A wrap up of the best funk, soul and general feel-good tracks of the year.
Hello again friends, freaks and fans of future-jazz.
All year 45 RPM has been busting its right bollock to bring you the very best in new #FutureJazz music. But what if you only became a member of the jazzministration part way through the year? How would you catch up on all the great tunes you had hitherto missed out on?
Well, you could simply subscribe to the Spotify Playlist and listen to the tracks at your leisure, of course. But if you need a little more structured guidance (and, Lord knows, we all do every once in a while), I’ve selected the 11 tracks from each ‘genre’ that have stuck with me most as time has passed.
I’ll be releasing one list per week from now until the end of the year so keep checking back to read them all.
Why 11, you say? Why not 10? Well, friends, it’s because I can’t just punish the long-term readers by just recycling the same old shit I wrote earlier in the year (which, let’s face it, is the whole lazy point of these round-up articles). So I’ve picked my Top 10 and then, as a little bonus, I’ve added one great track from the ‘genre’ that I just simply missed upon its release that I’ve subsequently grown to love.
So enough of me wimbling on. Here – ranked in order of preference with my favourites at the end to keep you reading all the way to the bottom – are my Top 11 Charm Offensives of the year.
Prepare to get fonky.
11. SWINDLE: COMING HOME
Ah, the first of our new entries. Swindle and (his guest on this track) Kojey Radical have both had quite the year. Doubtless propelled by this favourable review of the duo’s track Water in May 2018, Producer Swindle ended up having a track used on an Apple commercial (and went appropriately intergalactic as a result). Meanwhile, Radical emerged from a two-year fog of mental illness with the triumphant Can’t Go Back. Their own individual albums, No More Normal and Cashmere Tears respectively have garnered adulation aplenty and revolutions galore in 45 RPM HQ.
Coming Home started it all off though – a horns-heavy salute to self-belief and stoicism in the face of adversity. “Many don’t make it where I come from / I think we should make a toast” says Radical in the chorus. And I, for one, will drink to that.
Check out the video below:
10. MANU KATCHÉ: KEEP CONNEXION
The Godfather of French drumming wizardry, Manu Katché released Keep Connexion in February 2019. Ostensibly, a straight funk groove, its master-stroke was the introduction of a koto part way through; a combination that’s pretty rare just about anywhere.
In my original review of Keep Connexion, I called the track a “melodically fantastic, superbly-crafted pop song… by some distance, [one of] the smartest charm offensive tracks I’ve reviewed in some time, all without losing any of [its] swagger.”
Hear more here…
09. DADDY: DADDY-ESQUE
A bunch of cheeky lads from Liverpool? Well, that never happens does it? I suppose Scouse lads are known for having a few tricks up their shell-suit-clad sleeves (just ask Barcelona’s defence) but in 2019 Daddy weresomething else.
In my original review of Daddy-esque, I said that the band were “fast overtaking chlamydia as the very definition of the word ‘infectious’” adding that the song is “actually a really tight, really accomplished funk track that’s overflowing with charm and just the right amount of chaos.”
Watch the band’s shopping centre-filmed video below >>
08. RAPHAEL SAADIQ: SOMETHING KEEPS CALLING
Don’t mistake this track’s laid-back groove for being an indication of a sunny disposition. As was made abundantly clear when Raphael Saadiq released album, Jimmy Lee in August, the whole LP was an exercise in exorcism, grinding out the demons of his brother’s drug addiction and exploring its effect on all around him. But that didn’t mean you couldn’t nod your head in appreciation of Saadiq’s chops on this particular song.
In my original review of Something Keeps Calling, I enjoyed how the track was “sparse in arrangement, with notes played only when they’re absolutely necessary” adding “The sweet falsetto in the chorus is spot on – as is the tasteful fuzz on Rob “Fonksta” Bacon’s guitar solo later in the piece.”
Watch the official music video >>
07. TAYLOR McFERRIN: NOW THAT YOU NEED ME
…Another one that hides a deep sadness under the sort of vibe you’d like to ride down the highway in a convertible to. McFerrin, himself, said of this song upon its release that it’s “all about giving up on the dreams of the person you’re in a relationship with. But I wrote it like it was a letter I came home to, with someone giving up on me.”
In my original review of Now That You Need Me, I picked out the “hazy synth chords, lo-fi drums and spacious bass part” as particular highlights.
Hear more here >>
06. BRYONY JARMAN-PINTO: SUN KISSED
Probably the Summer-iest track on this list, Bryony Jarman-Pinto really warmed us up and chilled us out when she dropped this one in June.
In my original review of Sun Kissed, I noted how it’s “full of Palladino-like bass noodlings and ?uesto-style cross-stick snares” adding that “it really could be an outtake from Baduizm or D’Angelo’s Voodoo – except that a track this fly could never have fallen anywhere near the cutting-room floor.”
Watch the cinematic, wide-screen music video >>
05. HUMAN BLOOM: CAPILLARY
I’ve still yet to see a smile in 2019 as infectious as Human Bloom singer Imani Rousselle’s. I’ve also yet to hear a vocal run I like as much as the one that she does several times here (though kitti’s runs on corto.alto’s Better are a good second).
In my original review of Capillary, I opined that, if you didn’t feel similarly affectionate of said elements you must be “an inanimate object with no brain, heart, emotions or musical appreciation. You’re probably a wardrobe, in fact. In which case, kudos for being able to at least read this blog.”
See the band perform the track for their Tiny Desk Contest entry >>
04. DAYMÉ AROCENA: PARA EL AMOR: CANTAR!
I love this track. I mean, I really love this track. But the reason Daymé Arocena is as high on this list as she is is because of the incredible wall-to-wall quality of the entire album from which this song comes, Sonocardiogram.
In my original review of Para El Amor: Cantar! I said of said album; “she has delivered something that twins the ambition of Esperanza Spalding with the melodic prowess of Melody Gardot and the sheer, raw power of Aretha Franklin. It is, frankly, breath-taking.”
Watch a promo video for the album, which prominently features …Cantar! >>
03. NUBIYAN TWIST: SUGAR CANE
…And yet another song that has no doubt been elevated somewhat up the list due to the stunning album that accompanied it. Kids, if you’re after one LP to put on your Christmas list, you’ll not go far wrong with the ‘Twist’s Jungle Run.
In my original review of Sugar Cane, I called it a “dynamically-imposing, rhythmically intimidating siren of a track that lulls you in with treacly-sweet melodies, only to start tossing you around on choppy, syncopated waves of Brazilian percussion.”
For a bit of a change, it’s well worth watching the below video in which the Capital Orchestra cover the track, a performance which prompted Nubiyan’s own trumpeter, Jonathan Enser to comment; “Thanks for doing such a good job guys, an honour to have our music played by full orchestra!” >>
02. ANDERSON .PAAK: KING JAMES
Long-time 45 favourite, Anderson “Best Teef in the Game” .Paak released album Ventura in 2019 – mere months after previous LP, Oxnard, dropped to – honestly – disappointing reviews. This track was the first taster from it and signalled an instant return to form with the rapper/drummer/frontman adding ‘top-notch lyricist’ to his list of epithets.
In my original review of King James, I said the LeBron-checking track “took [.Paak] to new heights. Heights that few musicians ever reach in my estimation. Heights that even a 6ft 7¼ basketball player would struggle to scale.”
Watch .Paak and his Free Nationals backing band perform the track on BBC Radio 1Xtra’s Live Lounge >>
01. EZRA COLLECTIVE: SÃO PAOLO
They had to win one of these genres, didn’t they? This was the year that Ezra went interstellar, not just because Femi appears to be the nicest bloke in the world, not simply because the rest of the band have appeared as guests and frontmen in their own right on about 50 other tracks I’ve reviewed on the blog this year… but because they seemed to single-handedly make jazz cool again with their infectious afrobeat rhythms and sharp matching suits.
In my original review of São Paolo, I said, “Listen to the way drummer and band-leader Femi Koleoso mischievously comes in with his snare on the off-beat of each bar. Observe the zest with which the horns section of Dylan Jones and James Mollison attack those stabs. Saviour the gleeful running up and down the keyboard from Joe Armon-Jones during his solo. It is, to steal Led Zeppelin’s fabled phrase, the living, breathing – nay, gasping – spirit of “tight but loose”.”
Hear more here >>
So there you have it, friends; the first in a five-week wrap up of the year.
You can listen to these Top 11 Charm Offensives on the below specially compiled Spotify playlist just for you.
Check back next week when I’ll be revealing my Top 11 Military Coup choices.
If you like what you hear (or even if you don’t), please engage in dialogue with me @45rpm_Reviews on Twitter. And, if you’d like to receive updates weekly, please subscribe to the email list to get these recommendations sent to your inbox weekly.
– SV –