2011 was just yet another year that independent Soul Music simply exploded. Continuing with the best of the year, here are my selections for the best of what you got to pay for in 2011. See my entire playlist on Spotify here.
In order of favoritism:
#1 Malice & Mario Sweet – Happy 2 Year Deluxe Edition (Bandcamp – $5.99)
One of the best bangs for the buck and a record I was pretty much obsessed with for the entire year. If you can find it, there is a free version of this record around, but I wholeheartedly recommend you shell out the meager 6 bucks and get the bonus material of the Deluxe Edition. These guys are ones to watch in 2012.
#2 Tracy Cruz – Universoul Symphony (Amazon – $8.99)
Tracy’s sophomore effort was simply a masterpiece. I was impressed by the sheer amount of thought, originality, passion and vocal talent that went into this record. It gets my vote for the best songwriting of the year, and I really think the mainstream Soul blogs really missed out on highlighting this record more than they did.
#3 Deborah Bond – Madam Palindrome (iTunes – $9.99)
You’ll notice a significant theme in 2011: Women dominated. Deborah Bond’s “Madam Palindrome” ran neck and neck with the Tracy Cruz record for my favorite spots. It was really difficult choosing a favorite. Bond does have the distinction of having my favorite music video of the year, “You Are The One.”
#4 Michelle Shaprow – Purple Skies (iTunes – $9.99)
I’ve been singing Michelle’s praises since late 2010. So it’s not surprising that “Purple Skies” is still dominating the iTunes music charts in Japan, maintaining the #1 spot. With a new publishing deal with BMG, it’s just a matter of time before she blows up stateside.
#5 Alabama Shakes – Alabama Shakes EP (Bandcamp – $4)
Man, this one came out of nowhere. Who’da though one of my favorite records of the year would be a Roots Rock album? This quartet is quickly gaining serious heat and buzz nationwide. This record is like hearing Janis Joplin and Otis Redding’s lovechild. Solid Southern Rock & Soul.
If you know anything about me, you know I like well-crafted live Soul music. Weeland & the Urban Soul Collective has that great combination that takes me back to groups like The Brand New Heavies, Repercussions and The Brooklyn Funk Essentials.
#7 Paris Toon – Baptism By Fire (Bandcamp – $10)
I’ve known Paris since the old original MP3.com days, and his band, Mothers Favorite Child, has always cranked out top-notch material. So it was a great surprise to see him using the band to highlight his own compositions. This record has some powerhouse musical and vocal performances in it. My only potential gripe with this recording is that some of the songs sound edited short. I would have loved to have heard the full version of all these songs.
#8 zebrahim – in my heart i am (Bandcamp – $1)
Ebrahim definitely made his presence known in the past year. Not only with this release, but his two-album project from late 2010. There’s something in the water in Toronto that is cranking out fantastic indie Soul. And at only one dollar, this record is a steal.
#9 Diggs Duke – Gravity (Bandcamp – 99¢)
By far, however, for my vote of the best 99¢ you’ll spend all year goes to Diggs Duke’s “Gravity.” Chock full of thoughful songwriting, excellent production and superb vocal execution, this is a must-have for your 2011 collection.
#10 Anthony Hamilton – Back To Love (Amazon – $9.99)
The Dark Horse of the year. I hardly expected this record, which came out so late in the year, to be one of my favorites. But Anthony Hamilton upped his game even further with the amazing songs a vocal performances in “Back to Love,” inching his way into my Top Ten.
Honorable Mention (Google these!)
Miles Bonny – Lumberjack Soul
Wildcookie – Cookie Dough
Eric Roberson – Mr. Nice Guy
Jamie Woon – Mirrorwriting
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