In 2012, they received smashing reviews for their release of Boys & Girls. They received three Grammy nominations and an award for Best New Artist. Now finally, after three years of heavy touring, Alabama Shakes have returned with an album so smooth and harmonious that one may deem it a resurrection of an updated version of the famous Muscle Shoals vibe. Their contagious reggae funk flows through the twelve-track Sound & Color (ATO Records) with ease and effortless vocal perfection by frontwoman Brittany Howard.
With a unique blend of staccato vocals and fuzzy bass lines, the album isn’t your typical radio sound. The entirety of the album promotes a nostalgic vibe; a perfect atmosphere for long car rides and recounting old memories. The lyrics are honest and intimate, especially in the track “Miss You,” where Howard confesses, “I’m gonna miss you, and your Mickey Mouse tattoo, and you’ll be leaving in your Honda Accord.” However, other tracks are more celebratory, such as “The Greatest,” one of the more upbeat, fast tempo songs on the album.
Listen: “Future People” – Alabama Shakes
The fourth track, “Future People,” attacks more societally focused issues. One may deem this track a call-to-action, pleading the youth to overcome their apathetic tendencies and shape their future the way they see fit. The chorus is direct, intentional, inviting. “Children, take or leave it. Come, people. You got to give a little, get a little. And see it like future people”. This is particularly relevant to todays generation, one that has grown up in a society filled with social inequalities that require direct advocacy to resolve them.
The second track is one that could be interpreted in hundreds of different ways. Even the title, “Don’t Wanna Fight,” is applicable to many situations within a person’s life. Though one may assume that the album is about a romantic relationship, I see it as a societal observation. We live in an incredibly categorical society, there’s very little room for grey opinions. This is especially prevalent in politics, where politicians are seen as weak if they aren’t black-or-white on a certain issue. In this track, Howard pleads, “I can’t get no relief, living ain’t no fun. There ain’t nobody left, why can’t I catch my breath? I’m gonna work myself to death.” This leads directly into the chorus, where she repeats, “I don’t wanna fight no more.” With such a defensive, unequivocal society, it’s often exhausting to face the challenge of stating opinions and facing an army of ingrained values and prideful opponents.
I can’t get no relief, living ain’t no fun.
There ain’t nobody left, why can’t I catch my breath?
I’m gonna work myself to death.
This variation in atmosphere created by each of the tracks is a difficult trick to pull off, making the album that much more intriguing. The vibes come in rhythmic waves, starting off slow with the first track, “Sound & Color,” building up to tracks such as “Gimme All Your Love,” where Howard’s pleas flows through with achingly beautiful vulnerability. Though the lyrics are personal and candid, Howard provides a stark contrast with loud, passionate vocals.
Watch: “Sound & Color” – Alabama Shakes
Having personally only heard of the band through the film Silver Linings Playbook, I was enthralled the second I heard this album in its entirety. It’s rebellious, raw, abstract. It encourages you to turn up the volume and absorb Howard’s contagious enthusiasm and deep emotion.
The unique blend of sounds led Howard to admit that, when asked about what kind of band Alabama Shakes were, she’d have to reply, “I have no clue.” This is a refreshing answer to hear in an age of genre restricting record companies, pressing artists to stick to a particular sound to fit in with mainstream style. Alabama Shakes have often been the victim of shoehorning, often being shoved into the vintage soul-rock category. However, with the release of Sound & Color, the group kicked all past rules and restrictions to the curb.
Having performed at a multitude of well known venues such as Saturday Night Live and music festivals like Bonnaroo, one can only assume that the new album will be a smashing success on tour. With such a rebellious sound, who wouldn’t want to experience the album performed live? With Sound & Color, Alabama Shakes have certainly proclaimed themselves as a band without genre, free to explore the vast open field of experimentation and newfound creativity.
Listen: “Don’t Wanna Fight” – Alabama Shakes
“Dont Wanna Fight” – Alabama Shakes
My life, your life
Don’t cross them lines
What you like, what I like
Why can’t we both be right?
Until there’s nothing left worth winning
Your pride and my pride
Don’t waste my time
I don’t wanna fight no more [x6]
Take from my hand
Put in your hands
The fruit of all my grief
Lying down ain’t easy
When everyone is pleasing
I can’t get no relief
Living ain’t no fun
The constant dedication
Keeping the water and power on
There ain’t nobody left
Why can’t I catch my breath?
I’m gonna work myself to death
I don’t wanna fight no more [x6]
No, no, no, no!
I don’t wanna fight no more [x7]
I don’t wanna fight, I don’t wanna fight!
I don’t wanna fight no more [x8]
:: Alabama Shakes – Upcoming Tour Dates ::
5/13 – Birmingham, UK @ O2 Academy Birmingham
5/15 – Brighton, UK @ The Great Escape Festival
5/16 – Manchester, UK @ O2 Apollo
5/28 – St. Louis, MO @ The Fox Theatre w/very special guest Father John Misty
5/29 – Kansas City, MO @ The Starlight Theatre w/very special guest Father John Misty
5/30 – Minneapolis, MN @ Hall’s Island w/very special guest Father John Misty
6/2 – Indianapolis, IN @ The Farm Bureau Insurance Lawn at White River State Park w/very special guest Father John Misty
6/3 – Detroit, MI @ Masonic Temple Theatre w/very Father John Misty
6/5 – Seaside Heights, NJ @ Gentlemen of the Road Stopover
6/6 – Toronto, ON @ Field Trip Music & Arts Festival
6/7 – Hunter Mountain, NY @ Mountain Jam Festival
6/9 – Charlottesville, VA @ nTelos Wireless Pavilion w/ Strand of Oaks
6/10 – Cary, NC @ Koka Booth Amphitheatre at Regency Park w/ Courtney Barnett
6/12 – Manchester, TN @ Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival
6/24-28 – Pilton, UK @ Glastonbury
6/27 – Beuningen, Netherlands @ Down The Rabbit Hole
6/28 – Werchter, Belgium @ Rock Werchter
6/30 – Leipzig, Germany @ Conne Island
7/1 – Gdynia, Poland @ Open’er Festival
7/4 – Dublin, Ireland @ Marlay Park
7/5 – Belfort, France @ Les Eurockeennes
7/6 – Köln, Germany @ Live Music Hall
7/8 – Lucca, Italy @ Summer Festival Lucca
7/9 – Montreux, Switzerland @ Montreux Jazz Festival
7/10 – Rotterdam, Netherlands @ North Sea Jazz Festival
7/12 – Auchterarder, UK @ T In The Park
7/30 – Louisville, KY @ Iroquois Amphitheater
7/31 – Chicago, IL @ Lollapalooza
8/1 – Council Bluffs, IA @ Harrah’s Council Bluffs Casino & Hotel
8/4 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Red Butte Garden
8/5 – Boise, ID @ Idaho Botanical Garden
8/7 – Troutdale, OR @ Edgefield w/ Blake Mills
8/8 – Redmond, WA @ Marymoor Park
8/9 – Squamish, BC @ Squamish Valley Music Festival
8/12 – San Diego, CA @ Cal Coast Credit Union Open Air Theatre at SDSU w/ Blake Mills
8/13 – Los Angeles, CA @ Greek Theatre w/ Blake Mills
8/14 – Santa Barbara, CA @ Santa Barbara Bowl w/ Chicano Batman
8/16 – Morrison, CO @ Red Rocks Amphitheatre w/ Drive-By Truckers SOLD OUT
8/18 – Grand Prairie, TX @ Verizon Theatre at Grand Prairie w/ Drive-By Truckers
8/21 – Alpharetta, GA @ Verizon Wireless Amphitheater at Encore Park
9/17 – Philadelphia, PA @ The Mann Center for the Performing Arts w/ Drive-By Truckers.
9/18 – Columbia, MD @ Merriweather Post Pavilion w/ Drive-By Truckers
9/19 – Forest Hills, Queens, NY @ Forest Hills Stadium w/ Drive-By Truckers
9/22 – Lewiston, NY @ Artpark
9/24 – Boston, MA @ Boston Calling Music Festival
10/2-4 – Austin, TX @ Austin City Limits Music Festival
11/18 – London, UK @ O2 Academy Brixton
Sound & Color – Alabama Shakes
Learn more about Alabama Shakes online at www.alabamashakes.com