Last week, THEESatisfaction released their debut album, awE naturalE, adding to the spread of indie acts re-interpreting R&B. Thanks to artists like Drake, the Weeknd, and Frank Ocean, fans of late-night ballads have been well-nourished over the past couple of years — maybe too much judging by the sheer number of SoundCloud crooners these days. Sifting through their warped tracks can take time and patient ears, so we’ve compiled a list of five acts that deserve a place in your library right this moment. Cue, slow jams.
It’s difficult to temper praise for THEESatisfaction since the recently-formed duo has already turned the behemoth indie label Sub Pop onto R&B, diversified their rock-centric roster, and produced an album of sunny-day tunes. Fueled by love instead of one-night stands and afro-empowerment instead of cultural shyness, THEESatisfaction’s futurist soul transmissions are welcome additions for those burnt out on the Weeknd’s melodic ennui. Then, there’s the fact that Stasia Irons and Catherine Harris-White, whose voices you might have heard on Shabazz Palaces’ 2011 debut, are pros at crafting shimmering bedroom and dancefloor jams.
2. Evy Jane
Those hoping for nightstand-only music should trust in Evy Jane’s silky lullabies. The Vancouver duo of Evelyn Mason and Jeremiah Klein have a knack for making electro-pulsing mood music, even though their lyrics are about troubled youth and the rocky terrain of adolescence. Klein’s flickering production and Mason’s sultry vocals keep the party going into the early morning. One listen to “Sayso” and you’ll know why.
While Evy Jane’s angsty lyrics deviate from the usual topics of R&B songs, their fellow Vancouver crooner D’eon pushes further against the norm with politically-fueled songs that touch on death, strife in the Middle East, and the recession. D’eon’s production is also left-field for the genre; he transforms dense structures and hyper-tech sounds, like cell phone interference buzzing in a speaker, into melody. If his arthouse sound reminds you of Grimes, it’s because the two travel in the same circles and once recorded together, for their Darkbloom EP.
The anonymous newcomer Hoüses is so mysterious that he deleted his SoundCloud once he began receiving online press, but the handful of tracks that remain traceable contain some of the sturdier falsettos and beats that we’ve heard this year. Keep an eye out for his return, which seems impending since he’s reportedly planning on releasing three albums throughout the year. Check out this rare web gem:
Denmark is not a place associated with R&B, yet the Nordic duo Quadron were among the first to put an indie spin on the genre with their self-titled debut in 2010. Aside from their place of origin and their precociousness, Robin Hannibal and Coco O’s minimalist use of rhythm and whispers stick out because their visions of R&B don’t hinge on ‘90s nostalgia. After the the sax solo weaves between a sustained guitar chord and Coco O’s husky refrain on “Buster Keaton,” you’re wondering why it took until future bass and the Weeknd for indie to embrace R&B.