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by Dan Weiss

June 26, 2014

Soulful Indie

by Dan Weiss  |  June 26, 2014

The last five years have been overtaken with a huge resurgence in R&B and various "alternative" ways to expand on it, thanks to artists like How to Dress Well (Tom Krell's falsetto-laden lo-fi-turned-Urban Outfitters soundtrack project) and tUnE-yArDs (Merrill Garbus' thick, lush voice ululating on the D'Angelo-influenced "Doorstep" or the celestial sex jam "Powa" is unlike any indie vocalist before her).

But for many rock and alternative artists, a soul influence was always there, from the beat-wise jerk-punk of Gang of Four (with the club-ready backing vocals on "I Love a Man in Uniform") to Rilo Kiley's dirt-road soul songstress Jenny Lewis (check out the Spector-esque "Silver Lining"). Sure, bands like Haim are doing things on songs like "If I Could Change Your Mind" that would've never been considered part of the indie pop spectrum decades ago, but that shortchanges Yo La Tengo's garage-soul ("Emulsified," "Periodically Double or Triple," "Well You Better"), Afghan Whigs' Blaxploitation grunge ("Milez Iz Ded" and "Be Sweet," especially) and Spoon's slinky minimalism ("Everything Hits at Once" is one of the sexiest indie rock songs, period). Travis Morrison of affable post-punks The Dismemberment Plan has been swirling in rap and R&B bits for ages, most notably on his 2008 solo album All Y'All, where songs like "Just Didn't Turn Me On" show off the chops he developed singing in gospel choirs after his band broke up. And remember when CBGBs mainstays Talking Heads covered the Al Green classic "Take Me to the River"? They did the song more than justice, and it fits right in alongside the rest of the surprisingly solid soul pastiches on this playlist.

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