2021 Picks of the Year: 15 choice cuts – By Cal Gibson

Some super, super, selections here from Cal Gibson, of The Secret Soul Society and Scruffy Soul Recordings, complied as 2021 draws to a close, and most of them completely new to me. 

David Chalmers / Function Clan

David Chalmers

Taken from the recent reissue of David Chalmers` 1976 private press album, Primeval  Road, Function Clan, is a fully-fledged lost masterpiece of soulful cosmic ramalama, a beautiful, loping burrow into society’s ills. Chalmer’s vocals are draped over a boogie-back bassline, subtle synths, strummed acoustic guitar – a puzzled, earnest investigation into how mankind manages to muck up everything we get our grubby hands on. This track has been on repeat for the last few months – something about the guitar solo sliding mournfully in at the two minutes mark gets me every time. Timeless, wonderful – file next to Neil Young’s most sublime moments: it really is that good.

Jose Carlos Schwarz / Na Kolonia

Lua Ki Di Nos

Baked-in, deep down beauty abounds on the essential Lua Ki Di Nos (The Moon Is Ours) LP – a collection of Guinee-Bissau folk bangers from Jose Carlos Schwarz, hunted down by the Hot Mule crew. With the equally essential Teddy Lasry album, they’ve had a great year at the label for sure. Na Kolonia has it all: a perfect cut for this year or indeed any year.

Clay Beds / Step Off The Boat

Clay Beds : Step Off The Boat

Clay BedsKisses album is a woozy, bluesy, soulful delight: wonky, leftfield soul music tweaked and phreaked into angular shapes and sharp left turns. There are at least four alt-soul gems on there – I Like You, One More Time, Library and Step Off The Boat, all pinpointing the confusion and consternation of John Anderson’s and Hailee Rogers’ music-making life together. Lo-fi, crunchy, speckled with ice cream melodies and sugar-coated grooves, Step Off The Boat bumps and bumps some more: messed up funk for messed up times.

Cassandra Jenkins / Hailey

Cassandra Jenkins : An Overview Of Phenomenal Nature

A real heartbreaker – one of those songs that burrows its way into your subconscious so deeply you’re in danger of never finding it again. A miniature masterpiece from a spellbinding album. Long live Hailey Gates: new you, new you, same me. A world of longing right there. Cassandra Jenkins nailed it this year.

Gaspar Claus / Une Foule

Tincade

The whole of ClausTancade album is essential: deeply unsettling romanticism underscored by classical virtuosity, it’s a slow-burning delight perfect for the winter months. Minimal means of production, maximal emotional impact. Powerful, wonderful stuff. Strings of life, right?

Jeremiah Cymerman / From The Metaphysical to the Transcendental

Jeremiah Cymerman : From The Metaphysical to the Transcendental

From New York with love: clarinetist Cymerman’s Citadels & Sanctuaries album was a summer standout, and for me this is the prime cut. Poetry in motion, perfectly pitched pathos. Stunning. Check out the album: you’ll not regret it.

Dina Ögon / Sol

Dina Ögon

Sunnier than two weeks in Magaluf, Stockholm’s finest pop purveyors, Dina Ögon, unleashed a debut album that’s full of joyous grooves and laid back goodness – the perfect antidote to another year spent cowering in the shadows of the cursed pandemic. Pristine pop, with scuffed-up undertones: nice!

Pegasvs / Oscillations

BM008 - Oscillations

Shades of Larry Heard on this late night soulful excursion: a live take that shimmers effortlessly, easing you in or out of consciousness, suspended animation, a go-to track for the deeper mixtapes. Languid, liquid and lovely. Great work guys.

Ait Meslayene / El Fen

Habibi Funk

A disco banger from the always brilliant Habibi Funk stable: sure fire party-starter alert. The new Majid Soula LP is also tuff as hell. Yet to hear a bad release from these guys: quality guaranteed. There’s a fair few other killer cuts on the same compilation: check the bee gees cover for proof if needed. Absolutely rocking the casbah and then some.

Soshi Takeda / Water Reverberation

Soishi Takeda Floating Mountains

Popping up fully-formed from seemingly nowhere, Soshi Takeda’s aquatic vibes have been a quiet revelation. Perfectly balanced, flowing, elemental: this guy’s got it all. Never obvious, always intriguing: one to watch for the ’22. Tough to mark out your own spot from the off: Takeda handles it effortlessly.

Professor Shorthair / Injuns Here We Come

Superjock Records

New Orleans swamp funk classic revamped expertly by Professor Shorthair on the Superjock Records Bandcamp page: another one guaranteed to get those feet headed towards the dancefloor should you be lucky enough to find yourself anywhere near one. Beats perfectly judged, a nice bump in all the right places: respectful reworking of the funkiest order.

Hugo Moolenaar / We Can Live Together

Mocko Jumbie

A brilliant six tracker, the Mocko Jumbie E.P., from the Virgin islands on New York’s wonderful Frederiksberg Records. ‘Fantasy is not for we’ sings Hugo: ‘we can live together no matter what they say.’ Amen to that, Hugo, amen to that. Another label that only releases the good stuff, this is six cuts of quirky goodness – highly recommended.

New York Disco Orchestra / Untitled

Reverie

Proper soulful disco runnings on a great reissue courtesy of Spain’s Guerssen imprint: just as deep and as beautiful as you like. Real disco never dies: it just keeps on jumping (jumping, jumping). The whole E.P. is a great example of how to work a deep dancefloor: strictly for those in the know.

Melonyx / Energy

Melonyx

Real deal street soul from Nottingham: bumping boogie-back business for the after hours. Raw like sushi with an edge to the lushness: Joe Budha flaunting his producer chops. Killer. Again, expect to hear much more from this crew – they’ve only just begun.

Golden Bug / Variation (Superpitcher Remix)

Golden Bug

Lots of spins for this straight up French groover that rolls and rolls and rolls: great vocals from The Liminanas and a perfect rub from Superpitcher: an end of nighter special for sure. As ever its all about the restraint and the judgement: there’s a heap of things to listen out for and come back to – always the sign of a great production.

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