Over the past five years or so, I’ve written quite a bit on the New York-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Rene Lopez, who arguably may be among a group of incredibly talented and shamefully under-appreciated artists I’ve covered and have gotten to know. And interestingly, Lopez over the years has proven to be a genre-hopping, genre-blurring chameleon. E.L.S. (short for Electric Latin Soul), Lopez’s 2011 release, saw the New York-based artist meshing salsa, boogaloo, old school hip-hop, merengue and electronica to create a sound that was a loving homage to Latino New York but with an inventive, modern re-interpretation. It’s an amiably swaggering, upbeat party album with sounds that kind of grab you by the hand and pulls you towards the dance floor. Paint the Moon Gold, his last and most recent, full-length effort was comprised of compositions that are stripped down to live instrumentation only — vocals, guitar, bass, percussion, horns, flute, etc. — while drawing deeply from salsa, and 70s Brazilian music. But the material on that effort comes from a deeply personal place, as lyrically and thematically the material expresses the thoughts, sentiments, regrets, compromises and desires of a worldly, experienced man, who has looked back at his life with a sense of amazement and disbelief — of the sort that realizes that life is at times remarkably painful, remarkably strange and incredibly, profoundly wonderful. His last and most recent recorded effort, last year’s Love Has No Mercy is the most dramatic change in sonic direction in his career, as the EP’s material is comprise of the slinkily seductive, synth and sinuous bass line-based R&B and funk that’s inspired by and owes a debt to Prince, The Gap Band, Rick James, Chic and others. It’s funky as hell, straight-up party jams.
Of course, there’s one thing that links all of this seemingly disparate material together — Lopez’s amiable charm, easy-going nature and overall talent. Now, I’ve said this before but the fact that someone that talented has been largely ignored is shameful and something that’s honestly beyond my understanding, and my hope is that the blogosphere could get it right. In any case, from what Lopez has told me and from his social media accounts, he and his backing hand have been in the studio writing and recording material for a new release. Presumably to build up buzz for the material, he has started a Jam of the Month series. The first single of series, which was written and produced by Lopez, “Heavy Baby, Heavy” continues his long-held fascination with all things funk, as the song is comprised of layers of cascading and undulating synth stabs, a bass line that reminds me of the bass line in Patrice Rushen‘s “Forget Me Nots,” (the 12 inch version, not the radio-edit version),boom-bap inspired drums, gently swirling electronics and Lopez sultry cooing to craft a song that sounds as though it could have been released in 1983 or as though it could have been produced by Dam-Funk or Dev Hynes.
Sonically and lyrically, “Heavy Baby, Heavy” manages to do something that strikes me as being incredibly rare — it manages to sound and feel as though it could have been easily played on WBLS‘ Quiet Storm as easily as it could be played in a club.