The Albums That Defined Indie Music in 2013: Solange, Saint Heron and charting R&B’s future

We finish our series by looking at the exciting path Solange and her label have charted for R&B in 2014.

- Dec 31, 2013

This year, instead of putting our favourite albums into a no-doubt 100% objective list, we're taking a deeper look at how 2013's most influential records have shaped the landscape of independent music. For the final installment, we look at the seeds Solange and Fade To Mind have sown for a big year in R&B.


More THE ALBUMS THAT DEFINED INDIE IN 2013:

HAIM's Days Are Gone and the Rise of Ariel Rechtshaid

Deafheaven's Sunbather and Metal's Blurred Lines

My Bloody Valentine, Beyoncé, and When No Promo is the Best Promo

Daft Punk's Random Access Memories and the resurgence of Nile Rogers

Kanye West's Yeezus and hunger in a famished year

Perfect Pussy and the year of the cassette tape


Last year, the critical success of The Weeknd and Frank Ocean gave year-end reflectors an easy “PBR&B” frame but this year broke that too-tidy alt-R&B conception wide open. 2013 saw a slew of new artists slip through the floodgates the two singers opened.

There’s no doubt that Solange was an early benefactor; the singer finally stepped out of her sister’s shadow with last year’s True EP. And she continued to chart her own musical course with the Saint Heron compilation, the debut release from her own Saint Records. Curated by Solange, the record gathers a who’s who of artists currently pushing the boundaries of contemporary R&B. As much as a snapshot, it's a roadmap of where the genre's going. And it’s an exciting path.

Among the singers and producers showcased is Kingdom, whose own Fade To Mind label has quietly been blurring the lines between modern R&B and dance music, as the producer did on his own Vertical XL EP. Its opening track “Bank Head” features the singer Kelela who lit up the blogosphere with her excellent Cut 4 Me mixtape, giving Los Angeles’s bass-scene the kind of crossover star that could finally put it on mainstream radars.

Also present are Jhené Aiko and Sampha. After featuring on two of the best tracks from Drake’s Nothing Was The Same, both artists released strong EPs. Sampha’s Dual suggests that the soulful London crooner is finally ready to take the front seat after playing second fiddle to his collaborators over the last few years. Meanwhile, Sail Out proved that Jhené Aiko could go toe-to-toe with hip-hop’s MCs du jour; Kendrick Lamar and Childish Gambino might have outshone the singer, but her unique, sensual voice proved a strong through-line on a short EP overstuffed with guests.

Finally musical journeyman Dev Hynes, who helped shape the sound on Solange’s breakthrough, finally dropped his magnum opus as Blood Orange. Cupid Deluxe builds on Hynes’ work as a producer and songwriter, creating blissed-out pop-gems that harken back to the Purple One’s 80s heyday without coming across as a retro retread.

The Weeknd’s follow up to Trilogy was a non-starter with critics, but Kiss Land was a hit in the greater musical world. If stepping out of the shadows and signing to a major label diminished his mystique and drove him definitively into the pop world, it didn’t kill the exciting movement in the genre. Whether Solange and her new label find long-term acceptance is a question for next year, but 2013 will certainly be remembered as the year R&B’s progressive underground finally broke out of the club.


More THE ALBUMS THAT DEFINED INDIE IN 2013:

HAIM's Days Are Gone and the Rise of Ariel Rechtshaid

Deafheaven's Sunbather and Metal's Blurred Lines

My Bloody Valentine, Beyoncé, and When No Promo is the Best Promo

Daft Punk's Random Access Memories and the resurgence of Nile Rogers

Kanye West's Yeezus and hunger in a famished year

Perfect Pussy and the year of the cassette tape

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