My favorite soul album of the year comes from… Norway? Scandinavia, does superb musical sensibility grow on your trees? You could have rested on your laurels after giving the world ABBA and The Gert Jonnys, but… a-ha, The Cardigans, Sondre Lerche, The Radio Dept., Kings of Convenience, Shout Out Louds, Efterklang, Thomas Dybdahl, Agnes Obel… I could go on and on. And now, Jarle Bernhoft.

I say “and now” like he hasn’t been making solo albums since 2008, but he was new to me and, I expect, to most of America. And now he’s living in Brooklyn and nominated for a Grammy. While I share Public Enemy’s opinion of that award, I sincerely hope he wins; if he does, it’ll be—along with Arcade Fire’s win a few years ago—another modest indication that Grammys can still go to work that’s truly of the highest quality instead of what’s merely most popular.

Because Islander, despite its relative obscurity, is terrific on all counts. His voice is supple, soulful and heartfelt. His songs… well, he’s fucking writing songs, for one thing, giving future generations something new to sample. Anyway, his songs are funky as hell; whether organic, old-school slow-jamming or utilizing a more modern pop palette, there’s just irresistible groove for miles. Last but not least, there’s JOY. Unlike so much R&B consumed with its own sense of cool, this album dares to be fun, playful and experimental—witness the way the sleek “Wind You Up” builds its funky foundation on handclaps and beatboxing, layers on the harmonies and minimalistic rhythm guitar, then boom: what sounds like an unaccompanied recorder solo (although in the video below it’s him whistling, run through a filter). He’s an immensely talented artist, with rhythm in every fiber of his being, and I wish him all the success in the world.

Buy it here.

Join the conversation! 3 Comments

  1. Wow. I don’t know into precisely which crevasse I’ve had my head stuffed, but I was unaware you were also on wordpress.com. I post sporadically at alllooseandsquirrelly.com. Sometimes it’s even about music. More often it’s inexplicably about doorknobs.

    Reply
    • Worry not; you’re in no crevasse. I only recently banged WordPress into a semblance of shape and began posting in earnest. Jane initially set the site up for me a couple of years ago with imported old Tumblr posts being the only content; it took until this past December for me to feel ready to slap on some paint and start hanging pictures. I’d been posting music-related stuff everywhere – Instagram, Soundcloud, Facebook, Tumblr – and my desire to have a place to summarize favorite albums from 2014 finally made me want a place to call my own in which to house it all.

      I like the theme you’re using; I’m still not quite sold on mine (that sort of waffling being one of the reasons it took me so long to commit to blogging).

      Reply
      • I took a while picking the themes I’ve used, and that was just from the freebies. It’d be a lot harder if I were considering the paid ones too. And even more so if I got one with customizable CSS.

        Reply

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Favorite Albums of 2014