Album Review: Alabama Shakes, 'Sound & Color'


Alabama Shakes, 'Sound & Color'
Alabama Shakes, 'Sound & Color' (© 2015 ATO Records.)

To say that the new record Sound & Color from Alabama Shakes is one of the most anticipated albums of 2015 is the understatement of the year. Alabama Shakes hit the music scene hard three years ago, with the release of Boys & Girls, and they've been picking up steam ever since. Sound & Color is not only an anticipated new album, but a highly anticipated follow-up to a very strong debut. And I can tell you, there's no sophomore slump happening here.

One of the events during The Current's 10th Anniversary week was a Current public music meeting. I wasn't that jazzed about many of the tunes I was hearing that night until I heard a short clip from what I knew was a small taste of the forthcoming Alabama Shakes' first single, "Don't Wanna Fight." My eyes lit up, my mouth dropped open and I let out an audible squeal when I realized what I was hearing. We were able to listen to the first (roughly) 25 seconds of the song, which included the fantastic James Brown-inspired shriek let out by lead vocalist Brittany Howard. I thought to myself, Please let the new Alabama Shakes record be good — because that small audio taste left me wanting more.

It's hard to put my finger on what Alabama Shakes are all about. When I describe their sound to people, I generally say, "They're a soul/rock band from the South." But I know that's far too simple a way to describe their vibe. In reality, Alabama Shakes draw from a number of sounds and genres. The new record Sound & Color jumps into a number of different zones. The album opener, the title track "Sound & Color," eases the listener into the record with a cool vibraphone groove. "Miss You" has a classic soul-ballad vibe that ends with a heavier rock riff and some rippin' leads vocals by Howard. "Shoegaze" is another highlight, as far as nailing the rockin' soul sound I've come to expect from Alabama Shakes.

That said, I get the feeling Alabama Shakes don't want to narrowly define who they are and that they want to experiment with sounds outside of the box, but at times it feels like too many ideas and influences are being crammed into one song. "Gemini" is an example of that; it's an unexpected trippy, psychedelic and spacey slow jam, but it sounds like a lot of ideas were thrown against the wall and too many were allowed to stick.

And that's maybe what's missing for me — a little more cohesiveness with the record. But overall, Sound & Color is a great follow-up to Alabama Shakes' highly successful debut, Boys & Girls. I can't wait to hear the new songs live in concert.

Audience ratings for this album

The Current's listeners who submitted a rating for this album gave either 4 or 5 stars out of 5, and in equal proportions. Poll closed at 3 p.m. on Friday, April 24.

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