Monday, 20 April 2015

Alabama Shakes - Sound & Color, album review

Colourful Sound

The title track for Alabama Shakes’ latest sums up their second album trajectory at its best: taking soul inflections to original places, the falsetto vocal here partnered to vibraphone vibes that provide that engaging element of surprise. Production values prevail, the sweeping strings taking the song to its quick but lush close. Second track Don’t Wanna Fight places the funky squeal of Brittany Howard’s vocal to the fore before the rest of the song’s funk joins the upbeat party. Future People – listen here – has such a spunky opening with its popping beats, and then that sweet falsetto ascends from such an angelic height to confirm in these first four tracks that the band is moving beyond its rock soul to quite complex and textured songwriting. Such sparkling beauty in this track. Fifth Gimme All Your Love slows to the caressing essence of soul balladry when injections of pumping beats rock you from your meditation – the song rising ultimately to a fuzzed conclusion and a final four stabs of that pulse. The tease continues: sixth This Feeling is sweetly simple and balladic again, Howard singing poignantly over acoustic guitar, but here the quiet is sustained with muted drum and light finger clicks adding gentle texture and no explosions of tangential sounds. This is genuinely pretty, those strings once again lushly layering. Then eighth The Greatest punks it out! Satisfying for those who want variety; I’m happy to stay wrapped in the soul surprises. Miss You brings us back to being so wrapped, a climatic soul standard in sound which follows a pattern of slowing and then building on emotive vocal spurts. Eleventh Gemini plays with psychedelia a la Funkadelic but again with its own modern take. The album closes on Over My Head with playful and expanding vocal harmonies over another soul ballad, this combination of familiar and new consolidating the band’s and this album’s speciality.

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