Sound & Color
Label: Ato Records
Sound & Color is a brave statement. Whereas Alabama Shakes' debut, 2012's Boys & Girls, was praised for its vintage rock and soul utopianism, its follow-up eschews nostalgic dreams for modern realities. "Dunes," "Future People" and "Gemini," all of them standouts, aren't traditional compositions but rather alien patterns of drums, guitar, voice, bass and organ, suggesting the Shakes are more inspired by FKA Twigs and D'Angelo than Muscle Shoals and Aretha Franklin. This progressivism extends to Brittany Howard's singing, which is complex, gnarled and exploratory -- yet passionate.