Alabama Shakes, the Sound of Summer, But Don’t Hold That Against Them.

In 2010 it was Sleigh Bells, last year it was Odd yawn Future (reviewed ear­li­er here). And this year, the break­through act to emerge from SXSW was, by all accounts, Alaba­ma Shakes. And already you can hear the back­lash to the release of their debut album Boys & Girls begin­ning to build.

Much the same thing hap­pened after Amy Wine­house released what was her sec­ond and, as it turned out, her final album, Back to Black. One minute, all the right peo­ple were smil­ing approv­ing­ly stroking their beards and nod­ding their heads to the silky new sound. The fol­low­ing morn­ing, it was every­where.

They nev­er real­ly for­gave her. Which is most unfair. It’s hard­ly her fault if every­one else is des­per­ate­ly try­ing to latch on to the next big thing. And you can detect that same sense of faint resent­ment seep­ing out between the lines in the admir­ing reviews that Boys & Girls has been provoking.

Yes they’ve paid their dues, and Brit­tany Howard plain­ly means every­thing she sings. And the ener­gy and pas­sion of their live shows has most­ly been faith­ful­ly repro­duced here in the record­ing stu­dio. And there’s no mis­tak­ing that aura of authen­tic­i­ty, and the sense that here’s a band who go to bed with the Phil Spec­tor box set Back to Mono by their bedside. 

And yes, after they’ve fin­ished tour­ing with him this year, their next album is cer­tain to be pro­duced by Jack White, who’s sure to even fur­ther fine-tune their impec­ca­ble musi­cal instincts. But you just know that come the sum­mer, this album’s going to be all over the place.

On ads, movie sound­tracks, jet-set cat­walks, and, final­ly, as back­ground muzak in all the lazy retro wom­en’s retail dis­count cloth­ing bou­tique stores in every shop­ping mall in the west­ern world, and even­tu­al­ly beyond.

But you can only real­ly hold that against them if they’re the kind of band who are active­ly court­ing that sort of atten­tion. And good­ness knows, there are enough bands out there that are. But this plain­ly isn’t one of them.

But what are you going to do? The fact of the mat­ter is, Alaba­ma Shakes sounds like a lat­ter-day Janis Joplin has joined the stage at a pri­vate par­ty host­ed by Prince to briefly take the mike and lead his band. And nobody can believe what they’re hear­ing, least of all the host. You’ve been warned.

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