP. Running less than 10 minutes, Duke doesn’t stick around too long, but the quick runtime isn’t surprising if you’ve followed him to this point. On “Seduction of a Whore,” Duke sweet-talks his way into an illicit affair, calling it a risk he’s prepared to take. “If you’re worried ‘bout what to do, just let me lead the way,” he sings. “Pay close attention until the lecture’s through, this is 1-O-1.” The final track, “Continence,” is a funk-inspired instrumental: billowing saxophones and gentle wah-wahs echo throughout, bringing the record to a soft landing. It’s unclear when Duke will return, but when he does, he’ll likely make an impact.

brandon*, Daydreaming

Brandon* makes music suited for long drives on the PCH and beachside vacations. Daydreaming is a mostly instrumental album from an artist who “resides in an unknown tropical location,” according to his website, echoing the influence of bossa nova kings Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto. “Lulabye,” the album’s closer, is perfect for watching the sun dip below the clouds at the end of day, no matter if you’re watching it from your ocean view or your office window.

Don Bryant, Don’t Give Up On Love

Singer/songwriter Don Bryant spent his career penning hits for artists like Solomon Burke, Etta James, and, as luck would have it, the classic “I Can’t Stand The Rain” with singer Ann Peebles, who would eventually become his wife. Now, at 74, Bryant has come back strong in front of the microphone, with the soul of a young man and the mind of someone who knows better. On “One Ain’t Enough,” he warns against the peril of maintaining too many romantic entanglements: “One ain’t enough, and two’s too many,” he sings wryly. He gets just as deep on the ballad “First You Cry”—in hearing it, you can almost see him singing the track on one knee in front of scores of fainting women. That’s old school, kids.

Emilee South, Motel

Emilee South might have roots in Australia, but the longing on her EP makes you think Patsy Cline walked into the room. She likes to keep it retro in a doo-wop/early rock ‘n’ roll kinda way, resulting in fun tracks like “My Baby (Don’t Return My Calls)” and the electric-twanged “Howl.” Like similar singers of that era, South has the power to make you feel like you’re right there with her. Music truly is the universal language.

Moonchild, Voyager

There’s a gentility to the voice of Amber Navran that, when blended with the woodwind and keyboard skills of her bandmates Andris Mattson and Max Bryk, you think you’re listening to early ’90s R&B, when a group like SWV ruled the airwaves. From convincing a lover that she’s right for him (“Cure”), to pondering where it all went wrong (“Think Back”), Moonchild runs the gambit of love and romance, emitting a calm resonance through it all. Let Voyager simmer in the background and gently pull you in.

Erin Williams

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