Best Rising Soul Acts
Neo-soul might not be as neo as the genre’s title would suggest, as soul music has thankfully never really gone out of style, but here are some of the top young acts that have produced some of the best and most refreshing music that have permeated the charts over the last few years, joining soul music veterans like Raphael Saadiq and Sharon Jones.
Allen Stone – Chewelah, Washington is not exactly renowned for its music scene, but Allen Stone may be in the process of changing that. Stone has a rare vocal prowess and enjoyable feel for music that one doesn’t find every day. With two records under his belt, Stone is set to embark on a brief tour with Daryl Hall and Sharon Jones this spring that is likely to be a must-see show. Best Finger-Snapping Song: “Say So”
Mayer Hawthorne – The Detroit DJ-turned-frontman released his terrific second album last fall, which contained a collection of hook-filled hits like “No Strings” and “The Walk.” Hawthorne also produced the best unofficial halftime show of 2011, running a show from his parent’s home counter to counter Nickelback’s much-maligned Thanksgiving Day performance in the Motor City. Best Hometown Nod: “Long Time”
Diane Birch – Birch’s 2009 debut LP Bible Belt is the perfect match of a singer-songwriter who sings with an air of soul. Birch’s third record, which is yet to be titled, is in the works and with luck will hit sometime in mid-2012. Most Enjoyable Tracks: “Nothing But A Miracle,” “Fire Escape.”
Fitz and the Tantrums – The best of the bunch, Los Angelinos Fitz and the Tantrums are a six-piece kinetic bundle of soul, groove, and sweat. Their 2010 debut full-length, Pickin’ Up the Pieces, is captivating from start to finish, with no let down at any point in the record. Keyed by the interplay between co-vocalists Michael Fitzpatrick and Noelle Scaggs, their live performances, like the one Long After Dark witnessed in November (link), are incredible. See this band in concert (they never seem to stop touring) and you will not regret a single dime spent. Most Unique Covers: “Steady As She Goes,” “Sweet Dreams.”
Alabama Shakes – The Alabama Shakes have yet to release an album, as their full-length debut Boys & Girls still remains in the queue until April 10, but the Athens, Alabama quartet has already generated considerable buzz. Fronted by the captivating stage persona of Brittany Howard, the Alabama Shakes pack energy and soul into their live performances to justify the hype. Tracks That Serve Notice: “You Ain’t Alone,” “Hold On.”