SOURCE: Consequence Of Sound
importer [8:48 PM]
dkataja [8:49 PM] It's been hot second since I've connected virtually with you
dkataja [8:49 PM] Glad to be back, amidst finals and graduation plans and senioritis.
importer [8:50 PM] It's been a crazy few weeks for us all, but we're happy to be back with some new content
dkataja [8:50 PM] Great music does not care about your other life plans, though. Today, Porter and I are going to circle back a bit and discuss an album which has had both of us pretty fascinated for the past couple weeks: Alabama Shakes' Sound & Color
importer [8:51 PM] This is the Shakes' follow up album to Boys & Girls, which turned lots of heads.
dkataja [8:52 PM] And set a lot of expectations: people wanted Alabama Shakes to be a Southern band
dkataja [8:53 PM] They are from Alabama, after all. Frontwoman Brittany Howard has a tattoo of the state on her arm
dkataja [8:53 PM] Sound & Color, however, is NOT an album by a "southern band."
importer [8:54 PM] Picture for reference, courtesy of LA Weekly:
importer [8:55 PM] Boys & Girls got some very good reviews. The band was nominated for a Best New Artist Grammy. And like Darnell said, lots of hype
dkataja [8:55 PM] *Darius
importer [8:55 PM] *Dmitri
dkataja [8:55 PM] I almost completely slept on that record, actually. I didn't hear "Hold On" until way too late.
importer [8:58 PM] It was very solid, but what piqued my interest were their performances on SNL:
importer [8:58 PM]
importer [8:59 PM]
this is when I realized that frontwoman Brittany Howard is something special
dkataja [9:00 PM] The immaculate control she exhibits over both her soul-shakingly powerful voice and her no-holds-barred guitar shredding is something to behold
importer [9:02 PM] First time I heard her sing the chorus to "Gimme All Your Love", I yelled out loud in the way you do when someone gets crossed up in hoops
importer [9:03 PM] And it's not just her booming voice, huge mouth that's as notable as Dizzy Gillespie's cheeks, and Prince earrings
importer [9:03 PM] Her stage presence is out of this world. Her showmanship is built for arenas, and with Sound & Color it was time for music that played as big as her performance
dkataja [9:05 PM] "Gimme All Your Love" wouldn't have fit on Boys & Girls. The song largely represents how the band has grown and expanded its sound from one album to the next
dkataja [9:06 PM] The instrumentation is precise and sharp. Brittany walks us through an impressive portion of her vocal repertoire, moving from a pained, heavy near-whisper to full-bodied, emotional pleading in the chorus
importer [9:07 PM] It matches the size of her sound. "Gimme All Your Love" is the polite of her saying "If you leave any small piece of love hidden, I will find it and FUCKING DEVOUR IT"
importer [9:07 PM] But I agree, one of her biggest strengths his her control
dkataja [9:07 PM] And her ability to switch lanes quickly
dkataja [9:08 PM] It's like she's driving a racecar through RTP (Ed. Note: For our non-NC readers, Research Triangle Park, a very busy area between Chapel Hill and Raleigh) at rush hour on Friday and making it through safely. These are complex songs she's deftly singing over
importer [9:08 PM] The chorus is so huge. The bridge is so contained but at the same time so powerful
importer [9:08 PM] You can hear a pin drop in Studio 8H when they reach the bridge
dkataja [9:08 PM] Power in softness is not something that typically happens in rock music
dkataja [9:09 PM] But it certainly happens here, and throughout Sound & Color
dkataja [9:15 PM]
The album as a whole mimics the up-and-down nature of "Gimme All Your Love". Album opener "Sound & Color" is a downtempo number led by vibraphone, of all things
dkataja [9:16 PM] "Don't Wanna Fight" picks things up with some sick call-and-response guitar work and the first example of Brittany unleashing her vocal prowess
dkataja [9:17 PM] Alabama Shakes expertly utilize this alteration of pace and style throughout the album
importer [9:17 PM] For a band that is supposed to be the flagholder (and not the confederate kind, sorry D) of Southern rock, they pick vibraphone which is the base instrument of COOL JAZZ
dkataja [9:17 PM] hahahah whoa, I'm no confederate
importer [9:17 PM] DAVE BRUBECK AND MILT JACKSON AREN'T WALKING THROUGH THAT DOOR.
importer [9:17 PM] ^^kidding obviously
dkataja [9:18 PM] But hey, the Civil War aint over....IT'S ONLY HALFTIME
importer [9:18 PM] #southwillriseagain
dkataja [9:18 PM] But you're right: they wasted no time telling everyone that they aren't down with being pigeonholed as a Southern rock band
dkataja [9:19 PM] The vibraphone was a middle finger to that idea
importer [9:21 PM] Also the lo-fi "The Greatest", which is very garage/punk rock
importer [9:21 PM] and so loud
dkataja [9:21 PM] The Strokes
dkataja [9:21 PM] If Julian Casablancas gave more a fuck
dkataja [9:22 PM] And they turned to 11
importer [9:22 PM] Oooh interesting
importer [9:22 PM] I was thinking like Cloud Nothings or Toronto punk like Death From Above 1979
importer [9:22 PM] but I see The Strokes
dkataja [9:23 PM] I love The Strokes, but their sound is kinda stale now. "The Greatest" for me is something like where I wish The Strokes would go
dkataja [9:24 PM] But since nonchalance and disinterest is kind of Julian Casablancas' thing (Casablancas is the singer of The Strokes) -- and the total opposite of Brittany Howard's thing -- I don't think that'll happen
importer [9:25 PM] Can we dive into more of Brittany Howard's feelings here? Because like the dynamics they are all over the place
importer [9:25 PM] Obviously, the big theme of this album is love
dkataja [9:25 PM] Relationships are all over it for sure
importer [9:26 PM] Starting with the amazingly catchy "Don't Wanna Fight"
importer [9:29 PM] It's an important song that delves into a relationship that sinks when the money runs out
importer [9:29 PM]
dkataja [9:30 PM] "Livin aint no fun / the constant dedication / keeping the water and power on"
dkataja [9:30 PM]
(about to be me starting July 1)
importer [9:30 PM] THERE AINT NO MONEY LEFT/ WHY CANT I CATCH MY BREATH/ IM GONNA WORK MYSELF TO DEATH
importer [9:32 PM] Love is a wonderful ideal until life gets in the way of it
dkataja [9:33 PM] And then love is real shitty -- on top of all the other issues, she's gotta come home and fight with her boyfriend
dkataja [9:33 PM] Instead of being a source of support, it's another source of stress
importer [9:33 PM] This song was baptized in the blues
importer [9:34 PM] And its instrumentation backs it up so well
importer [9:34 PM] It sounds like it's straight from an old Black Keys album, filled tricky guitar riffs
importer [9:35 PM] What sets them apart is Howard, whose falsetto in the chorus makes me feel things
importer [9:35 PM] I can't tell you how many times I've sang this chorus in the shower
dkataja [9:36 PM] Gets through that hardened New York exterior, huh?
importer [9:37 PM] Come on now, we both know I proudly wear my heart on my sleeve
dkataja [9:37 PM] I'm not gonna fight you on that
dkataja [9:38 PM] So take us to the "other end" of Brittany's feelings. What's the other side of the lyrical up-and-down?
importer [9:39 PM] On the other side of the spectrum we have songs like "This Feeling" and "Miss You"
dkataja [9:41 PM]
Both on the slower side of the tempo spectrum, as well
importer [9:41 PM] "This Feeling" is a song about when all of your hard work and dedication has paid off
dkataja [9:41 PM] It's close in message to "Hold On"
dkataja [9:41 PM] Or, maybe, the culmination of "holding on"
dkataja [9:42 PM] She still takes solace in knowing that she's gonna be alright, which is what she was telling herself in "Hold On"
importer [9:42 PM] "And I'd been having me a real hard time/ And it feels so nice to know I'm gonna be alright"
importer [9:43 PM] which if any of you have recently gotten a job (like me), or on the cusp of graduating (like Darren), you know exactly how this feels
dkataja [9:44 PM] A crucial point, I think, is that she's worried of losing it. Or, more specifically, someone taking it.
dkataja [9:44 PM] "Please don't take this feeling / I have found at last"
importer [9:44 PM] Exactly
dkataja [9:44 PM] The fragility of the whole thing makes her nervous
importer [9:44 PM] Which is a real feeling: you've come this far and done all of these things to find happiness
importer [9:45 PM] In an instant it could all crumble in front of you
dkataja [9:45 PM] And she could be talking to anyone or anything, too.
dkataja [9:46 PM] A boy, her family, her band, her friends, life in general, something existential, herself
importer [9:46 PM] What's so interesting about this song is that it's the reciprocal of "Miss You"
importer [9:46 PM] A song about staying loyal to her man as he leaves to live a life on the lam
importer [9:48 PM] It's such a dark place and all hope seems lost, but "Maybe the stars aligned, or maybe I've just changed my mind/ MAYBE IM YOURS"
dkataja [9:49 PM]
"Miss You" is also"Oh! Darling" reincarnated. At least musically.
importer [9:49 PM] Which, when Darren first said that to me a few weeks ago, blew my mind
dkataja [9:49 PM] ("Oh! Darling" being the great Beatles song from Abbey Road, released 1969)
dkataja [9:51 PM] While we have no way of knowing if it was intentional -- my guess is that it was...another deliberate distancing from the "Southern Band" moniker -- it's pretty uncanny how well the two pair up
dkataja [9:51 PM] The thought first came to me in the shower. "Miss You" came on, and instead of singing "Miss You", I started singing "Oh! Darling"
dkataja [9:52 PM] At first I was like "hm, that's weird." And then I realized how seamlessly the lyrics of "Oh! Darling" meshed with "Miss You" and I was like HOLY SHIT
dkataja [9:53 PM] Seriously, try it. Play "Miss You" but sing "Oh! Darling." It's a mash up waiting to happen
importer [9:54 PM] I think this song is one of the strongest songwriting moments on this album
importer [9:55 PM] Which, I hate to say, is a problem i have with Sound & Color
dkataja [9:55 PM] What don't you like?
importer [9:55 PM] I think there are points in the album where the lyrics are vague when they meant to be open to intepretation
importer [9:57 PM] For example, "Dunes"
importer [9:57 PM] With a passive listen, this song is really damn good
dkataja [9:58 PM] It's got a groove that hooks you
importer [9:58 PM] The guitar is pure southern rock, and the distorted vocals compliment them well
importer [9:59 PM] But when I tried to look up lyrics, every site I check couldn't understand Howard's slurry vocal delivery
importer [9:59 PM] "[?]" was all over the place
importer [10:00 PM] and while I rarely complain about this (ie. D'Angelo, Thom Yorke)
importer [10:00 PM] i think there was a chance to make this song great if the words were audible
importer [10:01 PM] and what was there was "I'm losing it" repeated a ton of times, which would be cool with context
importer [10:01 PM] but that context isnt there
importer [10:01 PM] * end rant *
dkataja [10:02 PM] Is that a songwriting issue or a song construction issue?
importer [10:02 PM] you may have a point there
importer [10:03 PM] i think the one thing about this album is that the big sounds from the album don't always have lyrics to match
dkataja [10:04 PM] I think that's fair. "Gimme All Your Love" gets a 10/10 for lyrics matching sounds. But that doesn't carry through the rest of the album
dkataja [10:05 PM] I like "Dunes" a lot, but I think she's reaching a bit with her metaphors in the first verse. Turning the desert in to sea with her tears doesn't really match the rest of the song, content wise
dkataja [10:05 PM] To me, "Dunes" is about losing her mind, and the intro verse doesn't really provide the color as to why that's happening
importer [10:08 PM] I think "Future People" suffers from this as well
dkataja [10:08 PM] Like, "I don't know whose problem it is / I don't know whose fuck to give" is a badass line about being lost and confused
importer [10:08 PM] Do love that line
dkataja [10:08 PM] Without the desert imagery, this line would still be badass
dkataja [10:09 PM] In any case, glad you mentioned "Future People" because that's where I was going next
dkataja [10:10 PM] A passive listen of "Future People" will leave you with maybe 3% understanding of what the lyrics are
dkataja [10:10 PM] But with 100% willingness to head-bob along anyways
importer [10:10 PM] always
importer [10:10 PM] the guitar riffs in it melt faces
dkataja [10:12 PM] Often, head-bobbing willingness is more important than lyrics for me
dkataja [10:12 PM] Which may lead me to overvalue this record
importer [10:12 PM] same
importer [10:12 PM] And to be fair, I'm nitpicking. The sounds of this album alone make this a very good album
dkataja [10:13 PM] Let's nitpick on the positive side. What's your favorite song from Sound & Color?
importer [10:13 PM] My favorite song is without a doubt "Gemini"
dkataja [10:13 PM]
Interestingly, that's been the most-skipped song for me
importer [10:14 PM] It's the longest song on the album
importer [10:15 PM] but there's so much going on that works so well
importer [10:16 PM] the opening makes me feel like I'm in a desert
importer [10:16 PM] walking with the ghost of Jim Morrison as he's holding a bald eagle
importer [10:17 PM] the drumming is sparse and lets the guitar and voice shine through
dkataja [10:17 PM] ^^they did that throughout the album, which was an excellent choice. Emphasize Brittany
importer [10:19 PM] And "Gemini" is prime Brittany Howard slurring
importer [10:19 PM] It works for this occaision
importer [10:20 PM] But interestingly enough, it takes a back seat to the guitar
importer [10:21 PM] that guitar solo bridge is so heavy and is opened by in my opinion the best line on the album:
importer [10:22 PM] "I looked at you, and you looked into me/And we saw in each other everything"
dkataja [10:22 PM] In some ways, that's a culmination of a lot of the struggles we see Brittany (or the characters in her songs) go through on the album
dkataja [10:23 PM] Or maybe not a culmination, but an affirmation
dkataja [10:23 PM] That look, that profoundly powerful and meaningful look, is the source of love,
dkataja [10:24 PM] And love can be the source of a lot of challenges
dkataja [10:24 PM] Which we see all over Sound & Color
importer [10:24 PM] But wait, there's more!
importer [10:24 PM] So that line is used twice
importer [10:24 PM] the first verse is when the two people realize they are in love
importer [10:25 PM] the second time it's when they realize their relationship is over
importer [10:25 PM] they've drifted apart, and in this moment they know there's nothing left
importer [10:25 PM] it's devastating
importer [10:26 PM] and then that fucking amazing guitar riff returns!
dkataja [10:26 PM] Another example of the up-and-down tendencies of the album. Shows up at the granular level as well as the general level
dkataja [10:27 PM] Loud and soft, love and loss, fast and slow
importer [10:27 PM] it's a stroke of genius
dkataja [10:27 PM] All the while pulling from a diverse set of influences
dkataja [10:27 PM] And expanding their sound a great deal
dkataja [10:28 PM] You're right though -- I've had those looks at the start and end of relationships. That line perfectly describes both
importer [10:29 PM] It's so relatable
importer [10:30 PM] Everyone has experienced both of that high and that low
importer [10:31 PM] but enough about me, what's your favorite song on the album?
dkataja [10:31 PM] I've been really diggin "Shoegaze"
dkataja [10:32 PM]
Musically, it's probably the least different from Boys & Girls on the new record
dkataja [10:33 PM] Driven by a somewhat understated rhythm guitar, supported by some sharply strummed chords in the chorus, gives way to some slick riffage
dkataja [10:34 PM] Brittany is more restrained here...or at least more level. There's not much of a build to a climax, which is a key feature of some other songs (most notably "Gimme All Your Love")
dkataja [10:35 PM] But these things work well together, and it's an easy song to get into
dkataja [10:36 PM] Some of the lyrics fit pretty well in to my current life circumstances, too
dkataja [10:36 PM] "Let's all make memories / precious and temporary / of all the people, I meet / I wanna take it all with me"
dkataja [10:37 PM] Exactly me, getting ready to graduate college and leave behind a lot of what I built for myself in Chapel Hill
importer [10:37 PM] are those tears i see rolling down your cheek, D?
dkataja [10:39 PM] I'll send you a man card in the mail, don't worry
importer [10:40 PM] I started the domino effect of tears rolling during graduation. Save your stamps.
importer [10:41 PM]
Overall, Darren and I give this album a very high review. It's too early to judge it's place among the rest of the albums this year, but i think this one will stick around in my playlist for quite some time
dkataja [10:42 PM] It's an album that, for me, got better with more listens.
importer [10:42 PM] #cosign
dkataja [10:43 PM] It takes some time to appreciate all the different directions the band take on the album -- all the sonic diversity, the tempo switching, the myriad of influences
dkataja [10:43 PM] They manage to take all these directions and meld these influences without feeling lost, though
importer [10:43 PM] I think that this album will be even better live
dkataja [10:43 PM] Coming to Cary June 10!
importer [10:44 PM] There's no doubt I'll be buying tickets to their show this Summer
dkataja [10:44 PM] If their performances on late night TV are any indication, we'll be in for quite a treat
importer [10:45 PM] It's safe to say that if Boys & Girls was her introduction to the world, Sound & Color is Brittany Howard's breakthrough
importer [10:45 PM] She is undeniably a rock star
dkataja [10:46 PM] Let's hope she sustains it
importer [10:46 PM] She's not Florence Welch yet, but she's well on her way
dkataja [10:46 PM] (My girl)
importer [10:47 PM] (still a weird crush)
importer [10:47 PM] If Welch is this generation's Grace Slick, than Howard is our Janis Joplin/Otis Redding lovechild
importer [10:47 PM] Think she can be that big?
dkataja [10:49 PM] Janis Joplin was THE woman rock star for a good while
dkataja [10:49 PM] I'm not sure she'll be that, perhaps more due to what she's facing from the chicks currently out there
dkataja [10:49 PM] It's a busy space now
importer [10:50 PM] Which is a good thing
dkataja [10:50 PM] I agree.
importer [10:50 PM] It's nice to see that when everyone is ready to put a stake in rock music, bands like Alabama Shakes are ready to carry the torch
dkataja [10:51 PM] Necessity is the birthplace of a lot of innovation
importer [10:51 PM] ROLL SHAKES!