Photo from alabamashakes.com
By Giovanni Ortiz
Alabama Shakes’ sophomore album, Sound & Color, is better than their last album. Fans eagerly waited for the band to deliver a new album to their Spotify and iTunes playlists. The band still has their idiosyncratic mixture of genres, only blended with a new blender. Sound & Color sounds as if the band had the Rolling Stones cover Sam Cooke and made a full length album out of it.
Sound & Color, still with the Southern rock quality to their music, added more soul and R&B vocals which created a great concoction that is reminiscent of both Motown and classic southern rock. Not only is it melodic nostalgia of bluesy, soulful rock and roll, but its lyrics also follow the theme.
The new album sounds almost completely different from Alabama Shakes’ last one, Boys & Girls. The new album sounds more complete and whole, leaning more on Brittany Howard’s soulful vocals. Whereas the previous album had a grittier sound and leaned more on the guitar than Howard’s louder, more commanding vocals.
Alabama Shakes, a band that unexpectedly received fame with Boys & Girls, took a huge risk by changing some of the bases to their sound. The last album’s vintage rock was offered with raging guitar riffs and Howard’s shout-singing, which gave the band a reputation of being very rough and emotional at the same time. This album, on the other hand, is much smoother.
Sound & Color balances both Brittany Howard’s old-fashioned, deep, soulful vocals, Heath Fogg’s slick guitar licks, bassist, Zac Cockrell’s, riffs, and Steve Johnson’s spot on drums in a way that revives blues and rock’s emotion.
The only song that could fit on the last album is “Miss You,” which sounds as if it could be a reprise of “Be Mine”.
Sound & Color shows the amount of thought that the band put into its production, from the sound and lyrics to the order of the songs. Alabama Shakes offer a moody album that forces the ear to listen to its crisp tone and layers of harmony.
Each song leads to the next, sort of creating the soundtrack of a person’s week. The garage-rock hype of “The Greatest” leads to the relaxing groove of “Shoegaze” which causes the contrast of the longing in “Miss You” and the moodiness of “Gemini” to have more of an impact. “Gemini” paves the path for the hard hitting percussion, harmony, and the slippery licks in “Over My Head,” the closing song of the album, giving it a perfect loop to the album titled opening song, “Sound & Color.”
All in all, Sound & Color is better than Alabama Shakes’ debut, Boys & Girls, which was already a great album to begin with.