India Slodki/The Broadside
Brittney Howard’s stirring vocals are the main character in Sound & Color, Alabama Shakes’ second record. Rather than simply building to a grand climax, Howard uses the space on Sound & Color to explore what she is capable of as a vocalist. She dances through the unknown with guitar lines and rooted drum rhythms, casting Alabama Shakes as pioneers through garage-funk waters.
From “Sound & Color,” we are comfortably eased into the album. It cradles the listener with gentle xylophones and wandering melodies. The stark difference of “Don’t Wanna Fight” establishes the range that Alabama Shakes hopes to cover. The heavy bass line holds down the track as Howard howels her frustrations parallel a twangy guitar line, adding a bluesy authenticity.
“Future People” relies heavily on a central sustained riff. The track opens on a contemplative and playful guitar line. Howard’s timid refrain stands suspended between a dreamy background. The chorus explodes into a heavy and complex array of layered vocals, contradicting guitar lines, and an established drumline.
“Gemini and Dunes” explore a more reserved side of the album. “Gemini and Dunes” starts with a hazy and grounded intro. The chorus falls into a liberating conclusion, satisfying like no other. Gemini presents itself through a calculated guitar line. Howard’s soulful vocals seem to have been awoken from a sort of slumber. The listener sits at her feet as Howard mosies through speculations about humanity.
Sound & Color provides a diverse and ever satisfying array of sonic environments. The project sees Alabama Shakes building on their previously established brand of garage-funk nostalgia. The vintage sound that put them on the radar is expanded and developed, all the while creating something fresh.