First Listen Review: Alabama Shakes: “Sound & Color”

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Genre: Indie/Southern Rock/ Blues/ Soul

The Good: Alabama Shakes’s first LP may have been a little overrated as a whole album. Sure it had some great songs like “Hold On”, “Hang Loose”, and “Be Mine”, but I couldn’t help but think these songs as well as the band’s ability to perform them with incredible energy carried the rest of the songs which were often too repetitive, too block chorded and squeezed, and one dimensional. “I Found You” was an example of this, where the chorus switched from grooving to a strum pattern that seemed to go on forever. Still, there was something in those 3 or 4 songs that made me keep coming back to the band. “Hold On” with its opening line was an introduction few bands can muster, it spoke of a person coming from nothing, down on her luck, but optimistic and ready to prove to the world she had something. It was the singer and her voice that made me know Alabama Shakes would be a force not to fight.

Here they return. Their second album has the potential to become a masterpiece of this year if first listen is anything to go by. it grooves more, it shines more, it plays around with emotions so spectacularly in the way at times it rises to great heights then dips down into simple chords at quiet levels. The vocals are more confident. The recording itself trashes the lo-fi quality it had prior and even makes the vocals seem to accompany the music in becoming more basey as if they have been swept underneath the rolling ocean. If you haven’t seen the live performance on SNL of “Give Me All Your Love”, do so. The guitar has been improved tenfold. No longer is it simple indie chord progressions mixed with southern rock. Now it has blues and soul elements to make it darker and spooky. It tears into the heart then strips it away for an absent effect so awe inspiring you’ll want to watch it again and again. The guitar across this album plays around with notes, differentiating itself from casual repetition of one single guitar lick. Often the band goes off to jam as well. Just brilliant.

Brittany Howard, the lead singer, has sometimes received ill words for her weight, as if it takes away from the band. What this album proves, is that those haters are so far from the truth. Howard in many ways carries the band, her stage presence is so refreshing and she has managed to incorporate that personality better on these recordings than she did in the past. There is so much emotion crammed into single notes it has the listener smiling and rooting for her as if she was an old friend you want to see take the world by storm. She’s someone I’d like to laugh with while getting a drink, she’s someone who makes me feel pride for America, pride for the often overlooked south. Her humility, her beauty of character, and above all, her passion shine across these set of songs and with the catchy chorus of “Don’t Wanna Fight”, she and her band mates are happy to have you along for the ride.

The Bad: I’d like to see a little more crazy buildup like on “Be Mine”

Would I Listen Again: Yes

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