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It’s that time of the year! Everybody and their play cousin is counting down the best of 2008 – including yours truly. Last year, I counted down my Top 10 songs and concerts of the year. Those are still coming your way so stay tuned.

However, since this site’s mission is to shine the spotlight on underrated artists that you’ll likely never hear on your local fm radio station I decided to kick things off with a list of songs I’ve been grooving to throughout the year that you may have never heard before.

You’ll notice that on this particular list, the ladies are running this mutha. A lot of the  male artists I recently discovered didn’t release new music this year. Or I was on the late bandwagon and don’t have their music in constant rotation (looking at you Kameron Corvet, Darien, Heston, Cornielle, and Colby Odonis – to name a few).

Here is my hard-wrought, hard-fought Top 10 in no particular order. Get into these artists.

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1. Eric Lau f/ Serena, “Time Will Tell”

I believe it was my good friend Soul UK who introduced me to London-based producer Eric Lau. I have mentioned by love for producers like J Dilla, Nicolay and 9th Wonder before so  I was all too happy to take a listen to Eric Lau’s beats. It was love at first listen, especially since it led me to the discovery of female UK soul artists like Rahel, Taiwah and Serena Leah who appears on this track. This was one of the songs that stayed on repeat from Lau’s New Territories. Time will tell indeed what’s in store for this producer and the artists whose voices flow so effortlessly over these head nodding beats.

santogold

2. Santogold, “You’ll Find A Way”

Actually, Santogold is probably no stranger to most of you. You’ve likely heard her music, maybe just not this song if you didn’t buy her album or see her in concert. I was fairly unfamiliar with Santi until I saw her perform at the Roots Pre-Picnic Jam session back in June. It’s definitely a departure from the type of music I typically like but there’s something about this song. It energizes me, makes me want to rock out. No, I really do start headbanging every time I listen to it.

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3. Zaki Ibrahim, “Connected”

I discovered this Toronto-based artist by accident while digging through the crates for something else. Sometimes the best things happen accidentally. It was hard to pick my favorite off of this EP but this particular song about feeling so connected to her man that she wants to breathe him in so she can see what he’s made of really got under my skin. It made me want to be bunned up posthaste. Very Sade-esque.

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4. Tortured Soul, “Home To You”

Months later, I am still reminiscing about my first Tortured Soul Experience. As much as I consider myself to be a soulful house fan, I am very ‘shamed to say I wasn’t up on them before the show. Let’s just say after seeing them live just once, they have a fan for life. After seeing the live performance of  Home To You , from their EP, In Transit, it stayed in constant rotation. A second full-length effort cannot come quick enough.

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5. Sy Smith, Fly Away With Me

After seeing DC native Sy Smith perform live for the first time earlier this year (notice a trend here?), and being thorough entertained and impressed by her stage show, I was checking hard for her albums. I started out with her latest, Conflict. Don’t tell anyone but Viv made a playlist for a “friend” earlier this year and this track was on it. “Lose yourself in my love without trying.” Sy said it better than I could ever say it – and sounded MUCH better than I would have!

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6. Brittany Bosco, “8 Trak”

Yet another discovery I owe to Soul UK. I am looking forward to what 2009 has in store for Brittanybecause if this EP was any indication, the future is indeed bright. The title of this track was what intrigued me at first. From the moment, I pressed play, I fell in love with the old soul feel to it, which is of course very apropos. I picture her opening for Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings or Raphael Saadiq with a song like this. And of course Viv loves the sentiment 😉

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7. Taiwah, “Watch Out”

You already know how I feel about Taiwah. If you didn’t listen to me the first time, I’m really going to need you to get on that. This is the first song on the EP and the opening chords drew me in immediately. Hauntingly beautiful. And I have so been here. This song takes me back there but it isn’t an entirely unpleasant visit.

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8. Esperanza Spalding “I Know You Know”

I admit to being late to the party once again in discovering this jazz phenom. But that’s why I make it my business to attend as many live shows as I can. Once I saw her at the Roots Picnic that miserably hot June day singing and handling that bass like it wasn’t twice her size, I knew I had to learn more. I don’t talk much about my love for jazz here but Esperanza’s album makes me want to make that a priority in 2009. Although she didn’t perform this song at the picnic, it was one I kept coming back to.  I know you know that you should put her on your playlist whether you’re a jazz lover or not. It’s simply good music.

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9. Angela Johnson f/Julie Dexter “How Sweet Life Is”

I put this song on when I need to be reminded that regardless of what I’m going through, how sweet life is. I’m alive and have all my limbs and mental faculties (most days). Julie Dexter’s melodic voice immediately pulls me into a serious groove. I start to rocking and want to jump up and testify! If I could actually carry a tune, I would want to sing this in church. How grateful indeed. I am so glad that Angela Johnson “presented” us with this one. Take notes, you’ll see this album again.

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10. Hil St Soul, The Sweetest Days

I have been all about the UK Soul this year haven’t I? I have been a Hil fan since her debut album. I was so excited to see her perform at the Capital Jazz Festival last year. I was on pins and needles waiting for her latest release and she did not disappoint. She is on my short list of truly underrated female artists.  I can totally related to that yearning for “yester-me, yester-you, yesterday” as she sang, “In the words of Stevie, what happened to the world we knew?” This song also reminded me of how I felt the first time I heard Jilly from Philly’s “Do You Remember?”

Your turn, my dear readers. Let me know some of your favorite tracks of the year that you’re sure nobody but you has on constant rotation.

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