What does it sound like?:
This album is the sound of a young band finding its feet by searching for something new in the guitar-led blues/rock template. It is organic, sizzling with the interaction of a handful of humans, living, breathing, sweating, bleeding together in a room.
Brittany Howard doesn’t simply possess a remarkable voice. It is a voice that arrived with the slave ships, baked in the cotton fields for a century, then swept along the Mississipi to emerge with the power and authority of a lifetime’s hard labour. Effectively, she carried the first album, Girls & Boys, but, now, the band have grown and perform with assurance allowing Brittany to experiment. She approaches each song with imagination. It’s almost as though there is a different vocalist for each one. She is incredibly versatile, not just with her harmonic range but with the ability to switch the decibel count from one to 500 and back in a single breath. Her screeches and scratches are a joy in themselves. The songs and the arrangements may be painstakingly constructed but the playing is rich, tense and dramatic and there are plenty of surprises in the dynamics of the song structures to keep the listener guessing. The production is airy, touched with echo, inviting the listener right into the centre of the band, at times inside the drum kit itself. It is quite a headphone experience.
They add a few strings, some extra keyboard noises and a dirty, fuzz guitar but it is the riveting sense of purpose of the core band members that really counts. They support each other in the quest for something special and unconventional. Almost all the time, they succeed.
This is an astonishing album that is easy to fall in love with.
What does it all *mean*?
Here is a band proving that it is still possible create something modern and exciting in a so-called ‘dead’ art form, rock music. They deserve our thanks and applause.
Goes well with…
This is an album best digested alone under headphones or on some very expensive hifi. I think a single malt is the best accompaniment with jumbo salted peanuts. I suspect it will be amazing live.
Might suit people who like…
Guitar based rock with its roots in blues, Spoon, The Rolling Stones of 1965 just as they found their niche, young people with a fresh take on old ideas, the voice of the 21st Century.