Alabama Shakes live up to the hype

The rock band tightens its sound and takes its songwriting to the next level.

Tyler Davis, Writer

Alabama Shakes came around at an interesting time musically. Their southern rock/soul sound stands alone in many regards. The band sounds right at home next to artists like The Black Keys and Jack White, but their particular brand of southern-fried rock and roll has been sorely lacking over the course of the last decade.

Led by charismatic frontwoman Brittany Howard, the band garnered critical acclaim for their debut record Boys & Girls. Howard’s voice stood alone in the indie-sphere, diametrically opposing the likes of Adele and Florence & The Machine with her Joplin-esque growl. While that record was solid, it is definitely apparent that Alabama Shakes have kicked it up a notch on their sophomore album “Sound & Color.” The band is more polished, tight and is breaking new stylistic grounds. The band has long refused to take on the banner of soul revival to avoid being pidgeonholed.

“Sound & Color” is decidedly more mature and realized than its predecessor. It has the timbre of a more aged band who has truly found their groove. The track “Don’t Wanna Fight” is driven by a groovy guitar lick, reminiscent of Kings of Leon’s later work. The songwriting this time around is a marked improvement. These songs have soul, no pun intended.

“This Feeling” is an acoustic/folk track that shows the versatility Alabama Shakes has in its back pocket. You can almost smell the mix of coffee and cigarettes in a New York City coffee shop, watching a local singer/songwriter pluck away at the strings of a beat up acoustic guitar.

The themes found here are not much different from those found on “Boys & Girls.” Heartbreak, loneliness, perseverance and hope are sprinkled throughout this album. These themes are relatable without feeling cheesy or contrived. There is a gospel-like vibe of the weary traveler pressing on through the trials and tribulations of life.

“The Greatest” is the most raucous track of the bunch. Howard channels her best Julian Casablancas vocal performance. The song sounds straight out of “Is This It?” era Strokes. This tune is a blast and is no doubt one of the strongest on the record. While it is no doubt heavily influenced by that band, it quickly becomes evident the band has still injected its own flavor into the mix.

Alabama Shakes has never been disliked. They have always had the “band to watch” tag attached to them and this record is why. The predictions of listeners and critics came true. They have crafted a catchy, soulful, well-written and memorable rock album. They have pulled from the best of the best while crafting music that is no-doubt their own. They have honed their craft both in the studio and on the stage. Alabama Shakes has arrived, and it does not look like the band is going anywhere. Thank God for that.

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