Sound and Color came out today, April 20th, 2015. This band has clearly been sharpened to a razor by years on the road and they take their time creatively, but it has been worth it. The band is transcending any genre classifications on this album and even reinventing a few. Brittany Howard lead singer of The Alabama Shakes said, “We were able to sit down and think about what’s exciting to us, explore all the things we wanted to on our first album. This record is full of genre-bending songs—it’s even harder now when people ask, ‘What kind of band are you?’ I have no clue.” A favorite track is hard to nail down, as the album really does function as a whole, of course many tracks are worthy of serious attention, exploring both tracks with haunting minimalist compositions and powerful walls of sound.
Most people into independent or old music have heard the phrase ‘pop is a four-letter word’ and although not everything at the top of the pops is something for our society to be proud of, this mentality really is a shame. One should never forget that, although it has the advantage of being finely curated by time, most of Classic Rock, R&B and Soul music is and was ‘pop’ music. The Alabama Shakes have drawn from that well and pumped out enough juice to share with everyone. The Alabama Shakes are already leaving their mark as they have already gave an exceptional performances everywhere from Saturday Night Live to the main stages of such festivals as Bonnaroo, Glastonbury and very soon at Toronto’s Field Trip Festival.
On ‘Sound and Color’ The Alabama Shakes create a range of psychedelic rock platforms for Brittany’s raw soulful vocal style. I hate to sound slightly biased but ‘Sound and Color’ is a masterpiece. The album starts off with the angelic gospel sound of an organ and breaks into Steve Johnson’s classic truckin’ backbeat. Brittany Howard has the subtle orgasmic voicing and breathtaking passion of a modern day Otis Redding. While Guitarist Heath Fogg and Bassist Zac Cockrell create some sort of beautiful chaotic symmetry. Their compositional choices are simple but meaningful, and that is the point. It is far easier to play a complex amalgam of notes or to play fast than it is to take something simple and reinvent it well. This album has confirmed my suspicions. The Alabama Shakes will be remembered.
They have more potential to herald a new standard in popular music than any current band. This is their sophomore album, and Sound and Color is easily the best thing to come out in 2015. It is always wonderful to see a band on its way to the top with more than talent and more than charisma. That may come off as confusing, and it is, The Alabama Shakes have acquired an intangible and indescribable attribute that every great band possesses. It might be explained as a flair for composition if it were not a far more complex amalgam of which that is undoubtedly one of the factors. It is a combination of all their choices on this album. From their sonic dynamics, to their polished production or their raw melodic configuration. The Alabama Shakes have become indefinable.
“We took our time to write this record, and I’m really glad we did,” says Brittany Howard,
So are we Brittany, so are we. At least you will be if you take a listen, right here:
And of course remember that The Alabama Shakes will be in Toronto in early June for Field Trip.
Review By: Gideon Greenbaum-Shinder
- Toronto Music Reviews