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Got Soul? Playlist

Lizzy Schroff | Thursday, February 14, 2013

1.     Mayer Hawthorne – Just Ain’t Gonna Work Out

a.     I remember the first time I heard Mayer Hawthorne. It was my sophomore year and I attended Notre Dame’s kickoff Block Party concert. I was there mainly because I was excited about seeing Guster, but when Mayer Hawthorne came out in his thick-framed glasses and belted soulful songs of love and heartache with his multi-piece band, I was pleasantly surprised. Since then, I have fallen more in love with his music which exudes a 60s soul vibe with its brass accompaniment and catchy choruses.

2.     Allen Stone – Sleep

a.     This song certainly won’t be putting you to sleep. It’s infectiously upbeat, aided by a blues organ, great backing vocals, and the melodic and expressive voice of Allen Stone, a singer/songwriter who defines himself as “a hippie with soul.” You can hear the influences of gospel and vintage R&B music that Stone grew up listening to in his songs.

3.     Charles Bradley – Stay Away

a.     I was taken aback when I first heard this song on the radio on a summer afternoon drive from Maryland to south Virginia. Fans of Nirvana may recognize the title from their 1991 album “Nevermind.” This cover is so far from the original (I know what you’re probably thinking, “A SOUL cover of a Nirvana song?”), but it surprisingly works. Really well. The “waahs” of the guitar, Bradley’s screams, the keyboard and bass – it’s just fantastic. It definitely ranks among my favorite covers.

4.     ZZ Ward – Put the Gun Down

a.     From the first note, you know that you’re going to be singing this song to yourself for the rest of the day. ZZ Ward’s unique vocals and blend of various musical styles, from blues to hip-hop and neo-soul, are really special.

5.     Alabama Shakes – Hold On

a.     When Brittany Howard sings, she doesn’t hold back. And this track is no exception. The Alabama Shakes, who were nominated for best new artist at this year’s Grammys, put out songs that make you feel like you’re going back in time to the good old days of bluesy-rock and soul. And if you haven’t seen the Levon Helm tribute “The Weight” at the Grammys featuring Brittany Howard, watch it now.

6.     Cold War Kids – Hospital Beds

a.     Don’t get me wrong, I love synths and keyboards (especially when used in my beloved dream pop), but I do feel like there’s not enough piano featured in its beautiful pure form. I think that’s what really grabs me about “Hospital Beds.” That and singer Nathan Willett’s wailing vocals makes me want to go get sick enough to go to the hospital and have this song playing while I wallow in my misery. Make sure to look out for the Cold War Kids’ new album, “Dear Miss Lonelyhearts” which hits the shelves April 1.

7.     The Black Keys – She’s Long Gone

a.     The Black Keys have been cranking out tunes since 2002, but their 2010 album “Brothers” was the first I heard from them. “She’s Long Gone” has become one of my favorites. Vocalist and guitarist Dan Auerbach lays it all out on the table, especially with his shredding bluesy guitar solo. I can’t help but feel like I’ve got soul when I’m riding down the highway in my sunglasses with this song blasting.

8.     Jack White – I’m Skakin’

a.     I wasn’t really sure how Jack White was going to do when he left The White Stripes to go solo, but when “Blunderbuss” came out, all doubts were quickly wiped away; he deserved every nomination that he got at this year’s Grammys. “I’m Shakin'” is chock full of elements that make it great – White’s fantastic guitar playing (which never disappoints), lovely backing vocals and an upbeat tempo.

9.     Janelle Monáe – Tightrope

a.     This song makes you want to get up and dance. Plain and simple. There’s even a special dance to go along with it that I still can’t get right (check out the YouTube video to try it out for yourself). Monáe provides soulful vocals accompanied by a great beat and a “classy brass” section for a real feel-good track.

10.  Fitz and the Tantrums-MoneyGrabber

a.     When I first played this song for my mom she promptly asked me “Is Motown making a comeback? Because this sounds exactly like it.” You would certainly think so with the vibe that this tune exudes. There’s saxophone, piano and a general grooviness expressed in Michael Fitzpatrick and Noelle Scaggs’ vocals. And even though there are no guitars (shocking!) you won’t be missing them.

11.  Ray Lamontagne – Three More Days:

a.     This track is a bit of a departure from Ray Lamontagne’s generally folky, acoustic style, but I can’t help but dig it. Lamontagne can never go wrong with that beautifully raspy voice. If I were a guy, I’d want a voice like his. Or Sting’s.

12.  Diane Birch – Nothing But a Miracle:

a.     Opening with a wonderful keyboard solo, “Nothing But a Miracle” is a gem of a heartbreak song. Diane Birch has a voice that is distinctly hers and she owns it. She brings the lyrics to life with interesting runs and articulation for a retro sound.

13.  Michael Kiwanuka – Bones:

a.     You may have a difficult time believing that this song was recorded just this year. Michael Kiwanuka’s voice is rich and timeless, enhanced all the more by a wonderful musical arrangement. This winner of the BBC Sound of 2012 poll is not to be missed.