Alabama Shakes – Sound and Color

Out of all the honour students that made the class of 2012, it was almost predestined that Alabama Shakes were most likely to succeed. They arrived with such an assured, definitive sound – a sizzling soul-rock hybrid designed almost entirely to launch the boisterous vocals of frontwoman Brittany Howard forth into the musical stratosphere. Alabama Shakes arrived as a fully-formed and fully-fledged outfit and Boys and Girls felt less like a debut effort and more like a mid-period release from a tried-and-tested band in their prime.

Sound and Color is an album that has quite clearly been made in defiance of the expected second album slump and manages to succeed on an even higher level because of that. Sound and Color is a record that pushes the band and challenges the lengths to which they will go. As a result, it sounds best when they are hitting for the fences – ‘Miss You’ and ‘Gimme All Your Love’ quite literally build from a whisper to a shout, excercising the band’s sharp dynamics and, of course, Howard’s ability to reel you in and then knock you back again.

For many, Alabama Shakes begins and ends with Brittany Howard. There’s certainly enough across both of their albums to warrant such a response – after all, who else could let out such a piercing squeal like the one at the start of ‘Don’t Wanna Fight’ and get away with it? There are moments on Sound and Color, however, that prove that the band is equally vital: ‘The Greatest; is a hyperactive styles clash guided swiftly by drummer Steve Johnson; while not a foot goes out of place on the buzzing strut-rock of ‘Future People’. In other words – it’s more than the voice (try and understand it).

The light and the dark, the loud and the quiet, the black and the white… there’s so much sound and colour on Sound and Color that it will take a few listens to properly get used to it. Once it all clicks into place, however, it becomes all the more rewarding. This is an album that proves that there is far more to this band than meets the eye.


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