If you’ve been anywhere near a radio in the past month, chances are you’ve heard the insanely catchy earworm When The Beat Drops Out, and subsequently had it running through your head for days after. London born singer-songwriter Marlon Roudette has made serious waves on European and Australian charts with the track, and could do the same with his sophomore album Electric Soul, from which the single was lifted. An effective mix of classic soul and contemporary R&B, Electric Soul also navigates the musical influences of his childhood in St Vincent and the Grenadines, with the distinct sounds of reggae, calypso and soca music making regular appearances.
Electric Soul appropriately opens with a balanced indication of the entire body of work. America is a slow-building production that laments the prospect of a loved one losing themselves to big dreams and big cities. Comprising of expertly layered waves of sound that beautifully rise and fall, the orchestration plays backing to Roudette’s soulful voice. He then picks up the pace with the reggae-inspired Along, whose syncopated guitars accompany a chant-worthy hook. When The Beat Drops Out also maintains this pace. It’s both catchy and radio-friendly, whilst the stunning addition of my new favourite instrument, the steel drums, prevents it from becoming entirely indistinguishable from the rest of the beat- and bass-heavy tracks flooding the airwaves at the moment.
But Roudette doesn’t neglect opportunities for lovely balladic moments. Your Only Love is an effective infusion of contemporary pop, RnB and more traditional influences, replete with little pockets of vocal harmonisation. In Better Than Me Roudette flirts with the ballads characteristic of the 1980s, using an infectious melody to conducting a soulful and relatable self-assessment. Electric Soul is at its most tender with Hearts Pull. Set to the perfect dreamy tempo, Roudette’s sensitive vocals and bare piano arrangement perpetually builds with synthesised strings and shimmering electronics.
There are, however, a couple of forgettable tracks at the album’s midpoint, carried by Roudette’s vocal talent rather than his song writing. Body Language in particular reads as a somewhat uninspiring, bass-heavy grindathon, while Flicker is only salvaged from generic pop territory by his flexible falsetto and expert navigation of the melodic line. Roudette is definitely in his element when he’s combining soul and R&B with the genres and instruments associated with his childhood, rather than bothering with the few generic pop/dance floor fillers that pepper the album.