The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Alabama Shakes’ first album gets listeners moving

“Boys & Girls,” the first full-length album from Alabama Shakes, is a supersonic blast of southern comfort and sex appeal in the form of bluesy electric guitar and a powerful female lead.

Alabama Shakes' much-anticipated album was released Monday, April 9. Photo via Ato Records.

Hailing from Athens, Ala., Alabama Shakes has been playing together since 2009, and in the past year, the band has garnered a lot of buzz and anticipation for their recent release. “Boys & Girls” is a fusion of classic rock, Memphis blues, gospel and soul that simmers unbelievably through Brittany Howard’s vocals.

The southern twang hits hard on the first track and single, “Hold On.” A catchy guitar riff and the building intensity of Howard’s voice hooks you into the album before you’re even five minutes in. It’s almost like you’re transported to a juke joint as the album plays on.

Comparisons to The Black Keys, Kings of Leon and other bands with heavy blues and rock influences have already been made, but Alabama Shakes still manages to carve its own niche in rock and roll society. The album’s flexible arrangements and unique aesthetic helps to define the young band’s continuously developing sound. Alabama Shakes has so much potential because you can hear a variety of different elements in their music; it’s impossible for them to pigeonhole themselves as just a rock or blues band.

“Boys & Girls” evokes different sounds, yet still manages to be a fresh, new experience. Every track sounds live and bustles with energy, putting an emphasis on their small town roots. Occasionally, you can even hear an amp rumble in the background. It brings a sense of authenticity, something the music industry is often sorely lacking.

On the other hand, this live feel could possibly be the only downfall of the album. There are various performances online which sound better than some of the tracks on the album, but only because of the difficulty in capturing all of Alabama Shakes’ in-person oomph and presence on a studio recording.

The songwriting on “Boys & Girls” is solid and endearing. You might not have an epiphany while listening, but the lyrics are relatable and relevant to everyday life and love. Sometimes, it feels like Howard could be singing about your own personal experiences.

At only 23, Howard’s raspy tone and texture puts so much emotion and passion in each song that it feels like she’s reaching out and touching your soul — or punching you in the gut.  On the track “Heartbreaker,” Howard wails, “How was I supposed to know you was a heartbreaker,” over smashing cymbals and a haunting organ in a way that sounds so vulnerable and strong somehow simultaneously.

On ballads like “You Ain’t Alone” and “I Found You,” Howard roars confidently, shaking you from the top of your head to the soles of your feet, proving that she’s the glue that makes “Boys & Girls” a solid piece of work. The album’s strength lies in its ability to be playful and upbeat on tracks like “I Found You” and “Hang Loose,” but also to bring that sincere — and sometimes depressing — emotion that the blues is so well-known for.

“Boys & Girls” has a vibe that comes off effortless and natural. It has a sort of swampy soul groove which leaves you swaying your hips and bobbing your head. It’s a record that gets better with each listen.

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