The holidays have come and gone, Super Bowl Sunday’s excitement has begun to fade, the 2016 presidential election is officially underway with last week’s primary kick offs, and Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. As we enter the last few weeks of winter and count down to spring, what better way to welcome the Chinese New Year and prepare for the new season than with some sweet tunes? Here are SoulTrain.com’s top 4 albums you need to download now!
Lion Babe, Begin
Lion Babe made waves throughout 2015 with a series of soulful dance tracks like “Treat Me Like Fire, “Wonder Woman,” and “Jungle Lady.” With their just-released full-length debut, Begin, the New York-based duo comprised of singer Jillian Hervey (daughter of Broadway star and former Miss America, Vanessa Williams) and producer/musician Lucas Goodman, Lion Babe delivers a slick collection of modern, danceable songs that translated perfectly from the dance floor to the house. Hervey’s voice, which is evocative of Erykah Badu’s, is a welcomed contrast to the now-standard melismatic performance typically associated with soul and R&B singers. The group’s highly stylized videos and look make them all the more captivating.
Eryn Allen Kane, Aviary: Act II
Detroit-born, Chicago-based singer/songwriter Eryn Allen Kane’s searing debut EP, Aviary: Act I, premiered just a few months ago and immediately created an undeniable buzz. Anchored by the a cappella track “Have Mercy,” which offered a spine-tingling introduction to Kane’s incomparable vocals, the set presented a concise collection of songs leaning towards melancholy. On the second installment, Aviary: Act II, released earlier this month, Kane returns with more robust production and instrumentation. The opening track, “Sunday,” is a sultry ode to love and partnership, while “How Many Times” and “Dead or Alive” point to Kane’s ever-present social consciousness.
KING, We Are King
How long has the world waited for a full-length album from the eclectic R&B trio, KING? Too long! But finally, last week, the LA-based group (twins Paris and Amber Strother and Anita Bias) gave up the ghost, got up offa that thang, and gifted us with We Are King, their 12-song collection of gorgeous, beautifully orchestrated love songs. Their 2011 3-song EP, The Story, gave listeners a small taste of what the ladies had to offer, while subsequent singles like “In the Meantime” and “Mister Chameleon” (which appears on the new album) and collaborations with Robert Glasper (the intoxicating “Move Love”) and Bilal (“Right at the Core” from his album, A Love Surreal) teased but just barely satiated their increasingly impatient fans. We Are King is a glorious outing full of ambiance and good vibes.
Rihanna’s long-awaited eighth album, ANTI, was initially leaked/given away for free via Jay-Z’s TIDAL streaming platform at the end of January and, fewer than 48 hours after its release and some controversy, was certified platinum by the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America. Billboard, however, did not recognize the RIAA certification as it did not meet Billboard’s criteria). A raw, introspectively, and unabashedly sex-forward album, ANTI is already being considered by some as RiRi’s strongest work to date. With guest appearances by SZA (“Consideration”) and Drake (“Work”), and lyrics that allow the Bajan pop supernova to come across as pensive and simultaneously feisty, ANTI is definitely a worthwhile listen. Vocally, Rihanna has never sounded stronger.
Rhonda Nicole is the Managing Editor for SoulTrain.com, a soul singer/songwriter, music journalist, blogger, and curator of the BohemeRockstar Music Blog (IG @BohemeRockstar), splitting her time between the Bay Area and LA. Download her EP ‘Nuda Veritas’ on CDBaby and iTunes, keep up with her new music at soundcloud.com/rhonda-nicole, follow her on Facebook and on Twitter @wildhoneyrock, and dig her musical musings at rhondanicole.com.