Album Of The Year: “An Evening With Silk Sonic” by Silk Sonic
As Silk Sonic, Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak resurrect the symphonic soul of the 70s with finesse and passion and take us into a world of analogue emotions. With its plush feel-good sound and perfectionist timelessness, their debut album “An Evening with Silk Sonic” offers a safe haven in troubled COVID times and opens up a great era of music history to a new generation of music lovers.
The sonic precision with which the duo already recreated the sound of the 70s on the first single “Leave The Door Open” can be found throughout the album. No nuance of the sound is left to chance. Vintage instruments were sourced, some of the recordings were made at the legendary Memphis Royal Studios where soul icon Al Green recorded his albums. A veritable wall of authentic soul sound caresses the listener with congas, glockenspiel, wistful strings and gentle piano lines – accompanied by P-Funk legend Bootsy Collins, who cogenially leads through the album.
“An Evening With Silk Sonic” is a treasure chest that gives the feeling of finding a box of dusty soul records in your grandparents’ attic and hearing this music for the first time. An album full of playfulness and great, detailed music, made by artists who know this jubilant feeling from their own past.
Albums of the Year: ranks 2 to 10
“Music” by Benny Sings
Benny Sings’ songs often seem light and easy-going, but they are guaranteed to stick in your ears: Dutch singer, songwriter and producer Tim van Berkestijn, aka Benny Sings, has become one of the Netherlands’ most talented musical exports with his distinctive blend of mellow Californian-influenced pop, jazzy R&B and a hint of DIY charm. On his latest album “Music” (Stones Throw Records) he refines his distinctive sound even further, supported by great artists like Mac DeMarco, Tom Misch, Emily King and Kelsey Gonzales.
“Private Space” by Durand Jones and The Indications
After their outstanding 2019 album “American Love Call”, on which Durand Jones and The Indications celebrated 60s and 70s soul to perfection, the American quintet retreated to a cabin in upstate New York during the pandemic to hone new songs and further develop their sound. On “Private Space”, the band opens the door to a world of synthetic, modern Philly-inspired soul and string-heavy disco beats and convinces with great arrangements, a crisp production and a positive vibe.
“Mid-Century Modern Romance” by Dante Elephante
Dante Elephante has been a city favorite of Santa Barbara, California since his debut album “German Aquatics” in 2013. Initially formed as a band project, Dante Elephante has been solely behind musician and songwriter Ruben Zarate since 2016. His fourth album “”Mid-Century Modern Romance” (Born Losers Records ) is, according to Zarate, a tribute to his family, Santa Barbara and the music he grew up with. The result are eight songs that oscillate between electro-funk, disco, post-disco and boogie. Produced by Paul Cherry, the album exudes an early 80s charm that in its best moments is reminiscent of cult acts like the Universal Togetherness Band.
“Tako Tsubo” by L’Impératrice
The Parisian electro-disco band L’Impératrice has been enchanting their listeners for years with their seductive mixture of 80s-inspired synth grooves, French space disco reminiscences, library music accents and superb melodies. After the six piece band, founded by Charles de Boisseguin in 2012, caused a stir far beyond the borders of France with their debut album “Matahari” three years ago, they returned 2021 with the follow-up “Tako Tsubo” and blended heartbreak, elegance and Japanese manga aesthetics with the joy of musical experimentation.
“For Free” by David Crosby
On “For Free”, David Crosby revives his legendary musicality and, with the support of artists such as Michael McDonald, Donald Fagen from Steely Dan and Sarah Jarosz, creates an almost transcendent painting of Californian music between poetry, prayer and classic folk-rock harmonies. “For Free” is Crosby’s fifth studio album in a decade. The LA-born artist has never been this prolific his whole life, not even with the legendary supergroup Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Longing and warmth run like a thread through this surprisingly positive album, which reflects all the influences of his career – from the folk-rock beginnings to the slick West Coast sound, of which he is one of the forefathers.
“The Art Of Conversation” by Leo Sidran
Three years after his critically acclaimed Michael Franks tribute “Cool School”, American multi-instrumentalist, producer and singer-songwriter Leo Sidran returns with one of his best and arguably most personal albums, “The Art Of Conversation”. Listeners can expect a treasure chest full of intimate and introspective portraits of family life during the pandemic, performed by Sidran in his irresistible blend of jazz, singer-songwriter pop, bossa nova and funk and supported by numerous friends.
“Studio City” by The Superhighway Band
What do two multi-talented musicians do when they suddenly find themselves at home because of the Corona pandemic and no live gig is in sight? They decide to record an instrumental album bursting with positive grooves and crisp horn arrangements, celebrating the jazzy L.A. sound of the 70s and early 80s. This is what happened in 2020 when singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer, arranger and “Silver Fox” Shawn Lee and trombonist and keyboardist Nichol “The Gift” Thomson joined forces to form The Superhighway Band. Their debut album “Studio City” was released on the Hamburg label Légère Recordings.
“Magic Mirror” by Pearl Charles
With “Magic Mirror”, LA native singer-songwriter Pearl Charles has released her second album and takes her listeners into a musical wonderland, where the 29-year-old lives out her preferences for ABBA melodies, Laurel Canyon hippie dreaminess, sun-warmed West Coast soft rock and 70’s country-folk bliss. All this sounds very vintage, but never loses its current pop appeal. Fleetwood Mac and Tom Petty would love this album.
“Mas” by Carwyn Ellis
While winter still had Central Europe in its grip this February, Carwyn Ellis & Rio 18 gave us the first great summer album of the year with “Mas” via Légère Recordings. Like its predecessor, the highly acclaimed “Joia!”, this album is a collection of songs sung in Welsh, combined with clear pop and South American influences from bossa nova, cumbia, samba and tropicália. Behind the project stands the Welsh musician Carwyn Ellis, founder and leader of the Welsh band Colorama and renowned session man who has already played with artists such as Edwyn Collins, Oasis and The Pretenders.
Compilation of the Year
“Yacht Soul” by Too Slow To Disco
“Yacht Soul – The Cover Versions”, the latest edition of the renowned Too Slow To Disco series, highlights an area of 70s and 80s music that has long been criminally overlooked: the interpretations of West Coast AOR by black Soul and R&B artists. On the basis of 16 songs, TSTD curator Marcus Liesenfeld aka DJ Supermarkt shows how artists like Quincy Jones, Chaka Khan, Aretha Franklin, Greg Phillinganes or The Brothers Johnson put their stamp on well-known world hits like “What A Fool Believes” or “Summer Breeze” by making the songs their own with refined soul, funk and sometimes even political attitude.
WEST COAST SOUL.de Albums of the Year Spotify Playlist
If you want to not only read about our albums of the year, but also discover a selection of the best songs from these releases, you can now listen to the “West Coast Soul.de – Albums of the Year 2021” Spotify playlist – our soundtrack for the end of the year.