Sound Scene Express

Lyndsey Smith & Soul Distribution Breathe Life Into Soul-R&B Fusion with New EP, “Rhapsodize Me”


Lyndsey Smith and Soul Distribution
“Rhapsodize Me”
Released January 14, 2017

Confession: this EP isn’t completely new. Shame on us for sleeping on it. “Rhapsodize Me” was released on January 14th, and the five-track record displays a masterful blend of old-school and new-school; of soul and R&B; of instrumental prowess and dynamic vocals. It’s energetic, captivating, and just plain fun.

If you’ve been looking for a companion act to The Commonheart, look no further. LSSD has more straightforward R&B influences, but between their powerhouse lead vocalist, appealing blend of rock and brass instruments, and bigger-than-average band size that still comes together seamlessly, the similarities are evident. This extends to the staggering talent present in both groups. The energy espoused by Lyndsey Smith is incredible. Her passion is obvious, bringing electricity to each track’s honest, clever lyrics, and her range is particularly impressive. Not to downplay the talent of the instrumentalists: the rhythms, riffs, and transitions they handle are often fast and/or complex, but played through perfectly. Everyone involved sounds like they’re enjoying themselves, and that enthusiasm is contagious. In short, “Rhapsodize Me” is an excellent reminder of the relevance and vitality of soul as a genre, in a time where its most well-known artists tend to be from decades past.

The band consists of Lyndsey Smith on lead vocals, Spencer Geer and Ben Sherman on guitar, Luke Daller on bass, Jules Coulson on drums, Ross Anotnich on supplemental percussion, Collin Binko on saxophone, Joe Badaczewski on trumpet, and Stacey Price and Markila Brown on back-up vocals.

The EP kicks off on a lively note with the first track, “Keep On Movin’.” A high-energy brass section brings us in before Smith’s smooth vocals start up, singing “Tonight’s the night we get to party/Just let that rhythm guide you through/And as the sun begins to set into the sky/With the energy to move.” The chorus urges you to “Get on up and dance, don’t you stop now,” an encouragement that’s also reflected in the fast-paced, cymbal-heavy percussion. Smith’s voice steadily gains in power and occasionally veers into jazz scatting, accompanied by in-between sections of distorted guitar. These touches make the song more free-wheeling as it progresses, creating a raw, intimate vibe, but it never goes off the rails. The unexpected drop into a lower key towards song’s end works especially well. This is a solid introduction that gives you a taste of what each member can do, and gets you ready for more.

Things get swankier with the title track, “Rhapsodize Me.” Warbly keys, slower funky drums (along with a shaker), and an audible heartbeat-like bass line lead into a standalone brass riff, all before Smith asks the first question: “Can you feel it?” The answer (of course) is yes. The band’s sharp instincts for layering their multitude of sounds, and their embrace of unconventional melodies and transitions, make for something incredibly intoxicating and cool. Once again, the energy gradually grows throughout—a funky syncopated drum riff here, an addition of brass to the second verse there—until finally, after the second chorus, the subdued minor-chord-heavy sound transitions to something fuller, with multiple vocal layers, and predominately major. Coming back down just a bit for the outro, these shifts are an excellent example of LSSD’s bold creativity.

“Can’t Resist It” blends that cool swagger with a more straightforward, upbeat sound. This fits the song’s subject matter. Here, Smith is singing honestly about happy, exciting, passionate love: “The morning after/still feels like the time we met/filled with such excitement/I’m looking forward to the time we spend.” The sax, trumpet, and vocals are the most prominent sounds here, and their occasional syncopated pausing keeps things rhythmically interesting. The sentiments Smith expresses in the prechorus—“I see you’re tryin’ to keep your cool/The heat is getting to me too”—are reflected musically in the song’s progressively increasing power. After a brief talking section in the bridge (in which guitar riffs pop up intermittently), the chorus replays with ever-higher and more powerful vocals, as well as fuller, funkier instrumentals. This song captures the intensity of strong, multifaceted, reciprocated romance—and is catchy as hell on top of that.

“Where Do We Go From Here” picks up the pace even more, with inventive rhythms, cheery brass riffs, and Smith’s vocals showcasing both the highs and lows of her range. The lyrics describe the paralyzing uncertainty of a stalled relationship: “I can’t understand why, your love went away/I just have one question/Where do we go from here?” The additional percussion played by Anotnici provides great texture to fast drums, as do periodic appearances of guitar and synth. It’s cool and surprising to have a vivacious and rhythmically dynamic song address such emotional paralysis. What makes it work are the unconventional melodic patterns of Smith’s vocals throughout the track—they reflect the confusion and ambiguity of the situation described by the lyrics. This is a song full of smart and interesting moves (as well as being my personal favorite.)

“His Song” concludes the record with a softer, prettier, chilled-out vibe, another creative risk that pays off. Stripped down instrumentals (during which Daller’s bass takes the lead) pair nicely with light, floating vocals and poetic lyrics: “Blue skies, soft against my face/Oh, a simple song/A place to call my own.” Slowly, however, the song grows in intensity. Elements such as the increasing presence of guitar and brass and the addition of backup vocals build upon each other, until the number becomes full-out celebratory gospel, down to its recurring line: “Freedom, and peace of mind.” Other highlights include an unexpected synth solo three minutes in and the increasingly wild but well-controlled vocal improvisations from Smith. This track demonstrates their versatility, as well as their heart.

Suffice to say, this is a creative EP that balances passion with precision and bursts with undeniable talent. Lyndsey Smith and the Soul Distribution is absolutely a band to keep your eye on and pay attention to.

You can find “Rhapsodize Me” on all electronic music platforms, including their Bandcamp page. Follow along with them on Facebook, Instagram (@souldistribution), and on their website to make sure you don’t miss their next show.

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About The Author

Melanie Stangl

Melanie, 25, is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, and has been contributing both articles and photos to Sound Scene Express since April 2016. Her work has previously been published on Huffington Post Women, feminspire.com, and in the New York University textbook Mercer Street. Her goals include diving deeper into music journalism, traveling the world, and eventually being stable enough to own two dogs.

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