Review: Boys & Girls (Alabama Shakes)

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Being an Alabama resident.. Does that mean I can pretend that I knew about these folks before they were famous?

Alabama Shakes are newcomers on the indie scene, though the overwhelming hype preceding these folks makes it seem like they’ve been around for a good while now. Led by spunky, soulful Brittany Howard, Alabama Shakes forge the dirty, gritty fuzz of garage rock with the classic-era, melodic time travel of southern soul. Boys & Girls, their rowdy debut record, hits shelves today, with widespread interest and great anticipation.

Opener “Hold On,” a deceptively simple anthem filled to the brim with lively lyrical proclamations and summer-sweet guitar exclamations, is certainly a place to start. Not only is it the lead single from the record, but it has just enough energy, spirit, and originality to be hailed as one of the best tunes of the past few years (not to mention, one of this year’s best tracks).

The record follows in high-caliber pursuit — A satiable sprinkle of jazzy shuffle in “I Found You,” an instantly-memorable serving of piano-pounding vintage bluesy-pop in “Hang Loose;” and later, a bewitching bowlful of heart-wrenching, soulful howling in “Heartbreaker.”

And while the über-talented Howard carries most of these tunes with perfectly appropriate levels of sincerity and ferocity, Boys & Girls still has a few contrived moments. Howard oversells her vocal diction in parts of “Rise to the Sun,” and “You Ain’t Alone” feels slightly over-practiced in the strings department (guitar, piano and bass) yet considerably under-thought in the melody department — But neither one of the pieces are completely invalidated by their small flaws.

The record’s production is also a notable strength for the Alabama Shakes’ debut release. Ideal amounts of guitar and bass fuzz are implemented throughout the album, Howard’s voice is textured with an impeccable percent of vintage gain, and the comprehensive mix of the album cries commandingly for a vinyl purchase.

Overall, Boys & Girls is easily one of the year’s best releases. Get it.

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