Exclaim!'s Best of 2014: Top 10 Soul & R&B Albums

2. Taylor McFerrin
Early Riser

Focusing a lifetime of musical influences through a lens of mature introspection, Taylor McFerrin's first full album statement is so tastefully forward-thinking yet respectful of the past, innovative without sacrificing coherence, that it comes off as the work of a veteran at the peak of his game rather than an opening salvo. With Early Riser, the musical scion (son of Bobby McFerrin) makes sweet love to the nexus of glitch-a-delic Brainfeeder bop, sensuous, velvety smooth R&B and starscape-scraping jazz.

Foremost a fine connoisseur of sound textures, an adept beat craftsman and discerning keyboardist, McFerrin is also very capable and highly expressive behind the mic when he graces the record with his creamy croon. In a display of what could be humility, bashfulness or simply a community-minded approach to dressing each track in whatever sort of character his muse calls for, a number of stellar guests join McFerrin on his blissful cosmic journey: labelmates Ryat and Thundercat; fellow genre catalyst Robert Glasper; and his legendary progenitor, most notably. The graceful, ambitious efficacy and raw talent for tunefulness McFerrin brings to bear on Early Riser mark this inexhaustibly catchy collection as a solid cornerstone for the future development of soul music. (Scott A. Gray)