Spearhead

Michael Franti is the one of those rare singers whose boomin’ growl can start a party as quickly as it can a protest (probably about time for him to update his 1992 cover of “California Uber Alles“). His latest Spearhead joint comes on the heels of his self-booked trip to Iraq, which is documented on the DVD I Know I’m Not Alone. His experience, which included performances for U.S. soldiers and Iraqi families alike, clearly shaped the album’s compassionate (“I Know I’m Not Alone”) and passionate (“Yell Fire”) flavors of rebellion.

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The Coup

Matt, aka Gigahaw, reminded us of The Coup, the Oaktown rap duo who are best known, unfortunately, for “that album cover.” Boots Riley and DJ Pam the Funktress do wear their politics on their sleeves (even their toned-down cover for Party Music depicts a young player at a bar enjoying a Molotov cocktail). But what they don’t seem to get enough credit for is their ability to move your butt as well as your conscience. So, with their latest, Pick a Bigger Weapon, they have turned up the funk to match the intensity of their message. The intro is even called “Bullets and Love,” which brings me to another first for The Coup… A handful of apocalyptic slow jams that include the best (and possibly longest) song title of this administration: “babylet’shaveababybeforebushdosomethin’crazy” — awwwww yeeeeaaaahh…

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The Brand New Heavies

“Michael Ross is the genie, he’s giving our wishes…” At long last, The Brand New Heavies have reunited with N’Dea “The Voice” Davenport and their formal label Delicious Vinyl. The Brand New Heavies have stuck with their funky soul power sound and while they haven’t been in the spotlight as much lately you can hear their influence throughout the R&B world. They’ve supplied the soundtrack to so many fond moments in my life I don’t know where to start. Perhaps I’ll just dedicate their new single, “Right On,” to Matt and Julie’s forthcoming twins. Matt, go on and place those speakers right by the lads in utero and they may just develop a sense of rhythm…

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The Cansecos

“You know what I feel like doin’? I feel like struttin’…”
Another wonderful find courtesy of the CBC Radio 3 podcast. This Toronto quartet serves up warm, disco-tinged percolators guaranteed to put a little pimp in your limp. Or something like that.

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Victor Scott

By all accounts Victor Scott shouldn’t be aspiring to what he aspires to — rhythmless porn-funk on “Gotta Go,” hybrid-power balladeering on “Mareel,” couch-surfer-rock on “Golf,” lounge-hop on “Airstream” — but he does. And it works very well. Fans of the eminent Honky King Calvin Johnson will see in Scott the same irresistibly affectless soul. Fans of Quentin Tarantino and David Lynch soundtracks will see in Scott a torch singer who croons charming oddities as if they were ageless standards. Victor’s a different chap, that’s for sure, but once you catch on to his wavelength, you’ll want to ride his current all the way to the shore.

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Big Strides

The agressively jazzy feel of Soul Coughing? The vocal dexterity of Sublime? The funkiness of really old Chili Peppers? I’m not sure what I’m digging so much about the sound from the British trio Big Strides, or even if my fascination will last past the first snowfall here in Michigan. For now though, these boys have the bump I’m looking for. Check out “Strangely Inclined” to see if you are as the title suggests.

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Lewis Taylor

Apologies in advance: Today’s post may be yesterday’s news and I may just be late to the Lewis Taylor party. Sorry, it’s just a bit of a shock to find something so great that I overlooked for so long. But enough about this blogger’s insecurities. Lewis Taylor is a British soul singer/multi-instrumentalist with a voice like warm butterscotch and an ear for music like no soul you’ve ever heard. Before you conjure images of Joss Stone or Jamiroquai, rest assured that Lewis Taylor is for real – he’s not simply playing his parents’ vinyl collection, he’s taking soul to places it hasn’t been before. But, it doesn’t hurt that he hits with velvet gloves like Marvin Gaye and arranges with the kaleidoscope mind of Prince. (He also goes his own way under the radar like the inimitable Joe Henry – not a soul man, but a darn fine musician you should seek out.) As you browse through these highlights, you’ll hear some guitar and crooning that could be Ben Harper on a rainy day, some space-jazz this side of Miles Davis fusion, and even a few moments that are more electronically out there (Radiohead’s name pops up often in other people’s Taylor descriptions, and Kruder + Dorfmeister offer a remix here). Or, you’ll hear all of the above in the same track. And, if you haven’t already fallen, you’ll love it all.

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