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New Music: Alabama Shakes

By Sonny Sachdeva, May 21 2015 —

Six years into their acclaimed run as soul music’s new-age saviour, blues rock quartet Alabama Shakes is still unlike any other.

The group’s newest offering, Sound & Color, makes this clear. Lead vocalist Brittany Howard tears through the album with her signature soulful desperation. ENT_AlabamaShakes

Coming three years after their highly touted debut, Boys & Girls, the band’s newest record shows significant growth. The group previously seemed more like a backing band for Howard’s crooning, but Sound & Color boasts a more collective feel.

A finely tuned rhythmic sensibility continues to define the group’s work. Guitar riffs sprawl naturally into complex patterns that are irresistibly catchy.

“Future People” is a highlight. On the song, instrumentals establish a calming pattern as Howard sings softly.

Elements of the group’s original style remain in tracks like “Miss You,” where Howard’s emotion takes centre stage, climbing in indecisive waves before finally overflowing in a triumphant chorus.

The album’s lead single, “Don’t Wanna Fight,” is arguably the finest of the batch. It brings together all the quartet does best — rhythmic excellence, evocative vocals and genuine emotion — while taking a decisive step into a new era of Alabama Shakes.

Howard relinquishes control on Sound & Color, fading back into the mesh of instrumentals. Her vocals feel a little less soul-queen and a little more Bee Gees.

But it works. Alabama Shakes carves out a musical space that seemed previously untouched — an intertwined mesh of garage rock, funk, soul and disco.

No matter what style of music they make, Alabama Shakes is always able to put their own twist on it. That’s why Sound & Color is a contender for one of the year’s finest rock albums.

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