Hailing from the small village of Vittangi in the northernmost part of Sweden, is Yajna. A singer, sportsperson, and businesswoman, who has tried her hand at many careers, but always gone back to her ultimate passion – music.
Having grown up surrounded by music, her mother being a composer and organist in the local church, Yajna starting writing songs of her own from a young age, as well as becoming a star soloist for the local choir. However, in her teenage years, her talents saw her embark on a snowboarding career, going as far as to start her own company INACTION.
But in 2018, Yajna finally decided to follow her heart, to become a music artist. Her debut single, Natten Lång, was a storm of success across Swedish radio, but London was the place she found her true sound. It was there she recorded her recent trilogy, The Rising Phoenix, an epic and dreamy mix of soul and RnB.
The trilogy features singles ‘You Are Beatiful‘, ‘Femenomenal‘, and title-track ‘The Rising Phoenix‘. The songs take you on a journey through Yajna‘s life, from the ashes of her lowest moments, to her emergence from the fire. Ultimately, wishing to spread a message of hope, love and power.
Rising from a life that is nothing short of remarkable, Estelle California is a new soul singer who literally puts a piece of her soul into every song. Hailing from France, following the trauma of her fractured and abusive childhood, Estelle suppressed many memories to try and move on.
Estelle had found that she had lost her identity. The only thing she felt gave her freedom singing and creating music. Estelle felt herself drawn further and further away from Paris, the place that held so many dark memories for her. She travelled Africa and found herself fascinated, she was connected to the people and culture there.
The black community became something extremely important to Estelle, especially considering that she grew up in a family and a community that was profoundly racist – something that Estelle condemns and is now a passionate advocate for black rights, which is something that inspires a lot of her music!
Releasing her new single ‘Black Is The True Light’, the song is a tribute to the African American and African communities around the world who have constantly battled against division and hatred. Estelle;
“This song is the biggest love song I could have ever dreamed to have,” Estelle says. “It is my love, purpose and my duty to shine the black glory and the light of resilience that comes out of the darkness”.
Estelle’s forthcoming EP, My Name is Freedom, sees her backed by legendary producer and drummer Narada Michael Walden (Whitney Houston; Mariah Carey; Lionel Richie); ace guitarist Vernon “Ice” Black (Diana Ross, Anastacia; Babyface); James Henry and veteran vocalists Larry Batiste, Cornell Carter and Tony Lindsay.
Not many artists can say they’ve outsold legendary acts such as Earth, Wind & Fire, except for Canada’s own Crack of Dawn who are back with Spotlight, featuring a collection of classic tracks.
With other titles such as being the first black band to be signed to a major label (CBS) as well as being picked up by Otis Redding’s producer, Crack of Dawn were anticipated for bigger things, though word from them remained quiet… until now.
Returning with a selection of re-recorded classics from the band as well as some new tracks, Crack of Dawn’s Spotlight is an authentic return to the classic funk and soul sounds of their era.
The overarching theme of the album seems to be nostalgia and sentimentality, what Spotlight does exceedingly well is maintain an authentic sound throughout; it does not do anything out of the ordinary and the album is actually not that adventurous – and that’s fine.
For funk fans, there is something for everyone, from the strong Stevie Wonder vibes on one of the lead tracks ‘Booby Ruby’ to the falsetto vocals on ‘Keep the Faith’ that allude to a sound similar to what the Ohio Players had on their album Honey.
The album opens up strong with the classic and unmistakable funk sounds, ‘Crack of Dawn’ does a great job in laying out what the band is capable of, from the jazz inclined funk virtuosity to the soaring synth melodies and strong bass grooves. The first four tracks of the album maintain that uplifting funk quality as seen with their contemporaries, what Spotlight manages to capture in the earlier parts of the album are different flavors of funk from their era, ‘Somebody’s Watching’ features almost a 1970s “cop-drama” tonality to it with the wah-heavy guitars with a catchy descending riff during the chorus.
Halfway through the album with ‘It’s alright’ changes the pace with an authentic funk ballad that heavily enforces the theme of sentimentality and nostalgia throughout the album. The theme reaches its pinnacle with the track ‘Ol’ Skool’ which sounds like it could have come straight out of the late 70s, the track also pays homage to their contemporaries through the years within the lyrical content, ‘Ol’ Skool’ comes across as a a labor of love and defines the bands mission.
Whilst the album remains authentic to its sound and doesn’t deviate from its purpose, its biggest flaw is the length in which the album tends to latch on to the sentimental ballad sounds. Tracks five through to nine are all sentimental ballads with only slight variations on how they approach the stereotypical funk-ballad sounds, and whilst the dynamics of the album are thoroughly consistent, by track nine the ballads become exhausting, despite how well they are crafted. With only one track left of the album there is very little opportunity to pick up from where the album started.
‘Changes’, the final track finally picks up the pace and invokes a big finale to the album, bringing it back to the big, groovy funk tracks that started the album and brings a full circle to what the band can do.
Spotlight is a great album because it’s an authentic return to funk. In a time where experimentation is key to surviving in the music world, it’s nice to hear something new and modern that throws the listener back to the 1970’s and the dawn of funk. Spotlight is not adventurous and doesn’t do anything out of the ordinary, and that’s okay – because it’s a nostalgic throwback to the times where they outsold Earth, Wind & Fire. It’s the bands opportunity to reminisce the good old days.
You can keep up to date with Crack of Dawn and purchase the latest album by following their social network links below;
What do you get when you combine the immaculate harmonies of the Ohio Players and the easy-listening soul of Lionel Richie? Lawrence Preston.
San Francisco Bassist and vocalist Lawrence Preston delves into a throwback of the funk and soul peaks with his single ‘Something For You.’
The track features a combination of influences and styles that will be sure to catch anybodies ear and peak interest, from smooth gospel-like harmonies, to jazz flavorings on the bass (in the same way contemporaries such as Thundercat) the song is a fresh and modern take on a cemented genre.
An artist can take a genre and reinvent it by putting their own mark on it, but where ‘Something For You’ shines is the authenticity to modern music, it deserves in place alongside the contemporaries – with influences from the original days of funk with the guitar licks, all the way to early 2000’s soulful RnB love croon, the track is a collective of Lawrence’s influence and proves that he has honed his craft.
However, whilst the track stands alongside contemporaries, it’s also a very familiar sound, for right and wrong reasons – it’s not going to alienate fans of the genre, the sound or Lawrence’s music anytime soon, yet I feel like I’ve heard it all before, it doesn’t achieve much in terms of shock and awe, bar a few tasty bass licks thrown in every now and then, which shows off some of Lawrence’s virtuoso tendencies.
‘Something For You’ is a track that not only shares passion that Lawrence has for his craft, but also shows the skill that Lawrence has as a musician; a man of influence.
‘Something For You’ is available now, you can grab the track on the links below as well as keep up to date with Lawrence Preston on his social network links;
Canada’s answer to Earth, Wind & Fire; Crack of Dawn are preparing to step back into the ‘Spotlight’ with the upcoming release of their new single.
The track ‘Spotlight’ is a reflective return to the band after a period of absence, with melodic, soulful vibes in a modern take.
The band hold the mantle of being one of the first black bands to be signed to a major label (CBS) and outsold their funky contemporaries; Earth, Wind & Fire.
The new track ‘Spotlight’ is a ballad through & through, it’s a safe comeback and yet a sentimental sound that ticks all the right boxes.
The aesthetic is laid as soon as the rolling drums hits the first beat, along with the chunky sounding guitar coupled with a faint “siren-like” synth playing a counter melody alongside the the repeated opening phrase.
The song then goes straight into the nostalgic sounding soul-ballad, held by a strong vocal performance and with stops to keep the listener on their toes, adding dynamic flair.
As with virtuoso soul/funk artists, the harmonies are impeccable, keeping that notorious smooth texture; with a belted main vocal being supported by harmonies that present no flaw.
‘Spotlight’ is Crack of Dawn’s attempt at standing on it’s own two feet, in a world of neo-soul and the evolution of classic genres, ‘Spotlight’ proves that Crack of Dawn’s modern evolution of their sound can stand up in the funk & soul scene of today, and this track is assurance to the fans that they’ve still got what it takes.
‘Spotlight’ is out on the 19th of November, you can keep up to date with the band on their social networks below;
It is with great pleasure that I get to write about Neethusha, a singer-songwriter from Kerala, South India, who’s new single ‘Why Did I Lose You’ tugs gently on the heartstrings right from the get go. No stranger to hardship, Neethusha fought against her conservative surroundings to pursue a career in music, her lifelong passion, pushed by an enduring voice in her head telling her not to back down.
This is not her first experience of the music industry however as Neethusa learnt her craft singing in the band Steroegum in her hometown on Kerala, and was featured on Kappa TV. Her achievements don’t stop there though as she also performed at the Facebook India Show and Femina Style Diva in 2015, garnering her a lot of solid experience and exposure.
With flavours of Coldplay and Savage Garden, ‘Why Did I Lose You’ is a heartfelt ballad about heartbreak and self reconciliation that offers a nuanced and poetic look into what it is to lose someone you love. Her vocal delivery is flawless, reminiscent of greats like Shania Twain and Celine Dion and sung with a rawness that is seldom heard these days in a world of overproduced, plastic pop music. Neethusa is definitely one to watch and her captivating, culturally diverse sound should most definitely stand the test of time!
Coined as a “Dark Soul” artist, J.J Leone prepares for an October release of his new single ‘Reload’.
Already selling out the legendary Ronnie Scott’s, J.J is also championing a unique style, ‘Reload’ is a sound that is both contemporary yet refreshing to the R&B and Soul genres.
‘Reload’ features melancholic vibes that are becoming more and more prominent in contemporary pop music today, following the likes of Lana Del Rey and The Weeknd. Featuring croon-styled vocals, and an electronic backing.
What differentiates J.J is the song being led by the guitar – allowing for the cross-genre compatibility between his soul driven sound and recent post noughties indie textures such as The XX.
Whilst the tune has its comparisons with other pop contemporaries and artists who have followed suit with electronics mixed with instrumentation, the track does indeed hold well on its own, and importantly suits the contemporary music climate.
The songs structure sets the dynamics and feel of the song incredibly well, a strong crescendo element to the composition; J.J spaces out his resources well and does not go in with all guns blazing – creating more of an impact, and even though the conclusive guitar solo does feel slightly out of place upon the first couple of listens, and a breakdown may have potentially been more favourable, I feel it’s an appropriate risk and concludes the song in a gripping manner.
What ‘Reload’ does splendidly is capture the growing melancholic atmosphere that some R&B and Pop artists are incorporating into their work and putting a familiar yet original spin on it, creating a more accessible & enjoyable form of the sound.
‘Reload’ is out on October the 6th and is available to pre-order now. To keep up to date with J.J Leone and his upcoming release check out his social media pages below.
Jak Chantler of former Kerrang’s ‘Best Unsigned Band’ Kingskin is prepare for the launch of his new project Short Sharp Scratch, with the release of ‘Shell Suit’ and the upcoming EP of the same name.
With Short Sharp Scratch, Chantler is stepping away from the alternative rock sounds of Kingskin and has crafted a soulful pop sound that juxtaposes his last musical outfit.
Writing new tunes since before Kingskins break-up, Chantler has also enjoyed success working alongside Charlie Andrew of Alt J and Madness fame and has also had high profile guitar performances in front of the likes of James Corden, Rick Astley & Gordon Ramsey.
With ‘Shell Suit’, Chantler has crafted a sound that is initially a throwback to the classic soulful-funky sound of the 70’s and 80’s akin to Chaka Khan. Yet the song instantly finds its place among recent pop classics such as Childish Gambino and his latest release to the likes of indie-pop sounds from Haim.
The engaging instrumental is accompanied by powerful vocals that really drive the soul of the song home whilst giving it a contemporary touch.
The song is a charming nostalgia trip to fans of the party anthems of old yet is also a fresh re-imagining with a modern take; yet the song remains authentic both the soul and pop influences of this track.
Whilst the track & EP releases next month, you can check out a teaser in the form of a live performance at Abbey Road here;
Short Sharp Scratch’s debut EP Shell Suit releases on the 15th of September, for now you can keep up to date with Short Sharp Scratch on the social network links below;
For Wyclef Jean protégé and R&B artist ImSoMaleek – 2017 could be a pivotal year with the U.K release of InsomniaK, carrying the torch for the new wave of Neo-Soul and a melodic memoir of new tracks.
One of these new tracks on the album is ‘Baby it’s You’ which features Bronx-born hip hop artist Denzil Porter; who contributes with a verse for the melodic croon.
With its noticeable influences, the song is able to stand on its own and shines alongside contemporary artists such as Frank Ocean. Accessibility to ImSoMaleek’s music ranges from the likes of the Drake side of current hip-hop to the Robert Glasper side of R&B, whilst maintaining a pop factor.
Songs on InsomniaK including ‘Baby it’s You’ feature an intricately thought out instrumental and soaring vocal melodies. With his previous experience in big time productions and his reflective and personal approach to InsomniaK, it’s no surprise that ImSoMaleek was able to produce a big sounding ballad such as ‘Baby it’s You’.
‘Baby it’s You’ is introduced with a “smooth-jazz” chord progression, and instantly sets the mood for the sentimental ballad. With an apparent homage towards predecessors of the genre from the early “noughties” such as Usher & Ne-Yo, with the soulful and melodic vocal style to the backing vocals which are very reminiscent of the aforementioned influences.
The lyrical content is endearing and stylistically recognizable to R&B fans both old and new. ImSoMaleek has executed a tasteful love song, that bursts with emotion, and Denzil Porters contribution to the song is also consistent to the lyrical theme and provides to the song.
ImSoMaleek’s new album InsomniaK is set to be released 21/07/17 in the U.K. For now you can check out ‘Baby it’s You’ here;
Les Kirsh is an artist that you might consider the ultimate songwriter: he’s dabbled in a host of different genres during his many years of penning songs, but on thing has always stayed the same, and that’s Les’ passion for soul music, where his roots lie.
Back in the 70s, Les was inches away from becoming a big name when a car crash sadly put his career on hold. It’s only now, several decades later, that Les has returned to being a singer, releasing three old tracks that have been remastered and modernized by the talented producer, Andy Whitmore.
One of those tracks is ‘Say’; possibly the most soul-esque of the three tracks. A delicate string track opens the song before making way for a simple guitar sequence that sits comfortably underneath Les’ powerful vocals. Soulful backing vocals add another layer of texture, contrasting Les’s voice with a gentle swoon.
Whilst much can be said for Andy Whitmore, re-working the track to fit a modern audience, this would be doing Les an injustice who examples some of his best, most effective song writing. It’s simple, but this is what works best about it – soul is truly at the heart of this track and Les doesn’t buy into any of the gimmicks. It’s no wonder that Kirsh labels his style as ‘modern soul’.
Not only this, but it’s a groove heavy that’ll have you tapping your feet and maybe even having a little dance in the kitchen. Don’t be embarrassed. You know you want to.