Culture, Music

Choice Cuts: Nicole Willis & the Soul Investigators – Keep Reachin’ Up

Timmion Records, 2005
Nicole Willis, promo 03 (1920x1080)It feels like a disservice to describe Keep Reachin’ Up by Nicole Willis & the Soul Investigators as a ‘throwback’. Sure, that’s what it may sound like, but that doesn’t reflect the passion that these musicians have for soul music which makes this album so much more than what it first appears.

Brooklyn-born Nicole Willis has a credit list longer than most in the contemporary soul scene. Her professional career began singing and writing with the Washington Week in Review, before contributing vocals for Blue Period, Hello Strangers, Deee-Lite, Leftfield, singing backup for The The and a duet with Curtis Mayfield. She’s made two albums with the New York soul-hip hop collective Repercussions as well as her own solo material. There’s a little bit of Barbara Acklin, Mary Wells and Roberta Flack in her.

As for the Soul Investigators, this Finnish ensemble’s love of soul music led to the creation of Helsinki-based Timmion Records in the late 1990s. Members include bassist Sami Kantelinen, guitarist Petri Toikkanen, drummer Jukka Sarapää, saxophonist Lasse Tolvanen and producer and instrumentalist Didier Selin, among others. They’d released two full-length records and handful of 45s around the time of Keep Reachin’ Up – the 2005 collaboration that won them international praise (Gilles Peterson’s 2006 Worldwide Winner), put Timmion on the map for Northern Soul fans and discerning record collectors and landed the group on the Presidential playlist.

Culture, Music

Best albums of 2013: top 10

Aaron's best albums of 2013 collage 10-01 (2500x1000)Here we are. The final 10 and my chosen favourites. Over the first and second parts of my album round-up, there have been disappointments (yep, no Bowie, no Kanye), there been surprises and there has even been some grief.

A picture may tell a thousand words, but music can paint a million different images. Which is why no amount of text could ever capture how those moments of musical elation feel. Still, if you’ve faced struggles and doubt this year, then, in their own way, each of these 10 albums offer reasons for you to press on in search of better days to come.