Alabama Shakes’ new album holds striking opening track

“Sound & Color” is the opening, eponymous track on Alabama Shakes’ recently released second studio album Sound & Color and could be considered the best song released this year. An eclectic mix of soul, beach rock, Motown and classic rock ’n’ roll, Alabama Shakes present a pleasing, full-bodied sound to contemporary American music by combining sounds from every decade since the 1950s. “Sound & Color” is a perfect representation of Alabama Shakes’ ability to pull at your heartstrings with the power of soulful lyrics and minor keyboard riffs. Opening with 40 seconds of slowly building, aesthetically pleasing keyboard, ethereal noise and calming percussive elements, Alabama Shakes have created what is possibly the greatest opening track to any album in the past five years.

Lead singer Brittany Howard then proceeds to display her mesmerizing vocal abilities on “Don’t Wanna Fight.” A legendary squeal leading into some mean soul bars transports the listener to the heat of the Motown movement. This is the beauty of Alabama Shakes: They take the most desirable elements of Motown and classic rock, add modern production magic and produce music that sounds “old” but appeals to contemporary music connoisseurs. “Gimme All Your Love” sufficiently confuses the critic in the sense that the lady with the golden vocal chords is the same band member emitting the sweet guitar licks. The fact that Howard not only fronts Alabama Shakes as a vocalist but also as the guitar authority speaks to her profound musical ability and important role in the success of this still-young band.

The up-tempo, passionate jam of “Gimme All Your Love” feeds wonderfully into my favorite track of Sound & Color, “This Feeling,” a major key, campfire slow-burner that tells the story of evasive love and the enjoyment that may be found in the search for love. The final two tracks of Sound & Color play off of the same sonic themes heard in “This Feeling.” “Gemini” and “Over My Head” continue conversations on love and pain over melancholy aural expressions, reverberating keyboards and slow-dancing percussive components.

Grade: B

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