Retro #3 – Underground Soul Music

The soul genre is often considered to be something of the past, but that clearly isn’t true, considering how much it’s influenced many other modern music styles. If you know where to look, there are plenty of awe-inspiring underground artists and bands within the genre, making powerful music that really hits you in the heart. Every artist on this list is worthy of your appreciation – you can also find a full playlist at the end of this review!

Review by Jane Howkins

Photo by Alan Dreezer

Alan Dreezer – Take Me Back

First up is some home grown British talent, in the form of award-winning Eastbourne artist Alan Dreezer. Take Me Back is a bit of a genre-bender – it is very soulful, but it also has elements of funk and disco, making for an awesome mix of sounds. Alan has a great voice, crooning along to the tune with great emotion, adding something very special to Take Me Back. The bass is really prominent, throbbing along in a lovely way alongside the steady beat and guitars. However, the chorus is the main focal point, making you want to dance along immediately.

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Carter Fox – Telescopes & Wavelengths

Philadelphia artist Carter Fox is a returning name to these pages, having recently released his new tune, Telescopes & Wavelengths. It’s a little different to what you might normally expect from the soul genre, having an electronic edge to it. However, the track still possesses a soulful quality, so it’s well worth a listen! It’s a fairly chilled out tune, featuring a steady beat and some lovely guitars and synths that wouldn’t be out of place within a lo-fi song. The vocals are very dreamy, appearing every so often to add more variety to the piece. Why not check it out and let the luscious layers drift over you?

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Lacañgan – So Good!

Lacañgan is another artist that we’ve featured before, returning with So Good! It’s another tune with a retro sound, although it also has something of an r&b vibe.. It’s incredibly catchy from the start, opening with a range of groovy guitar licks, alongside some unique percussive beats. The vocals are really smooth, working well against the backing vocals on the chorus. Lacañgan has a fantastic vocal range – the higher notes are particularly impressive, showing just how skilled this artist really is! It’s a good sounding song, showing off an extremely clear production style that sounds absolutely effortless.

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Canadian singer-songwriter JAXXEE adds something a little different to this list with new single GONE. She mixes together soul, pop and trip-hop, creating something utterly unique in the process. GONE starts out slowly with a typical trip-hop beat, as JAXXEE’s strong vocals sing over the top. The rest of the instrumentation is fairly subtle, but it really works wonders, creeping through the tune in an awesome way as the tension is raised up towards the chorus. The whole thing is extremely atmospheric, showing a great depth of imagination and creativity here. Definitely one to watch.

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Tropic – Missing You

Now for something with a little more pop, in the r&b-infused track, Missing You. Whilst Tropic’s addition to the list has something of a mainstream pop sound, the vocals really add some soul into the mix, sounding absolutely wonderful throughout. The beat has something of a Latin quality, as 80s style synth dance around in the background. However, the vocals remain the real focal point of this song, showing just how talented Tropic are. They’re incredibly soulful, having a smooth clarity and a powerful range that will really wow anyone lucky enough to hear this tune.

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Moon and Aries – Traffic

Talented duo Moon and Aries is back with yet another banging tune, this time in the form of Traffic. The track opens with a groovy bassline and a steady drum beat, before the keyboards and saxophone kick in. It’s a song that absolutely oozes cool, really getting underneath your skin in no time. The vocals are as strong as ever, creating a fantastic vocal delivery that really harks back to the glory days of the soul movement. It’s the sort of track that you can be just as happy dancing to, as you would be sitting and watching the band perform it in a small jazz club, giving the listener the best of both worlds. This is a must listen for all.

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Robert Vendetta – Here and Now

Robert Vendetta is an artist I’ve only recently discovered, but already he’s become a firm favourite of mine. The Norwegian artist has produced something epic on Here and Now – it’s more stripped-down than most of the other tracks here, but it adds a nice change of pace to this review. Robert’s piano playing is on point as always, creating something that’s actually rather beautiful at times. His vocals align well with the instrument, showing a great strength, as well as lots of palpable emotion. It’s also a little folky at times, appealing across the genre boundaries.

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Elishéva For Us

Boston-based artist Elishéva has created something beautiful in For Us, which is another stripped-down track. It’s actually rather folky at times, opening with a simplistic fingerpicked guitar melody that also adds a rhythmic quality to the tune. However, this factor allows the vocals to truly shine through, and shine they do! They’re absolutely soaked in emotion and passion, making you feel everything contained within the lyrics. A string section appears towards the end of the first chorus, drenching the music with subtle beauty. This is possibly my favourite song on this list!

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Dan Amare – Brainstorming

Dan Amare is a singer-songwriter and producer from London, combining pop, r&b and soul together in an amazing way. Brainstorming shows a really creative mind – there’s a lot going on here, so make sure you listen to it a few times over so you can appreciate everything! The percussive has a really cool sound, melding well with the bass, clean guitar and keyboard effects. And who can forget Dan’s vocals? They’re incredibly strong, going to some fantastic heights at times. He sings in an honest manner, delivering vocals with more than a dose of truth to them.

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Bailey Judd – Precious Gold

Precious Gold is one of the catchiest songs on this list, mixing a modern day pop sensibility with a vintage edge. Bailey Judd is a musical maestro, as he’s created something truly wonderful here. His vocals have that classic soul sound, making it all sound utterly effortless. The music is very funky, encouraging you to start dancing straight away. A prominent bassline pulsates throughout the tune, against a slew of clean guitar chords and some hooky synthlines. It really is an irresistibly catchy tune – just try Precious Gold out and it will be stuck in your head for hours to come!

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Madeline Rae – 42 Moons

Multi-faceted Nashville singer-songwriter Madeline Rae has created something extremely evocative and nostalgic with her new release, 42 Moons. It opens with some glorious backing vocals, creating haunting harmonies that follow the organ well. It’s perfectly produced, really hitting you hard in the heart. Madeline’s lead vocals are great too, following the melody set out through the piano chords. You can really feel everything she’s singing about, turning this melancholy soul song into something applicable to your own life. It’s brooding and atmospheric, and I love it!

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Tash Hills – Dancing Tonight

British singer Tash Hills is another genre-mixer, weaving elements of 80s soul with modern funk, pop and house music. Dancing Tonight is perfectly titled, as it’s a song that will certainly have you dancing along in no time! The beat has more in common with the modern pop genre, but the bass sounds like something straight out of a 70s funk song, showing great versatility. A saxophone makes an appearance at times, adding an essence of cool into the tune. The best thing about Dancing Tonight is just how catchy it is, as Tash’s vocals carry the tune along perfectly. This is a perfect closing song for this article.

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Retro – playlist by York Calling | Spotify