Bilal - Free
It’s been nine years – nine years! – since R&B/neo-soul innovator Bilal dropped his first and, to date, only studio album (not counting the never-released Love for Sale). Can an artist who’s been flying under the radar for so long really hope for another big break? Put me down for a “Yes;” judging on newly-released single Free, the singer’s retro-informed yet forward-looking style has only grown fresher in the intervening years. A galloping ode to life on the open road, this creative joint finds beatsmith Nottz blending a sample from The Supremes’ Automatically Sunshine with bouncy bass, ominous piano trills, and exotically fresh brass as the artists invites a special lady to leave behind the daily grind and run away with him. Sure to earn repeat spins from listeners with a taste for left-of-center soul grooves, this cut and much more can be found on what, if it weren’t for Big Boi‘s Sir Lucious Left Foot, may have been in the running for the year’s most eccentrically-titled LP: Airtight’s Revenge is set to hit stores and online retailers September 14.