Categories
Soul/R&B Why We Love

Why We Love: Black Pumas

Psychedelic-soul band Black Pumas captured my full attention with their transcendent GRAMMYs performance just a few weeks ago. My mouth hung open throughout the duration of their stage time and, accompanied by several colorfully encouraging words, I couldn’t stop shouting, “Oh my god!” 

I didn’t need any more convincing whatsoever; I grabbed my phone, saved their music, and followed them on social media. They very quickly had me in the palms of their hands, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. This group hailing from Austin, Texas serves as the definition of a powerhouse, and I have a good feeling that they will be the catalysts of a much-needed musical revolution. If you missed their performance or are simply entirely new to Black Pumas, I implore you to watch it immediately

Bandmates Eric Burton and Adrian Quesada, through the help of a friend, united in 2018. Shortly after the release of two singles (“Fire” and “Black Moon Rising”), Black Pumas dropped their fiery self-titled album on June 21, 2019. That same year, the GRAMMYs nominated them for the “Best New Artist” category. With a total of four Grammy nominations now under their belt, it’s absolutely criminal that they walked away empty-handed. To the GRAMMYs (and any other awards ceremony, for that matter): Do better. 

With sold-out tours, numerous television performances, and a recent achievement of taking the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s Emerging Artists Chart, this is merely the beginning of a prosperous career for Black Pumas. This immense, ground-breaking talent that they possess is awe-inspiring. Everybody, and I mean everybody, needs to put this band on their radar. No ifs, ands, or buts.

The entirety of their discography is unmatched, despite it being just the beginning. Coated in a dizzying richness that provides a similar feeling to taking a sip of warm coffee on a cold morning, their music fully envelopes you. I am completely and entirely bewitched; whether I am just listening to their record (original, deluxe, and expanded deluxe!) or watching videos of their performances, I find myself falling more in love as the minutes go by.

Every single aspect of each song, whether it be the heavenly, euphonic vocals or the electrifying instrumentations, is expertly crafted. I cannot stress enough how one-of-a-kind this band is. Seriously, stop whatever it is you’re doing and listen to Black Pumas. Go on then; go!


To stay in the know, follow Black Pumas on Instagram, Twitter, and Spotify.

(Cover photo by: JACKIE LEE YOUNG)

Categories
Soul/R&B Why We Love

Why We Love: Rhonda

Rhonda are a group from Hamburg, Germany with more than a few tricks up their sleeve. Their feel-good tunes are each a snapshots into past times spent driving in the sun through a dreamy soul-infused world. Exploring a new blend of neo-soul, rock and indie, Rhonda have set out on a mission to bring together both old and new.

The band formed from the remnants of rock band Thrashmonkeys after the group decided to split back in 2012. Four of the remaining members, however, decided it was time to set about on a brand new venture – one that would lead them to form Rhonda, a project which would craft fantastic new soul music for the modern-day. The band quickly became popular with some of recent histories biggest names, and in 2014, the band opened for Paul Weller at multiple gigs throughout Germany.

The band’s debut album ‘Raw Love’ is most notable for the song ‘Camera’ which launched the group into the spotlight. A cool and brilliantly crafted tune through and through, with some elements recognisable from classic soul records, a great voice and phenomenal guitar hooks.

Three albums now under their belt, with their most recent LP ‘You Could Be Home By Now’ released just last year, Rhonda are capturing more attention than ever from audiences across the world. Their recent work is an atmospheric exploration into the sweet-swinging sound of soul music, combining elements with the same great rock feel the musicians cut their teeth on.

For fans of The Arctic Monkeys or The Last Shadow Puppets, Rhonda are one such band with time-travelling abilities. Stick on your headphones and be instantly transported to a smoky soul club, with singer Milo Milone on mic in the spotlight.

Milone’s own solo projects are full of the same feel-good Rhonda energy, developing that same great soul-inspired sound and using her brilliant voice to tell stories of her very own.

Check out Rhonda and Milo Milone on Spotify now.

Categories
BRIT School New Wave Pop/Indie Pop Soul/R&B Why We Love

Why We Love: LANTA

Kimberly Anne, also known as LANTA, is a singer/songwriter from South London and a truly extraordinary talent. You may recognise her voice from Sam Feldt’s hit cover of Show Me Love, but despite her chart-topping success as a vocalist, Kimberly isn’t going to let anyone tell her what music she should be making. Someone who doesn’t need a leg up from anyone, now publishing songs under the pseudonym LANTA, Kimberly continues to create the same remarkable songs she has always done – oh boy you’re in for a treat.

I could talk all day about any of Kimberly’s old tracks back from her days as simply ‘Kimberly Anne’, but let me share the very first song of hears I listened to, one which stopped me dead in my tracks; ‘Bury It There’, released in 2012.

This track is, and I say this with no hesitation, nothing short of genius – a pure blend of acoustic pop with soul, beats inspired by different cultures and powerful lyrics fit for an equally powerful voice… Oh, how I envy you hearing this tune for the very first time.

The release of Bury It There and subsequent 5-track EP deservedly earnt Kimberly Anne much attention from the UK music scene and festival slots alongside the likes of First Aid Kit, Haim and The Rolling Stones.

After discovering Kimberly’s music, it wasn’t long before I began asking people ‘have you heard of Kimberly Anne?’ ‘You must have?’ ‘She’s incredible!’

Brought up on the music of Van Morrison, The Cure and Bloc Party, Kimberly taught herself to play the guitar before studying percussion for a time in West Africa – an experience which has given her tunes some refreshingly unique characteristics.

After the release of her EP Ballads in 2017 and her feature in Sam Feldt’s hit dance track (although house was not really my thing), I eagerly awaited to hear more original work from the songwriter, whose talent can only be truly appreciated by listening to the songs she writes herself.

Years went by and nothing came. I wondered what had happened to Kimberly, as did most of her following at the time. An empty website, all social media channels gone and a youtube comment section begging for more incredible music, it wasn’t easy to track her down. Then in 2019, she relaunched as LANTA – a new name and a statement to the music industry that she wasn’t going to be snatched up by labels looking to ride on the back of her chart success. She wanted to make music that really mattered to her – and that we applaud!

Through her new ’80s soaked soul tracks, LANTA writes about the things that matter in her life, her sexuality, her mental health and her confidence – through this she is slowly becoming a role model for lots of young individuals and a much-needed voice for today’s openly gay black women, a role model she admits she never had growing up.

A new name for her music and newfound confidence, but the same brilliant songwriter. As a former student of The BRIT School who studied there around the same time as Adele, there’s nothing now standing in the way of Kimberly Anne/LANTA becoming just as triumphant. It’s still early days for her new musical persona, but with a voice and talent this big, she surely won’t go unnoticed in times to come.

Listen to LANTA’s new singles now on Spotify.

Categories
Jazz/Blues Soul/R&B Why We Love

Why We Love: Orgone

‘Orgone’ is a term best described as an esoteric energy or universal life force but more importantly, it’s an incredibly well-fitting name for this musical time machine of a band, that’s continually bringing a magnetic power to groove and soul…

I was genuinely taken aback at how well the West Coast collective capture the sound of classic 60s/70s funk, perfectly delivering an essence that I was searching for more of- specifically from current artists. Their time travelling isn’t just to the heyday of funk though, upon further listening, so many more influences surfaced from New Orleans jazz to modern hip-hop. Perfectly melted together, their sound has resulted in comparisons to not only legends such as Chic and Earth, Wind & Fire but also 21st-century stars like Childish Gambino.

I already recognised a few of their biggest hits (as you might too) but since properly discovering the band I’ve had their tunes playing non-stop. Blending from one to another as seamlessly as their styles are combined, I often find myself in a trance when listening to their mixing pot of sounds. Sometimes it feels like only a fleeting moment has gone by before I’ve made it through an album; always leaving me ready and raring to start the journey all over again. Their bold, flowing mixes and ability to take you to another time and place go to show that it’s not just me in need of their sound in my life as they’re guaranteed to satisfy any musical void that you’re looking to fill or just breath some new life to your playlists.

The California bands’ only consistent members since forming in 1999 are founders Dan Hastie on keys and Sergio Rios on guitar and engineering duties. However, the group has now stood at a solid five members for their last five albums, with Dale Jennings on bass, drummer Sam Halterman and singer Adryon de León joining Hastie and Rios in 2013 to form a more permanent set up. 

Many of their mesmerising tracks tell a story without a single word being sung but León takes things to the next level-shining brighter than ever on their 2019 album ‘Reasons’ with vocals on every track (We Can Make It is a personal favourite of mine). A variety of additional talents from Fanny Franklin to Jesse Wanger are often brought on board for vocal contributions as well; also helping to take things up a notch and ensure a consistently changing sound.

Always fresh and exciting the band are amazing in the studio where they produce their popping tracks and even work with artists such as ‘Queen of R&B’ Alicia Keys. The excitement doesn’t just stop there though as up on stage they really come into their element. Creating a kind of party atmosphere that would have fuelled Studio 54 back in the late 70s they clearly thrive off of their live audience grooving out to their glorious performances. Whether they’re in front of fans, working with top talents or on their own, there’s always an electrifying vibe in the room, as evident in the clip below-

In late September of this year, the band put out ‘Connection’, their appropriately named tenth record that instantly creates a relationship with its audience and bonds together all of their best elements. Kicking off with The Vice Yard you’re hit with powerful horns, sleek guitar licks and a pounding rhythm section; immediately locking you into the experience. The album goes on to provide a more futuristic vibe with tracks like Love Will See Us Through; evoking the the-sci-fi elements of time travel with electronic experimentation and making it clear to see why people are reminded of albums such as Gambino’s ‘Awaken, my love!’. Other stand out songs include The Truth, featuring a marvellously groovy riff and outstanding display of Kelly Finnigan’s husky voice, This One Time; a sweeping Motown dream and the reggae-infused This Space.

Although ‘Connection’ might be the finest exhibition of their greatest strengths it certainly wouldn’t exist without all efforts that came before, where these elements began to materialise. Whether it was using steel drums or synthesizers, Orgone have been making hits since the early days with their self-titled debut album back in 2001 displaying their ability to genre jump and produce superb songs from the very beginning. Truly breaking ground 6 years later with their full length follow up ‘The Killion Floor’ they’ve continued to create hit after hit and I don’t see them stopping any time soon.

Perfect for a chilled-out groove or conquering the dancefloor I strongly urge you to get listening Orgone anytime or any place and be transported by their universal energy.


Listen to Orgone on Spotify now

Categories
Jazz/Blues Soul/R&B Why We Love

Why We Love: Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears

James Brown has been reborn – Black Joe Lewis is quite possibly a music legend out of his time. It’s been a long 16 years from his days as a seafood delivery man and pawnshop employee to the now multi-album success he is today, and that journey hasn’t been easy. In March this year, Lewis and his band ‘The Honeybears’ hit back with their single ‘Five Dollars’ after a 2-year break since their last studio album, The Difference Between Me & You. They bring back with them their immense soul sound and Lewis’ phenomenal voice. It’s made us incredibly excited to hear what other music could be in the works.

Sometimes I find myself listening to a Spotify playlist sent to me, enjoying all the songs that come up one by one, and then a song comes on which just hits differently. A Soul classic which has escaped my radar? No, a song released only this year – Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears.

Their music layers Lewis’ evocative lyrics over fantastic guitar riffs and striking horns which are reminiscent of Charles Bradley’s Menahan Street Band. You wouldn’t be able to tell if these records were recorded today or decades ago, the inspiration of classic artists like James Brown and Howlin’ Wolf are so heavily embedded that the classic sound of old soul records is weaved throughout.

Joe Lewis first picked up a guitar whilst working in a pawn shop in Austin Texas in the early 2000s. After discovering classic blues records and teaching himself to play, he spent years performing at open mic nights, small venues and bars, never making much of a name for himself. It wasn’t until the release of his debut EP Black Joe Lewis and The Cold Breeze, that he had a hit with the truly incredible ‘Bitch, I love you,’ and thereafter, everyone seemed to know who Black Joe Lewis was.

In subsequent years, Lewis toured alongside the band Spoon, the drummer of which, Jim Eno, then produced Lewis’ debut album ‘Tell ‘Em What Your Name Is!’ which quickly alerted the rest of the music industry to his presence.

This peak of success was shortlived however, things soon began to decline for Lewis. A combination of band and management conflicts resulted in a drop in album sales, the loss of festival bookings and a collapse in the band’s name and popularity.

It wasn’t long before Lewis found himself back where he started, having recently released their 2018 album The Difference Between Me & You, it was met with almost no attention, sales or interest.

Along with this, Lewis’s costly recent divorce, his newborn child and an outstanding debt of $50,000 in management fees, Lewis nearly saw an end for his music career. He debated giving up and finding a ‘real job’ in order to pay for all this and to take responsibility for his child.

But as so many of his musical inspirations have found, in hard times, music was the only light at the end of the tunnel and the only way forward.

Now under new management, Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears are making a powerful comeback with their smashing new single ‘Five Dollars.’ Bringing back with them their fantastic guitar and horn-driven sound to a track which has seemingly reignited their careers and caused a rush of discovery for their recent album which almost went unnoticed, giving it the attention it was denied at the time of its release. Once again, Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears have got our attention, and this time I don’t expect they’ll let that slip away once more.

As soul and blues music once made its way across the Atlantic and ignited a fire across the world, Black Joe Lewis has been inspiring the second revolution of blues, soul and rock and roll.

This is great music, dancing music, and above all, music that makes you feel good, something the world desperately needs right now.

There isn’t a single song of theirs I can say I dislike. Listening to them is like jumping in a time machine and travelling back to the golden age of Funk and Soul, something I wasn’t around to experience but can now fully appreciate. Unlike those past music legends, Black Joe Lewis is still very much a living, breathing man who I’m excited to go and see live once I have the chance to. To all those Soul, Blues and Rock and Roll fans who think music isn’t what it used to be, take a listen to Black Joe Lewis and transport yourself.

Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybear’s new single ‘Five Dollars’ is available to listen to now, and if the incredible story of his past few years hasn’t inspired you, the feeling in his music will.