Quality soul music has become somewhat of an elusive characteristic in today’s R&B market; yet every once and a while the genre conceives an artist who’s music is reminiscent of better days. This year that artist is Aloe Blacc, and his Interscope debut, Lift Your Spirit, delivers on the premise of infusing blues, jazz, and soul back into today’s R&B culture.
Those not already familiar with Aloe Blacc from his 2010 EP, Good Things, may recognize his raspy baritone singing “The Man” from the popular Beats by Dre commercials featuring NBA superstar Kevin Garnet and NFL quarterback Colin Kapernick. The success of those ads, along with backing from Dr. Dre, has helped push the Panamanian singer into the limelight of urban soul.
The melodies on Lift Your Spirit will obviously transcend time, as this album presents something for every generation to connect with. Channeling the vocal chords of Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, and David Ruffin all in one, Aloe pairs haunting, emotion filled lyrics over smooth, nostalgic instrumentation. The results? An R&B album filled with eclectic production (“Soldier in the City”), gut-wrenching vocals (“Ticking Bomb”), and heartwarming undertones (“The Man”) that will lift your spirit under any mood.
That’s not to say the album is flawless, however. While Aloe Blacc may be filling a void that’s been long neglected by his counterparts, he suffers the same fate of over extending as they do. Despite choosing to spend the bulk of his ten-year tenure in music under the radar, it becomes more obvious with each listen that Lift Your Spirit is meant for crossover appeal. (“Wanna Be with You”, “Here Today”, “Can You Do This”)
The album’s apex is in its diversity. Ballads have been replaced in mainstream R&B for love songs with pop and EDM influences; Aloe Blacc manages to achieve symbiosis between genres on nearly every track. “Wake Me Up” starts off with homage to bluegrass and country; sounding like the perfect opening song to a modern day Western. “Love is the Answer” serves 90s and early 2000s neo-soul as if Leon Ware or Jill Scott themselves penned it. The 50s and 60s R&B influence on “Red Velvet Seat” is so powerful it’s hard to believe Curtis Mayfield himself isn’t crooning to you from the grave.
Best Tracks: Red Velvet Seat, Love is the Answer, Soldier in the City, Eyes of a Child