Got soul? I’ll take mine binary.
Soul music has gone through an interesting resurgence over the last decade or so. Since it’s heyday in the 60’s and 70’s many vocalists traditionally classed ‘soul’ have diversified into many other musical styles. Long gone are the large brass bands, colossal funk guitars and brash vocal styles. In it’s place, a new wave of soul singers have emerged, ones that are no less sultry or engaging, but choosing to adapt into electronica and ambient trance instead.
Plenty of those singers still exist, you can only look to the rise of Aloe Blacc, or Leon Bridges as examples of that old-school style. As well as your more laid back nu-soul singers such as Jess Glynne, Ella Eyre, Adele, Sam Smith, or even the currently MIA Duffy. All of which leads us to Oakland, California’s soulful electronic songstress Charise “Lake Lady” Sowells; who’s new solo EP Better Day was released on March 25.
She has collaborated with a myriad of electronic producers including Ado Mass, DJ Lee Kalt, Ghost Youth, and Quando. With those producers in tow, Better Day is very much a modern soul EP, blending the enticing and dulcet tones of Charise with the crisp, precise and ethereal sounds of electronica. A combination that has been increasingly popular over the last few years.
Nowhere is this more exemplified than in the rise of artists like Lana Del Rey. Though Lana gets by more on her nihilistically seductive style rather than technical ability. No problem for Lake Lady, as she is clearly an accomplished and intuitive singer, allowing the instruments (including an accordion!) enough space to let the desired soundscapes form.
I should add at this point that the instrumentation is fantastic with these tracks sounding especially great in headphones. It allows the ambient electronic beats and instrumental motifs to swell and engulf your senses. Kanye West would be proud. The sharp drums provide a nice contrast to the smooth guitar and vocals giving an almost hypnotic quality to some tracks, particularly the opener ‘Will Your Feelings Change?’
There is an interesting mix of styles and tempos on the EP, starting with more atmospheric tracks, before heading into more conventional upbeat numbers. Though they all share a similar distinct sound and feel. I personally, would like to see even more range and diversity from Lake Lady. I feel that sometimes electronic albums can get a little repetitive, and I felt a slight dip in quality with the second track ‘All Over This Town,’ before my interest was re-kindled with the ukulele opening of ’Be Still My Heart.’
My personal favourite of the EP is the title track ‘Better Day’. Featuring my favourite Lake Lady vocal performance, including lyrics about taking us all to a better place where “we can watch the sun fade away”; while this better place will “put a smile on your face.” This is all mixed in with a solid hip-hop drum beat, and the great funky guitar lines which occasionally give the same soul texture as a small brass section. I feel the track blends all these old and new elements of soul music into a really cool sounding and laid-back track perfect for those Spotify chill playlists I hear all the kids are into.
Better Day is highly polished, hypnotic and on the right side of quirky, particularly in its instrumentation. Lake Lady gives an assured and sometimes hauntingly ethereal performance creating some nice atmospheric soul. Better Day put a smile on my face, but I want more from her, and I feel she can deliver.
I feel it in my soul…as it were.