Madison McFerrin has previously been lauded by a range of the music media Big Dogs, including The New York Times, NPR, The FADER, and Pitchfork, who named her a Rising Artist in 2018. Her debut album I Hope You Can Forgive Me landed last week, coming in at a sparse 26 minutes and including this 10/10 stripped-back r&b gem.
Fatoumata Diawara, Angie Stone – Somaw
Malian singer Fatoumata Diawara releases her new album London Ko today, exploring Malian blues, folk and r&b and blending traditional West African sounds with contemporary production. The album includes a number of collaborations, including Damon Albarn, Roberto Fonseca, Yemi Alade, M.anifest and this gem from US soul legend Angie Stone.
Eddie Chacon – Far Away
You know Eddie Chacon as one half of Charles & Eddie, the duo behind Would I Lie To You – one of the biggest hits of the early 90s and a song so overwhelmingly ubiquitous that Chacon eventually abandoned the music industry in an attempt to escape it. He returned in 2020 with a debut solo album, and has just released its follow-up, Sundown, from which Far Away is taken. Sitting somewhere between soft-focus soul and meandering jazz, its reminiscent of acts like Rhye, and is about as distant from the bombast of Would I Lie To You as its possible to get, which is probably the point.
Tei Shi – FAMILIAR
I don’t think I’ve posted a big, brash pop banger on here for a while, so this might come as a bit of a shock to anyone who’s got used to my meandering ambient leanings. One of four new songs on Tei Shi’s new EP BAD PREMONITION, FAMILIAR is sparse, taut and immediately satisfying.
Liv.e – Snowing!
I’m a bit late to the party on this one as it feels like everyone’s been singing the praises of Liv.e’s new album Girl In the Half Pearl for some time now, but I just couldn’t risk the ire of the music blogging community so am jumping on the appreciation bandwagon. Also: it’s really great, and about as varied an album as you’re likely to find anytime soon, from the full on soul balladry of Wild Animals to the arpeggiated chaos of Snowing!.
Kelela – Let It Go
Six(!) years after her last LP, Raven finally landed today. To quote Loraine James: “It’s Kelela day today, don’t talk to me about anything else”
Lil Yachty – the BLACK seminole.
It’s arguably a touch early to make this call, but: Lil Yachty’s Let’s Start Here is the album of the year. It’s incredible! And the opening track, the BLACK semihole encapsulate everything that’s great about it, moving from Steve Lacy-esque funk rock to Echoes-era Pink Floyd, complete with mid-song tempo shift. Time will tell whether I’ve been grossly premature – and to be fair I’ve only listened to it twice – but for now, this is the album by which all others should be judged.
Holodec – Just U
Here’s something else from last year I missed, taken from Holodec’s LP All Dogs Come From Wolves that landed in November. Just U is part garage, part post-dubstep, and all woman, baby! Boomkat described the album as “a definitive statement by a quietly gifted artist who operates inside the long shadow of late ‘90s US R&B”, and they’re way better at writing about music than me, so let’s go with that.
Biig Piig – Only One
Recently longlisted for the BBC’s Sound of 2023 – which seems a bit late to the party, given she’s been putting out, often very well-received music for at least half a decade now – Biig Piig’s Bubblegum came out last week, and it’s great, although I’m not entirely sure why it’s a mixtape, rather than an EP. People cleverer than me will know, but like I said: it’s great, and Only One is a low-key vibe.
Kelela – Contact
Kelela’s mixtape CUT 4 Me, debut LP Take Me Apart, and especially her 2015 EP Hallucinogen remain high watermarks in alternative r&b, so it was great to see her putting out new music last year after a few years off-radar: a break that was long enough to instigate a Where is Kelela? Reddit. Her new album Raven is scheduled to land 10 February, and has been proceeded by a run of singles, the latest of which is Contact. And while so far I’m not convinced the production is quite as interesting as it has been in the past, her voice still sounds incredible, so hopes are high.