Alabama Shakes are from exactly where you might expect from their name. Hailing from Athens, Alabama and growing their talent in Tennessee, their rise to fame has been meteoric. Their debut record began the recording process in 2009 and was unleashed in 2012 when it would explode on the charts and get nominated for three Grammy awards. Alabama Shakes have gotten a good amount of popularity due to having an incredible vocalist and making a light sound that can pop you in the mouth with a stiff jab if you are looking away too long. Sound & Color looks to capitalize on the hard work put in early on in their career, and Alabama Shakes deliver for the most part.
Sound & Color is quite an apt title for this sophomore effort. The amount of time put into crafting such a diverse sound palette must have been exhausting. Throughout the record listeners are treated to light keyboards, huge bass guitars, angsty lead guitars, and larger than life vocals that can lift even the dullest moments. There are moments that feel almost magical in nature, only to be followed up by the most bare and emotional response possible by the band. The emotional roller coaster ride will touch a listener in ways that are almost unexpected at times, which is the best attribute of Sound & Color.
There are some disappointing segments throughout the record worth noting. Production was a noticeable pitfall on the debut album, and those problems are still slightly here as well. Many tracks either drown out the vocals or drums too much for the band’s own good. With the best aspect being the incredible vocal performance of Brittany Howard, there is no reason to ever lighten that section of a track. Her voice is too low on a handful of tracks which hurts them badly.
The last two tracks of the record are also the least interesting as well. “Gemini” is the first truly slow track here, which causes the ending to reach a screeching halt. The guitars never really develop throughout the song and the last minute of energy cannot salvage a brutally slow section of music. “Over My Head” closes the energetic album off with an even slower track. The sense of being overwhelmed by a relationship is felt by the listener with the crawling pace of the track, but instead it feels more dull than effective.
Alabama Shakes are a musical act that is developing in front of our eyes, with Sound & Color being a marked improvement for a sophomore effort. There is a lot of youthful energy and fun to be had but also enough of a punch to have some diversity as well. The ending is a lot weaker than is preferred but there is still time to build up flow to new albums in the future. Alabama Shakes are exactly what mainstream music fans should strive for, an improving act with a very bright future ahead of them.
1. Sound & Color
2. Don’t Wanna Fight
4. Future People
5. Gimme All Your Love
6. This Feeling
7. Guess Who
8. The Greatest
10. Miss You
12. Over My Head