With a wholly mix of neo-soul and rock, Alabama Shakes are truly heaven-sent. Fronted by guitarist and vocalist Brittany Howard, her iconic diva attributes have rendered the band completely unique and honestly, worth the hype.
With the group’s first debut album garnering enough appraisal to score themselves a slot at the almighty Bluesfest, their energy has not only allowed them opportunities to tour, but also perform for the prestigious Obama’s at their home in The White House.
Enthusiastically, their follow up had to be something spectacular, and Sound & Color does not fail to deliver a rich and deeply passionate release. While there is a lot that Alabama Shakes already have in their rapporteur (especially considering how young an act they are), there is, of course, a problem that lies in their youth. Afterall, just what is there to expect from a band both young and peerless?
Sound & Color is, to be blunt, an intimate affair. The lyrics are soft and for the most part the music is as composed and steady as a heartbeat. If you picked up the group’s 2012 album Boys & Girls you would probably be familiar with the style. But really, that’s about all the similarities shared by the two albums (other than Howard’s brilliantly powerful voice). Where Boys & Girls was fairly upbeat, Sound & Color sits like a bitter little pill. A much more morose affair, Howard’s guitar chops through the tracks as they slowly delve deeper and deeper into the most soulful pit of despair you ever did hear.
Considering the album starts with the wholly joyful declaration of, “a new world hangs outside my window, beautiful and strange”, you would expect some kind of emotional whiplash by the time you got to track ‘Dunes’, but just as the album has fallen into this kind of depressed swing, you have to as well.
Musically the album is an absolute treat. Every track, from ‘Dunes’ (which honestly cannot get enough praise) to ‘Gemini’, flows like an avalanche into the next, mixing into each other effortlessly. The occasional guitar stabs through a blistering mix of bluesy beats and sombre piano.
The influence from blues great Nina Simones is much more obvious on Sound & Color than with the last creations Alabama Shakes have put forward, mostly falling back on a larger focus on the soul side of the rock coin and again, that moody piano.
Overall, Alabama Shakes have done something truly impressive; create a sophomore release that both builds on their previous efforts and adds something completely new to the mix.
Sound & Color is out now via ATO Records.