This second instalment of Dark & Stormy Soul starts off with a bunch of new & recent releases from Celeste, Delacey, Jamila Woods, Cleo Sol, Rayana Jay, D’Angelo et. al. From there, we dive deep into some classic catalogue, in this case something surprising from The Pointer Sisters early years. then Something interesting happens.
Every so often a tune can really get inside you. I’m not talking the proverbial ‘ear worm’ that nags away (more like an earache, usually) but something more akin to a second pulse, pumping through your blood. That happened for me with the opening track to this playlist: Celeste’s Father’s Son. From first hearing the opening bars with that lilting riff (which runs right through the track verse, chorus and all) the song really struck a chord within me. In an interview on Apple’s Beats 1, the Brighton born soul singer said of her songs: “they’re not happy. I feel more inspired by an extreme sad emotion than happiness.” That’s why the song is the perfect opener for this new Dark & Stormy collection.
Regular listeners will know the drill by now. Leave it late, when all work is done, and kick back with this playlist, a mixer and some rum. It’s time to reflect on what might not be going perfectly for one reason (or one person) or another, and to say fuck it all, it’s really not of your making. Instead, let us showcase new tracks in one of modern music’s most fruitful genres, alternative soul and R&B. As usual with Dark & Stormy, we’ll start off with a bunch of new & recent releases, this time from Delacey, Jamila Woods, Cleo Sol, Rayana Jay et. al.
Such is the dominance of the female voice in the genre at the moment, the first male voice we hear on Dark & Stormy Vol. 2 comes some eight tracks in, but then it is D’Angelo. Such is the man’s attention to detail, it’s taken him years to make a new track. Good to know he is speeding things up. After being touched by a genius of the vintage, it seems perfectly fitting from there to dive deep into some classic catalogue, in this case something rather surprising from The Pointer Sisters early years. That takes us into true classics territory with Nina Simone’s iconic rendition of Baltimore (is there any better ode to a crumbling city than this?). From there however, something interesting goes on.
From the outset with Song Sommelier, I wanted to mix-up new music with recent classics and deeper catalogue, as it concerned me how most commercial playlists on streaming services seem to segregate music according to its age. For me this is a limiting approach to discovery, as most fans want to discover something new but also to appreciate the lineage of where that new music comes from. I like the idea of having a track by a brand new talent like Kelsey Lu sitting alongside legends like Nina Simone, just because they deserve each other’s company. Dark & Stormy works perfectly as a vehicle for mixing it up. By the time you’ve passed through D’Angelo’s brooding Unshaken, you’d be forgiven for thinking we are deeply lost in heritage soul, but you’d be quite wrong. Durand Jones And The Indications, Leon Bridges, Lady Wray (our featured cover artist here) are all modern artists making truly classic soul music, homage to the hay days of Motown and Stax, yet somehow modern in its own way. But the dedication to influences is admirable, as is the flight-to-vintage production style, made popular by Amy Winehouse and Mark Ronson. It’s conducive for placing artists like The Ephemerals soul collective right alongside Lee Fields & The Expressions despite them being apart by more than four decades (though Lee Fields is remarkably, still in the game today).
Not until we get to Joy Crookes track Mother May I Sleep With Danger do we begin to come back to the surface of a modern sound, though staying true always to the Dark & Stormy aesthetic. We include new cuts from Anderson.Paak, Ibidio Sound Machine and Solange along with some names you may not know so well: Haute, Tertia May and Song Sommelier regulars VC Pines (see also Alternative Bond Themes) and Kelsey Lu (refer if you will back to D&S Valentines Edition along with her excellent new album Blood – never say new music cannot be original). We finish up with Tel Aviv based artist DORJ who I came across while checking out a more alternative list of artists than you’ll see at this year’s Eurovision (our Alternative Eurovision playlist will leave you much more satisfied so consider DORJ’s Thunder a mere taster). And I wanted to finish off with Andrew Bird’s Bloodless because we are nothing if not open minded in our interpretation of the genre that is soul.
As we consider the winter truly shaken off, we can look forward to sunnier days and sunnier sounds to go with them, so our Dark & Stormy series will take a break until the nights draw in once more. Instead, our more uplifting Funk & Soul series will be under way shortly, and we have a new Soul Chart collaboration that’s very exciting too. Until then, you know what to do.
Playback notes: So carefully scheduled as to be a sin to shuffle but a far worse one to skip ;)
The upcoming D’Angelo documentary Devil’s Pie, directed by Carine Bijlsma is showing at the Tribeca Film Festival