Saturday, May 2, 2015

Sounds & Color | Alabama Shakes


★★★★

Alabama Shakes lives up to every aspect of the name. With music that blends Southern soul and psychedelic rock, the band embodies Americana at its finest. Frontwoman Brittany Howard boasts an androgynous contralto voice that can rattle like a freight train and howl like a jazz crooner. On their sophomore album, Sound & Color, the band members have added a moody coating to their old-school foundation that will pique the interest of all listeners, both young and old.

The album is carried by sultry guitars, vague synthesizers, and warm ambiance, but the real magic comes from the emotion of Howard's chameleonic voice as she cuts through her own lyrics. Without Howard fueling them, these tracks could easily fall flat. She is able to produce Aretha Franklin-worthy moans ("Don't Wanna Fight"), muffled upper-register hums ("Guess Who"), and emotional squeals ("Future People") without losing her identity.

Whether it echoes through an inviting record shop or plays on a long road trip during the dog days of summer vacation, Sound & Color sparks life into any scene. With an enticing new layer of production and an impressive display of vocal acrobatics, the Shakes have outdone themselves. The album has found itself in good company with Haim's Days are Gone and Lana Del Rey's Born to Die as another essential piece to a killer summer soundtrack.

Sound & Color is out now under ATO Records and Rough Trade Records.

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