Thursday, October 1, 2015

Alabama Shakes and Thunderbitch

So I know Sounds & Color is way old news. I'm not writing about it as a new discovery. I'm writing to try to convince those who, like me, were nonbelievers.

The Alabama Shakes were literally the first band I reviewed on this blog. If you've seen them live at all, then you'd know that they are an incredible powerhouse -- equal parts entertainers and artists. Though I said nice things about it, their first full-length, Boys and Girls, just didn't grab me the way their live shows or even their first EP did. To be honest, I haven't listened to it since it came out. Although I liked the songs, something about the album felt stale. But I had hope that maybe the band would regroup, and at least I could still enjoy their live show. When "Don't Wanna Fight No More" premiered and sounded so radically different from the soul revival they championed the first time around, I feared that they were just chasing the Afropunk trend. It made me sad, but I decided it was maybe time to sit this one out.

Two things changed my mind. First, this video of Brittney Howard completely crushing it and giving the performance of her life, the goddess of rock'n'roll incarnate:

Second was this interview in Relix, the only cover story I read in the year I subscribed to it. If nothing else it's a stunning piece of music writing -- in lesser hands, it could've been spun as a journalist geeking out because they get to hang in both of Brittney Howard's living rooms. But instead the interview dives deep into how the band approaches their craft, their endless drive to push their own technical limitations and expand their stylistic boundaries. Between the obvious emotion Howard put into the eerie "Future People" and the obvious care the band took in recording the album, I decided it was high time to give it a shot. They also confirmed what I had expected: that Boys and Girls was a rush job by the label, who wanted to capitalize on their flash-in-a-pan moment.

This music is Different. It's unlike anything you might be accustomed to listening, certainly it doesn't sound like 99% of the material posted on this blog. But it's unique, and in spite of (or because of) its spacey futuristic feel, it comes across as deeply human.

BUT if you miss old-school Shakes, Brittney Howard released an LP as Thunderbitch. I haven't had much of a chance to listen to it (the Department of Education got tired of paying for everyone to listen to millions of dollars' worth of music on their dime, so Spotify, Soundcloud, Pandora, and Bandcamp are now blocked at work. Sadsies.) But I don't think I need to convince anyone to listen to a brash rock'n'soul by the greatest female rock performer of the 21st century (thus far.) Both of these albums are at the top of my shopping list once my paycheck goes through.

Alabama Shakes -- Official, Thunderbitch page, Facebook, Purchase both albums from the Shakes' store or other major outlets that you can find yourselves

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