Alright, alright. I know. I should be rattling on about what was long praised to be the most uncertain UK general election in a century to date. In fact, it’s been a quite controversial last night here in Britain. According to mass logic, at this point I should be writing up the always dangerous morning-after reflections on what, personally, has been an extreme and quite dramatic electoral delusion. Instead, against all odds, I’m opting for yet another feature piece for the critically acclaimed music review section ARM. Like it or not, I don’t really think this whole thing is meant to be hosting political reflections. At least not yet. Also, not only have I ruled out a socio-political essay on the current status quo, but I’m sure my musical choice will certainly leave some folks disappointed, bearing in mind the present release-intense period (with new music being revealed by Blur, Mumford & Sons, Brandon Flowers, among others)…
This time I’ve taken under close scrutiny newest Alabama Shakes‘ “Sound & Color”, released shortly ago on 21st April via Merge Records. It’s the US rock band’s second studio effort, following highly praised groundbreaking first LP “Boys & Girls” in 2012, which literally transformed the Alabama-native quintet into global mainstream talkabouts. That is to say, expectations were quite high for this second one, not least because of the considerable amount of time taken to work on it, considering present-day digital music industry rhythms and fast-food releases. Despite these external pressures, Alabama Shakes didn’t fail to meet such expectations.
The album as a whole is positively and overwhelmingly dominated by frontwoman, lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist Brittany Howard’s vocal performances, who’s able to fully exploit her unlimited talent to deliver chills on fine tracks such as lead-single “Don’t Wanna Fight” and heartbreaking “Gimme All Your Love”. The 12-track LP immediately establishes itself smoothly with title-track opener, that leads the listener along a rising climax that gets abruptly stopped by the emergence of catchy “Don’t Wanna Fight” as second in song listing. After a softened laying back offered by “Dunes”, the album achieves poppy and most-likely radio-friendly “Future People” as fourth one on the list, before showing some of its artistic best with aforementioned “Gimme All Your Love”. After the first very intense 20 minutes, “Sound & Color” loses itself slightly in its central portion with some melodic and harmonical repetition in following songs “This Feeling” and “Guess Who”, before unveiling some real excitement and fun again with speedy track number 8 “The Greatest”.
The LP, which to me really sounds like a natural and unforced continuation of debut “Boys & Girls”, quiets down a bit for its final segment, where mellow and sappy “Miss You”, alongside mighty instrumental “Gemini”, see Howard at her vocal top once again. Captivating and gospel-reminiscent “Over My Head” brings the album to its conclusion leaving a deep feeling of satisfaction to the listener. Alabama Shakes seems to have not lost their success formula with the passing of time (and, some would say, with the danger of notoriety), delivering a solid, mature, and evolved second effort building upon their fabulous debut. Before finishing up, I’d like to make a special last mention of the sober album’s artwork (see attached below), which not only appears to follow a late trend of essentialism and minimalism within music industry’s visual dimension, but that also truly suggests that the best is to be found in the songs. Nothing has ever been more true, in this occasion.
I’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and I hope to feel your interest again next time.
“SOUND & COLOR”
2015, ROUGH TRADE