Tapped by MTV as the best thing since pregnant sixteen year olds, Alabama Shakes has made quite an impression on the music industry since their self-titled EP dropped in 2011. Indeed, Jack White, former White Stripes frontman, record producer and diehard ICP fan, has corralled the quartet into producing a number of singles under his Third Man Records label. The band has also performed live on Conan – playing “Hold On”, and my personal favourite track off their album, “I Ain’t the Same”, very convincingly - as well as a birthday special on David Letterman earlier this month. In their first album Girls and Boys, Alabama Shakes does justice to the acclaim showered on them by the music industry mavens who have put their names behind the band.
If the album has a flaw, it is that there is not that one irresistibly catchy song that’s going to play on the radio over and over again and so launch the band into the Carly Rae Jepsen stratosphere of summer music fame. However, as a result of the fact that Alabama Shakes avoids the generic formula for stuck-in-your-head catchiness, every track on Girls and Boys sounds fresh and organic yet also luxuriously complex. Lead vocalist Brittany Howard is seriously bluesy - every note is deep, raw and from the soul; it’s hard to believe that someone so young can conjure up such a mature sound. The album ranges from the minimalist “Going to the Party” to the multi-layered Arcade Fire-meets-Amy Winehouse “I Found You.” In a musical atmosphere that (quite rightly) worships at the altar of Adele and The Black Keys, it makes absolute sense that Alabama Shakes would have found their niche. And, now that they’re here, we can only expect big things from a band with a big sound.
- Sumi Naidoo, Long Skirt, Short Jacket (Fridays from 2-4pm @ WQHS.org)