Tuesday 29 December 2020


Continuing our week-long celebration of the fantastic music 2020 gifted us with, the bumper 3 hour episode of Nu-Skool Soul that aired Tuesday 22nd December featured Imran Mirza's picks from the worlds of R&B, neo-, nu- & alt-soul.

'The Comedown' by Chance Hayden featuring Sarah Clarke [Atlanta Records]

Hailing from Portland, Oregon, guitarist and producer Chance Hayden released his album 'Grab & Go' in November of this year which was a project spearheaded earlier in the year by the brilliant single 'The Comedown'.  What would be the only vocal track on the project, Clarke makes a standout appearance which certainly leaves you wanting more from the collaboration but still left with an excellent single and album.  Hayden has such an extensive career in music - from past releases 'Get Somethin' (2018) and 'The Family Tree' (2013) to having toured and performed with Lindsey Webster and Jarrod Lawson - and 'Grab & Go' is reflective of Hayden's years of experience and expertise and everything that has brought Hayden to the dance.

The Soul Sound Collective

What an incredible year for our friends, The Soul Sound Collective.  This year has seen the group release the Kyra Simone assisted single 'Love Is Real' as well as a further three EPs including instalments #2 and #3 of their 'Music & Minds' series along with the EP 'An Experimental Journey' which sees the collective steer their music into slightly more alternative sonic soundscapes.  Comprised of multi-instrumentalist and producer, Craig Sims, and backed by frequent Collective players bassist Tim Higgins and guitarist Simon Lee, The Soul Sound Collective always boast luscious compositions that showcase the myriad of influences permeating through their distinctive blend of instrumental soul music.

'Misunderstood' by Georgie Sweet
[Futuristica Music]

Georgie Sweet's 'Misunderstood' is a versatile, confident and self-assured album serving as a genuine highlight for an already fantastic year in music for Futuristica.  The boundless talents of Georgie Sweet have actually been bubbling away on Futuristica for a couple of years now so the arrival of 'Misunderstood' would surely excite those completely taken in by the personality exuded by Sweet's incredible vocal.  Boasting a dream team of Futuristica talent on production duties: Simon S, Marc Rapson, Mecca:83, K15 and Theo Howarth... all masterful producers and music-makers in their own right and each with incredibly distinctive and varying styles but Sweet proves to be the project's anchor in every way - able to successfully adapt when needed to through her natural versatility as a vocalist, creative penmanship and overall presentation which make her such a natural fit for Futuristica. 

'3 Years' (Live Version) by Corey King [Def Pressé]

Originally having found a home on the full-length release 'A Loveless Sunken Sun' (2019), the singer, songwriter, producer and musician Corey King unveils an invigorated new version of the incredibly poignant track through the awesome hip-hop label, Def Pressé.  A song written from his own teenage perspective of witnessing his brother be sent to prison for three years and having to subsequently deal with the impact that would have on his mother.

'Chapters' by Yazmyn Hendrix

Yazmyn's incredible talent as a singer, songwriter and performer couldn't be over-stated.  Even just a quick skim through the music available via her YouTube channel showcases some of her excellent songs but also boasts a fantastic selection of her live performances that really demonstrate her distinct and unique brilliance.  Yazmyn's six-track EP, 'Chapters', boasts an excellent collection of versatile numbers, bolstered by the awesome single 'Fate' which comfortably finds itself a home within some of our favourites from the year's releases.

'Ten Thousand Rayguns' by ILL DOOTS

Although we have singled out this awesome single release from the Philadelphia-based hip-hop collective, their year delivered some incredible projects that frankly all warrant mentioning.  From this year's releases 'The Mess' and 'Age', the commitment put forward by ILL DOOTS to continually reinvent themselves and adapt to the environment around them has proved a staple for the band.  Never content to linger within one style or lane, the band seem to find an impressive ease in being able to push their music into new directions, perhaps challenging themselves to deliver in ways people wouldn't expect them to.  'Ten Thousand Rayguns' saw vocalist Elle.Morris take centre stage in a genuinely thrilling reinvention of what we had come to expect from ILL DOOTS's music incorporating more elements of synthy electronic R&B bliss into their mix. 

'Inner Journey' by As Valet
[A Night on Canopy]

Marking his third solo project, Cris "As Valet" Davidas delves even further into the themes explored by his previous outings - 'Primitive' (2010) and that album's follow-up 'A.K.W.A.' (2016) - with 'Inner Journey' serving as something of a spiritual reconnection to Davidas's roots in the Caribbean island of La Martinique.  As in most great stories, the spoils aren't always found in the destination but in the journey itself.  And the deeply personal journey being recounted over the course of this album's fifteen tracks is in fact an absolute joy.  Former Electric Conversation collaborator LaNote guests on two of the album's tracks nicely setting the stage for her own full-length album release due in 2021, produced by As Valet.

'See in the Dark' by Deborah Jordan [Futuristica Music]

Jordan's third solo album came after a considerable gap since 'What You See' in 2011.  And even though the years in between were continually productive - with numerous guest appearances for artists ranging from the late, great, rapper Ty to vocalist Malena Pérez and producer As Valet, as well as helping to mentor the next wave of Futuristica talent - Deborah Jordan taking centre-stage is absolutely her rightful place.  Brought to life by a dream team of Futuristica affiliates including production from label founder Simon S, Marc Rapson, K15, Mecca:83 and Tris Browne, the album boasts varied musical soundscapes like the sweet R&B of 'You Should Know', the broken beat inspiration of 'Stay With You' and 'Horizon', the harder-edged beats of 'Machine' and, of course, the album's phenomenal lead single, 'I'll See You Again'.

'Fantasies' by Freya Roy featuring Maya Law [FCR Records]

Last year proved to be an exceptional breakout year for the multi-talented Freya Roy.  The release of her debut, self-produced album, 'AHLKE', saw Roy credited throughout as the writer, composer and producer of a project released through her own FCR label.  With its neo-soul-inspired aesthetic, and bolstered by the brilliant single 'Midnight Train', the project showcased Roy's neo-soul-inspired and infectious grooves to a warm reception.  Partnering with vocalist Maya Law (herself riding high this year with the release of her own excellent singles this year 'Tired' and 'Say It Ain't So'), the duo seek to carve a new path into the realms of future soul while still clinging to their own musical sensibilities.  

Leona Berlin

The immeasurably talented singer, songwriter and producer, Leona Berlin, unveiled a staggering four singles in 2020 all in anticipation to the follow-up to her 2018 self-titled album release.  And based on the quality of the singles 'Feminine Energy', 'Cage', 'Wrong Turn' and 'Rest in My Arms', the new album will delight as much as its predecessor did.  With a healthy amount of contributions on production and drumming duties from the equally boundless talents of Magro, anticipation also remains high for the eventual release of his own full-length as well.

Paul "PVIBEZ" Morgan

An artist doing the unexpected is always a pleasure to watch.  When discussing Morgan's past Vibezlab Sessions II project, we noted the genuine charm about his character that endears him to music lovers - his consistent desire to improve, to try new things and go in new directions is all inspired by his unwavering devotion towards his heroes.  This year saw Morgan unveil 'X-Perimental Mass' - a left-field project for an artist whose efforts are usually more synonymous with contemporary R&B, the resulting 'X-Perimental Mass' is a bold statement of intent and declaration of Morgan's indelible talents.  Certainly a project he should boast with pride as it displays a real creative peak.  On that note, the single 'Spread Love', released just at the close of the year, delivered with more archetypal "PVIBEZ" flare and was a real treat to hear.

'Still Water' by Nathan Thomas [Futuristica Music]

The debut album from the indelible talents of singer, songwriter and musician, Nathan Thomas, could respectively be described as long overdue; thankfully though this year did see Thomas able to present his vision of contemporary R&B over the course of the album's ten tracks that really serve as a wonderful introduction to the artist and his talent.  With production on the album handled by two of Futuristica's sonic architects in Simon S and Mark Rapson, the music throughout runs the gamut of contemporary soul from the quintessential R&B stylings of 'Resilience' and 'Namaste', to the future soul aesthetic of 'Sunblind' and the hip-hop-inspired compositions exemplified by tracks like 'Manifest' and the album's title track.

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