SOUND & COLOR, BY ALABAMA SHAKES, RANKED.
What better way to inaugurate the spring than ranking the songs on one of the best albums of the last few years? Although released in 2015, Alabama Shakes’ follow-up to Boys & Girls, Sound & Color, is an emotional rollercoaster for all senses.
Alabama Shakes are a band that, once again, prove they do not fall into categories. Their roots are ingrained in a variety of genres: from rock and blues to folk and soul, but funky and punky vibes are also present across their latest piece of art. Their sound is classic but trendy. Their sophomore effort eludes the obvious way of doing things. From the cadence of their melodies to Steve Johnson’s percussion arrangements, these guys will surprise you.
It’s clear from the first that these musicians have truly seasoned themselves on the road, in spite of their young ages. Frontwoman Brittany Howard’s vocals are rich in effects and textures. Her contralto register confers her depth in every sense, which already make her sound legendary. Guitars and bass do not fall behind, and deserve being praised for their characteristic minimalism.
Blake Mills’ co-production efforts, and Shawn Everett’s engineering complement the band’s musicianship on an album that earned them no less than 4 Grammy Awards!
Let’s begin the tough task of ranking this overall masterpiece.
If there had to be a filler, this would be it. But using that word would seem inconsiderate given the sonic mastery that the band, once more, attain.
#11. This Feeling
The most ‘americana’ addition to the album grabs from Bonnie Raitt’s bluesy folk, yet sounds more like Nina Simone. Probably less memorable than other tracks, yet intimate and vulnerable. So vulnerable that I hope it won’t get hurt after giving it one of the last positions.
#10. Over My Head
A straight R&B slow ballad says goodbye to the listener, presaging the melancholy that comes with the end.
#9. The Greatest
Definitely the wildest, most disparate outcast so far. Strongly influenced by punk and, though probably not the ‘greatest’ track on the album, it doesn’t disappoint.
#8. Future People
Many might disagree with this choice. And it’s true that If one were to think about the ‘general’ sound of the album, Future People would serve as a legitimate taster. It just sounds a little too ‘more of the same’ maybe, with all respect to the talented members of this band and the crew.
#7. Guess Who
Groovy and insanely vintage, the listener could picture themselves walking the streets of either Paris or New York in a different era, accompanied by this soundtrack, absolutely marked by time.
It’s hard to push it into number #7, but the following are just too good!
#6. Miss You
Build around a very classical progression, Miss You stays in a restrained note most of the time, but repeatedly jumps full of energy and euphoria in its vibrant chorus. Once more, comparisons suck, but one cannot help to picture Brittany Howard praising the legacy of Miss Janis Joplin and her gutsy take on Cry Baby.
#5. Sound & Color
The opening track, Sound & Color is an insinuating game of playful vibraphones and harmonies. Haven’t they used it in some perfume commercial? Just as sonorous as visual, this piece truly answers to its name if you close your eyes and let it induce a trance in you.
Beachy, but CCR-esque, this mid-tempo is more than a simple entertainer. May my lack of words not confuse you, it’s actually one of my favourites!
Rooted in the gospel that would later define the 1960’s, Dunes is cinematographic. Do you imagine a Cadillac driving on the highway towards a 1950’s diner too? Alright, enough with the nostalgy. Or maybe not.
#2. Gimme All Your Love
Very 60’s, this tune shines through its dynamic range. It breaks through, it calms down; it laughs, it sobs. The most dangerous cocktail of emotions that Sound & Color has to offer.
#1. I Don’t Wanna Fight
Probably the most obvious choice, but it would be hard to object this one. A mestizo of the finest rock and the purest soul, Don’t Wanna Fight is a weary cry that deserves to be considered one of the best songs of the decade. Needless to say that it is the grooviest, funkiest and most danceable track on the record. And what about those conversational guitar riffs? Howard and Fogg seem to recreate the fighting of a worn out couple with their instruments. Besides, it takes this whole collection of songs to the next level.