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

9. Slakah the Beatchild
Soul Movement Vol. 2

It took six years for Sarnia by way of Toronto "performance producer" Byram Joseph (aka Slakah the Beatchild) to deliver a sequel to his 2008 Juno Award-winner, and Soul Movement Vol. 2 was well worth the wait. Following a detour into psychedelic pop with 2012's The Other Side of Tomorrow, the second Movement sees a return to the chill, retro-fitted '90s-centric hip-hop soul (he dubs it "soulful hip-hop") that's Slakah's calling card. The head-nodding, mellow collaboration with Glenn Lewis, "Number 1," and the magnificent, neo-Motown charge of "Love Fool" with Tanika Charles are prime examples of his top-flight production prowess.

But Soul Movement Vol. 2 eclipses its predecessor with cuts like the vibrant instrumental "Byram's Groove," on which he expands his textural palette, or the nine-minute-plus, slow-burning house throb of "Keep Up" (which features Ayah and Joseph on vocals) while the hip-hop-flavoured "Where's Yesterday" delivers a playful yet stinging critique of modern radio programming. Whatever your definition of soul is in 2014, Soul Movement Vol. 2 is incontrovertible proof that the eclectic Slakah is one of the finest producers/artists working in modern R&B. (Matt Bauer)