By Lauren Sloss | April 6th, 2012
The Alabama Shakes have been on people’s minds a lot lately. Billed as a ‘band to watch’ by all a variety of music publications, critics and the like, they were a hot ticket at South By, have found the majority of their shows sold out as they tour the US and Europe, and are even opening for a smattering of Jack White shows in New York. And now, with the release of their debut full-length album Boys & Girls, the question remains: are they worth the hype?
Oh, yes. I don’t think I can emphasize enough just how hype-worthy this hard-rocking, soul-dripping band from ‘bama is. They make the kind of music that grips you — with it’s raw power, it’s undeniable skill, and the essence of passion and truth it encapsulates. All of this would be good news on its own, but what really clinches it for me is how damn good the music sounds. This is an album you’ll want to play over and over — it’s joyful, it’s heartbreaking, and it’s intoxicating.
This is in large part thanks frontwoman Brittany Howard, who can belt with the best of them, but possesses a power and charisma that is hard to come by. This is immediately evident when you see the Shakes live (which, please, do so as soon as you can) — she owns the room, the crowd, the stage, so effectively it seems like a second nature. Her voice does more than compels you to listen — it commands you. Although, you’ll find you won’t need much convincing.
Howard isn’t alone when it comes to musical excellence. Heath Fogg on guitar, Zac Cockrell on bass, and Steve Johnson on drums, form a tight, well-orchestrated backbone, unafraid to go big and loud and to hold back, allowing songs to range from masterful epics (“Hold On,” “Be Mine”) to coy invitations to listen a little more closely (“Going to the Party” … until it rockets into an anthem, anyway).
What’s truly incredible about Boys & Girls is how it manages to effectively portray, if not capture, the incredible energy of the Shakes’ live performance. You hear this band’s power in their music, and it is a weighty power indeed. Worth the hype? I’d say so. This is not a band to be trifled with.
You can stream Boys & Girls over on NPR.