Look up. Is that storm clouds rolling in? So long as the temperature doesn’t drop, there’s nothing like a warm breeze to usher in a summer storm. With Shura, Jordan Rakei, Loyle Carner, Cleo Sol, Joy Crookes, Rhye, Justus West, Raveena, Celeste...and rum!
Grab a tall glass. Fill with ice. Lime slice. Little squeeze. Any mint? Never mind, doesn’t matter. Grab the rum. Double measure. Fill with ginger beer to the top. How you doin’? On time? Find somewhere to sit. Just watch the damned sky. If you were anywhere near the coast, I’d tell you to plan to go for a long swim.
Following Georgia Anne Muldrow’s brooding instrumental soundtrack to our little bit of conspiratorial (yep, that is a word) mixology, we have a jazzy, moody start to the set here, courtesy Mr Twin Sister’s ‘Alien FM’ from their album Salt. Now if you are one of those people who thinks segues don’t matter you can take a longer sip, because the transition to Lolo Zouai’s ‘High Highs to Low Lows’ is what sets the tone for where we’re taking you here.
It struck me, many of the artists on this very latest edition of Dark & Stormy Soul fit a certain bill. It’s not that they are male or female, gay or straight. Not that they are British or American, black or white. What they are, is young, confident, different, and distinctive. And quite possibly not in a hurry. Vital, spirited and at time, downright slow. And a bit moody. Just the perfect soundtrack to staring up at dark clouds rolling in to spoil a summer sky - just because they can.
This might apply to any of the artists we feature on Dark & Stormy 3, from Loyle Carner’s casually expressive conversational rap, to Kelsey Lu’s cello-centric, cinematic pop-soul, to Sheng 33’s lo-fi piano mix that makes such a thrilling interlude, bridging the playlist between a Brit-charged jazzy style to a more transatlantic, slicker affair. This genre - loosely interpreted as it is (‘alternative R&B’, ‘neo soul’, yeah whatever) is the gift that keeps on giving in today’s music landscape.
Take Steve Lacy. Man of the moment in many ways, we just love this track ‘N Side’ and the vibe of it. Bit racy perhaps, but honest, stripped - almost down to lo fi. With a melody as rich as fuck. Touch of the Frank Oceans here to be sure, the kid just seems to sweat good tunes. Are we putting him on a pedestal? No, we are putting him on The Plinth!
From Lacy, we cross the Atlantic for a distinctly British take, imbibing us with a somewhat laid back jazzy feel, starting with Loyle Carner & Tom Misch and ‘Angel’ - a rap that seems to have been written just for Dark & Stormy, right down to the line “pour another glass, knock it back sip another rum”. I do like this fella’s style a lot. Is it possible for rapper to be laconic? Maybe.
Loyle and Tom make up one half of an informal collective - along with New Zealander Jordan Rakei and fellow Londoner Barney Artist. We follow ‘Angel’ with nice tracks from those guys. The more I hear the Barney Artist track ‘Lullaby’ the better I feel. It’s a wonderfully chilled segment. It seemed fitting to come out of this with something similarly jazz influenced, but taking us not just back across the water but in a distinctly more cinematic direction (we can be melodramatic if we need to be) this being Kelsey Lu’s ‘Due West’. Do songs about California come much better than this?
A whole new story unfolds from here - some very modern neo soul from Ari Lennox (Pitchfork described her album Shea Butter as “the healing familiarity of hanging out on the couch commiserating with a best friend”. Perfect for the D&S mood really. And then we’re back into the jazzy, British beatsy soul of Nao.
We could go on, and indeed we do, but you won’t mind the distinctly darker tone taken as we reach the final third of this edition. From the moment Georgia Anne returns with Scrimshire, it feels like it’s going to go darker. Beautiful tracks from Cleo Sol, Aeris Roves, Rhye, Raveena and TSS-regulars Celeste and Joy Crookes.
But stop and listen to that track by Justus West.
This D&S gives us something...different. No room for catalogue classics in this outing (though you might be fooled by the vintage authenticity of Black Puma’s ‘Fire’, or Amahla’s ‘Old Soul’), but a fresh, modern at times jazzy feel. And with some intermittent slow rapping too. Distinctive is our watchword.
In an interview with the Red Bulletin, Tayla Parx (an artist who at 25, has co-written four US top 10 hits including Ariana Grande’s ‘Thank U Next’) but has just released her second album as a solo artist ‘We Need To Talk’, articulated perfectly what uniqueness can mean in today’s industry:
“I don’t mean unique as in its never been done before, rather that its never been done in that way before”.
Quite. After all, no two summer storms are quite the same.
Playback notes: Carefully sequenced. I mean it. Seriously. Pause to pour another rum, take another sip, but don’t even think about hitting skip.
Jordan Rakei’s new album Origin is out. Georgia Anne Muldrow’s album VWETO II is also, just released. Check out the EPs by Justus West, Joy Crookes. And look out for forthcoming albums from Reuben James and Celeste.
Loyle, Tom, Barney, Jordan podcast We Are Live can be found here on Apple podcasts give it a listen!