Alabama Shakes shake up their sound

April 21, 2015 4:42 PM

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In 2012, when Alabama Shakes released its debut album, "Boys & Girls," the studio was not the band's friend. Songs that popped in concert sounded relatively constrained on record. The melodies were strong but fell into a retro pocket, evoking soul and roots-rock dynamics from the '60s and '70s. Brittany Howard's towering voice was undeniable, however, and "Boys & Girls" became one of the year's most acclaimed albums because her intensity melted a lot of quibbles about the lack of genuine surprise in the arrangements.

Howard's voice is more formidable than ever on the follow-up, "Sound & Color" (ATO). Now she sounds like a different vocalist on virtually every tune. On the title track she evokes the dreamy drift of '70s Marvin Gaye, "Don't Wanna Fight" struts and wheezes with James Brown-like bravado, "This Feeli...

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