Here’s a British quintet from London who went through several band iterations before finding the right one to record their debut, No Hard Feelings on the Acid Jazz label in 2014. But this is not Jamiroquai. New Street Adventure’s classic soul sound pays homage to Curtis Mayfield and Mods as much as they do to Paul Weller and nights at the Wigan Casino. Their first album is a solid mix of uptempo swingers with a few slow dance numbers performed by jazz musicians with a rock mentality. But it’s the final track, the horn-laden The Big A.C., that sticks out. It was inspired by leader Nick Corbin’s experience at the 100 Club all-nighter, where the music being played, primarily Northern Soul, sunk into his bones and hooked him for life. He and the band return their debt by recording this track, which became a Northern Soul dancefloor filler itself.
Here’s DJ/ dancer Levanna McLean, aka Northern Soul Girl, in the band’s video for the single, The Big A.C.
I enjoyed Mayer Hawthorne’s first two albums, but I was wondering if he was going to continue dabbling with his retro 60s/70s Soul revival. His third LP, Where Does This Door Go? in 2013, was a big step forward. Most of the best songs on the album were produced and co-written by Pharell Williams, including my favorite The Stars Are Ours. This funky pop-rock anthem bounces along with a beat reminiscent of Steely Dan’s Reeling In The Years and features a tale of rowdy high schoolers having a crazy weekend. Had this been around when I was a Senior, I would have blasted this out the window. Instead, I just did the same thing during the Summer of 2013, and for four odd minutes or so, I was as carefree as Allan hanging out of his Chrysler LeBaron.
The UK soul-rock band Mamas Gun, named after an Erykah Badu tune, has always drawn from 70s funk & R&B as their base, leaning on the grooves as much as their warmth and optomism. To get reach the next level in their band’s growth, they took four years off between their third album, Cheap Hotel and their fourth, 2018’s Golden Days, which was recorded live in three days. Between that time singer Andy Platts formed a side project with multi-instrumentalist/ producer Shawn Lee called Young Gun Silver Fox, releasing two albums of the best WestCoast inspired pop of the decade. That experience had a heavy effect on Andy and he brought that sensibility into the band for their next album as well as adopted a smoother singing style. This was most evident on this soulful slow burner, The Spooks, which I am featuring here.
From L.A. by way of Copenhagen, here is the duo Quadron, who have created their unique version of electronic neo soul during the last decade. They released their debut in 2009 and their follow-up, Avalanche was released four years later in 2013, and in the process, they snagged an opening spot on tour with Mayer Hawthorne the following year. Since then we haven’t heard much from them. Singer Coco O. has fallen in with the Vulfpeck crew and Robin Hannibal’s efforts are focused on the group, Rhye.
Among the landscape of contemporary popmusic, Avalanche is a hidden gem, filled with smooth savory moments fusing bittersweet soulful melodies over sparse funk grooves. Here’s one of my favorites from that album:
The revival of WestCoast music began bubbling around the world in the late 90s and was in full throttle by the new Millenium. The Nordic countries have produced a lot of great NuCoast acts over the last two decades and the Norwegian Fords are one of the best. This duo from Norway, featuring keyboardist and singer Eric Enzo and guitarist Paul Call, released two solid albums, one in 2008 and their second, Somewhere Down the Road You’ll Listen in 2011, which was mixed by studio veteran Bill Schnee.
The opening track is a near-perfect pop song that encapsulates everything this band is about: tight production, witty lyrics, jazzy chords, and a big pop hook.
We’re down the road. It’s time to listen.
BC Camplight is the nom de plume of Brian Christinzio who released two solid and promising albums in the mid to late 2000s. Then he seemingly disappeared and was not heard from for quite some time. Then, after a move to Manchester, England. the native New Jersey singer-songwriter emerged in 2015 with his best record yet, How To Die In the North, released on the Bella Union label. Recorded over many years, this album lyrical displays in detail the struggles Brian had been working through over the past eight years, all the while wearing his power-pop influences on his sleeve. While the music was coated in layers of dark low-fi production, Brian’s guitar and falsetto still cut a path like a morning sun through the thick fog.
The opening track from this album, You Should’ve Gone To School is one of my favorites, sounding at once ominous and buoyant. It even features a video with Felix The Cat.
The resurgence of WestCoast music [NuCoast] by international artists had already begun in the late 2000s. By 2010, musicians from countries sporting cold beaches and nary a palm tree began to build brand new Aja-like audio scapes filled with a world where each day is an afternoon drive on the Pacific Coast Highway in an open coupe in 1979.
In 2010, Swedish buddies Daniel Andersson [vocals and guitar] and Stefan Olofsson [Leyboards and bass] formed State Cows, which evolved out of a Steely Dan tribute band. Their debut album features lots of solid production and arrangements, top-notch performances and pop hooks galore. They were able to get producer/songwriter/ guitarist extraordinaire Jay Graydon to play the solo on New York Town, bridging the old school with the new and started on off a mutual admiration society between 70s & 80s WestCoast rockers and the NuCoasters who were heavily influenced by them.
After three EPs, Garden City Movement, an electronic dance-pop trio from Tel Aviv released the single, She’s So Untouchable in late 2016 as a precursor to a new full-length album. Mixing moody chillwave with shades of Westcoast smooth (and a nod to Steely Dan) this single was eventually left off of their 2018 LP, Apollonia, mostly because it’s an entity all to its own. This is what you play on Saturday evening before going out or on the ride home on a late Summer night.
From Northern California, here’s the band Frobeck, a funk-rock octet and obvious modern heir to Bay-area horn rock bands from the 60s & 70s, such as Tower of Power and Sons of Champlin. In fact, each of those groups has endorsed the band as well as their 5th album, Sea Of Truth, which was released in the Fall of 2015. Even though Frobeck split up and got back together as The Big Fit, this release has many solid cuts, including Pull Our Stuff Together.
I dare you not to move.
As we wind down on the twenty-tens, I’ve been looking back at the last ten years and I’m amazed at how many of my favorites have been recently released. I think the Naughts have the potential to be one of the richest decades of pop music we’ve had in a very long time. The technology has advanced to the point where beautifully crafted and sonically superior music can be crafted in one’s home. Singer, songwriters, and instrumentalists have the ability to mine from and be inspired by the last 60 years of musical history and knowledge. And with the advent of so many streaming services and artist-friendly online stores, the path to creating one’s art is firmly in the control of the creator.
So I’ll be selecting a few of my favorite songs and/or albums from the 2010s each week to post for your pleasure. Hopefully, I can turn you on to some new music. If you’ve heard it before, pass it along to someone else who might enjoy it. And as always, please support the artists who produced it.
I’m gonna start with a soul singer from Washington state named Allen Stone. His second album, Allen Stone was released in the Fall of 2011 and although Allen may look like a hippified Warren Zevon, this is laidback soul at its finest. It was even a Top 40 album on the R&B/Hip Hop Albums charts.
I chose the following because this seemed like the obvious choice at a potential hit, but there’s not one skippable song on this album. Enjoy!