Through the impossibly competitive music scene of Portland, Oregon emerges Salvatore Manalo with his debut track Rain.
It’s a mixed bag of genres, but when you get to the bridge, putting a label on his majestic sound quickly floats to the back of your mind as you find yourself fully attuned to his sound. With riffs more fitting in Rock tracks this R&B Funk Pop enigma allows the track to flow with sweet unpredictability.
The entire ensemble is flawless, from the vocals to the instrumentals, the lyrics to the Jazz vibes that taint the track with poignantly upbeat symphonies. I’m really not sure how Manalo remains on the underground with such an array of talent. There’s a true narrative to his emotions which he explores through his command of rhythm.
Sadly, Rain falls under the category of the type of track that you’re likely to hear whilst dining at an upmarket restaurant or wandering round the supermarket. It’s not a sound that you’d hear in trendy cocktail bars or being spoken about fondly by teenagers. Never the less, if you’re looking for a sound to dispel the winter blues look no further! (Despite what your friends may think)
Fam released his debut EP mid-November, dubbing himself as a R&B hopeful. Whilst there’s undoubtedly some talent underneath the surface of his tracks, they could do with some fine tuning. Tracks such as ‘Friends Don’t Leave Friends’, have all the key elements that you’d expect from a R&B and Soul track, but they appear in a sporadic fashion. The upbeat tempo rattles throughout the track with scarce melody. The layering of the vocals is just a little too much to fathom for it to be a truly enjoyable track. The back beat is relatively tinny, which is a shame for the Atlanta based singer songwriter.
His vocal ability offers promise, alongside the dubious electronic effects. With a higher production quality, I have no doubt that Fam could rise up in the R&B ranks to become a star, once he’s truly mastered the woozy lullaby sound that he’s aiming for. His sound is heavily influenced by a mix of nostalgia and euphoria, yet it’s lacking the sincerity that you’d hope for in a track.
I hope to hear more from Fam in the near future once he’s fine tuned his style.
Check out the new EP on the SoundCloud link below:
Although The Custom Shop is equally at home blasting out blues, rocking the R&B or soulfully and skilfully navigating Motown tinted waters, Ballads of Yore finds them at their most understated, most chilled and considered. The chorus might be built on bigger dynamics and a fuller band sound but the charm of the song comes in its mellower moments, when pianos skitter and chime and distant saxophones add wonderful musical detail around the edge of the song.
But as finely wrought as the song is it is nothing without the killer vocal to really carry the sonic ball over the musical line and Molly Orlando hits it just right, a masterful mix of subtlety and power, gentle balladry to powerful deliveries. Ballads of Yore is one of those timeless songs, part country, part blues, part rock all mixed in and underplayed to perfection, heavily nostalgic but never cliched, emotive, sensitive and soulful. They don’t make them like that any more!
Has R&B ever sounded this smooth? Probably not but the combination of Shakeel and Nef The Pharaoh certainly creates something a bit special as smooth rhythms, mellow vibes and late night grooves weave together into a sound which both ambient and exciting, understated and intoxicating. It echoes with 90’s tonal qualities and 21st century production but is very much a product of the modern R&B genre, looking forward whilst fully understanding the musical traditions it is a continuation of.
It is easy to try to point at a musical connection between Shakeel and the likes of R Kelly, there is definitely a tip of the hat passing from the newcomer to the old hand but unlike the obvious sleaze that drips from Kelly’s songs, Shakeel manages to navigate similar territory but do so using tease and suggestion rather than out and out crudeness. R&B has long been a genre where you get to say things which might seem out of place in normal conversation, but the art is the language you use and where some people in the same field sound lewd and suggestive, Shakeel instead is all about the tease and the knowing wink.
Taking a thoughtful and reflective journey through loss and longing, Second Guess has created a down tempo yet dynamic R&B track. Sonically fitting more into the après-club, chill out vibe rather than the energetic dance floor groove, but lyrically it is addictive in its universal message of how hard it is to fill that ex-lover shaped hole in the heart.
Built of hypnotic beats and shimmering guitar chords it is the lyrical message and the rich vocal textures that define the song more than anything else. It shows that often all you need to do is to frame an idea with the bare minimum of musical trappings and understated instrumentation for it to fly most successfully. It also proves that often the most heartfelt and honest ideas deliver the most soulful and relatable results.
Self taught, multi-instrumentalist Mizrahi is nothing less than a sonic dream weaver. Quite a bold statement but spend any amount of time in songs such as Soulversation and you are quickly transported to a place were velvet neo-soul vibes, dreamy post-folk and meandering, hazy progressive rock coalesce into the perfect balance of drifting psychedelia laced soundscapes and thoughtful, philosophical lyricism.
Soulversation is at once loose and yet wonderfully sophisticated, a balance that works so well because of the tasteful musical choices that Mizrahi makes. Even though there is a lot happening musically throughout the track, it is the perfect layering of these myriad musical textures, the fact that everything has room to feature and blossom but never steps on the other instruments toes, shows that his musical instinct is second to none.
The PRVLG, twin brothers Christian and Christopher Underwood, gloriously use synthesizers to produce retro soul music, putting the funk back into pop music. Musically accomplished, the dynamic duo creates a sound that is a blast from the past, producing tunes that you can easily groove to. Predominantly derived from soul, “What You’re Missing” bellows the sound of love, reminding us of the groovy 60’s in today’s modern 21st Century. The PRVLG takes inspiration from this era and transform modern day music whilst preserving the authenticity of love.
The whole of “What You’re Missing” feels like a seduction, where inviting guitar begins the melody with an appealing persona, followed by an alluring introduction from the synthesizer, and once the charming vocals commence, so does the fascination. There is a close connection between the Underwood brothers, which is demonstrated in their performance. The ability to convey an emotional attachment is established in “What You’re Missing” and is what is so promising about the track. There is no hesitation throughout the lyrics, and continuously The PRVLG carry across what they want their music to represent, and that is constant love, whether it be sexual, romantic or unconditional.
A lot of modern hip hop production is homogenous. Beats may vary but they remain at the same tempos, with the same swing and syncopations. Kylerr has just the track to shake things up with Black Rose. Produced by Lord Rico, this song provides an almost seasick amount of sway in a slow, soft track that will have you feeling all sorts of ways. First of all, it’s hard to imagine someone not moving to this. That isn’t to call it a dance track. Far from it, we’ve got a song with some dark themes surrounding the pains of love.
The drums still feel tight and just about ready for a trap set, but the bass boasts a vintage aesthetic in a mostly open feeling mix. The openness isn’t emptiness though, it’s breathing room. This is a song that ruminates in itself. It’s disheveled and it’s broken and it’s maybe had too much to drink. To describe a song like this as opposed to an artist is definitely a good thing. Kylerr is a versatile front man for presenting a mixture of moods and this song embraces a sort of isolated feeling that often gets lost in hip hop playlists. Black Rose stands out in the bouquet and that’s a very good quality.
Music makes us feel things. It distills emotions in ways that we can’t always communicate. Combined with direct lyrics, it can hold layers of text and subtext that dance around each other in otherworldly ways. Torenzo is an artist familiar with the hustle of life and the determination that it requires to keep going. Gotta Stay Strong is more than a fairly straightforward set of lyrics. It’s a delivery with impact. It’s a beat that plays gently in your ear. It’s a song that understands and respects the listener for connecting through struggle.
Torenzo understands that a big part of being the voice of his music means vulnerability. He allows us to communicate as if he’s in the room with us, and this is a fantastic method of making a song special. This isn’t a song that you can be alone with. It’s a dialogue between what the artist and listener are feeling. This could inspire people, or at the very least let them know that they aren’t alone. Every now and then, this is the most important thing an artist can do with their music. Gotta Stay Strong is the reason we love music. We need to feel each other in dark times and this song reaches out to take the initiative for us and begin the conversation.
Take a large dose of soul, some wonderful pop infectiousness and a whole load of modern R&B grooves and you have the core of Arewa’s sound. And if, on paper at least, that suggests little to make her stand out from the pack she has two secret weapons that really elevate her beyond most of her peers. The first is the slightly hypnotic, offbeat rhythms that she employs, which makes for a wonderful idiosyncratic bohemian neo-soul reinvention. The second is her voice.
Arewa has a voice that is confident in its delivery without losing its sultry, soulful qualities, which melds a modern pop accessibility to some old-school classicism and effortless charm and stands out proudly in the music without dominating and overpowering the trippy left-field grooves being laid down around her. If you are looking for the future of soulful, chart friendly R&B, then look no further than Arewa.