I guess the art to getting the whole Neo-soul sound right is in knowing that you need to lean more towards the latter than the former. The music should play heavily on the soul element, should revel in sultry grooves, sassy rhythms and enticing vocal melodies; the Neo bit is really just the technical polish which makes it fit with modern sonic fashion, which helps sell it to a new audience. And if you want a demonstration of how that might go, just give Felixity’s debut album,Love Sick, a spin, it will explain everything perfectly.
For whilst this is made very much for the current times, for modern tastes and with the new rather than the retro market in mind, it revels in all the tasteful hallmarks and glorious sonic fingerprints that established soul as a genre in the first place. And it is that blend of modern smarts and classic shapes, pop contagion and lingering sensual aura that she gets so right here.
As always the album works so well because it is believable, it is believable because oozes honesty, it is honest because these songs feel part confessional, part exorcism, songs written to clear the mind, to better examine a situation, study the past as a way of navigating the future. Twisted Love is a modern take on a funky, soul ballad, Lazi Boi is a similarly nouveau take on timeless soul diva territory and You & Me is an old-school pop groover replete with rich R&B textures and infectious energy given a modern make over. Then there are songs such as Mr Brave which could only have been written in the here and now.
And as I said earlier, that balancing act is the art of it. Acknowledge that there is a rich heritage to be worked with here, absorb and infuse the classic sounds but then inject them with your own ideas and more importantly your own personality. Understand that concept and find the perfect counterpoints between old and new, then and now, classic and experimental, timeless and exploratory and you will begin to understand where the sweet spot of Neo-soul, for want of a better word, lies. Understand that and you are perhaps part way to grasping just what you need to know when making an album as finely tuned, in all meanings of the phrase, as this.