Tessa Roy / Emertainment Monthly Assistant Editor
Pop mega star Taylor Swift and rapper Kendrick Lamar made headlines in 2015, receiving endless critical acclaim for 1989 and To Pimp a Butterfly. Both nabbed nominations for Album of the Year, and debates over who will take home the trophy have come down to Swift and Lamar. These albums were in fact great and deserved their subsequent hypes. But it’s astonishing that there’s been considerably less love for Sound and Color, a stunner from Alabama Shakes.
The Alabama-based (duh) band says they took their time to pour their heart into Sound and Color, and it shows. Brittany Howard’s voice is an emotional tour de force, propelling each song with power. She transitions from lamenting exhaustion on “Don’t Wanna Fight” to celebrating the end of a “real hard time” on “This Feeling.” Howard sounds as though she means every word she sings, and her expressions seen in the Shakes’ live performances only add to her allure.
Beyond Howard’s impassioned vocals lies the Shakes’ incredible musicality. The group’s sound draws on soulful, Southern rock tinged with blues and gospel influences. The tracks on Sound and Color use these elements interchangeably, sometimes simultaneously, and always remains interesting. They can be full of mellow and dreamy guitar plucks in “Sound and Color” and “Future People,” six-and-a-half-minute adventures in “Gemini,” or accompanied by more forceful riffing in “Gimme All Your Love” and “The Greatest.” They’re instantly charming and never tire, making the album one of the most memorable pieces of work released in 2015.
There really is no reason not to root for Sound and Color – the amount of critical and fan acclaim it’s received, plus the celebration with which the band’s live performances are met, should be indicative of its quality. But more importantly, Sound and Color’s display of heartfelt artistry and ability to seamlessly mesh a broad spectrum of genres make it a standout amongst its counterparts and fellow nominees.
Perhaps it’s unlikely that the Shakes will win considering the caliber of artists they’re up against. But sometimes the Grammy voters like to stir the pot. Beyonce was thought to be a shoo-in for last year’s honor, but Beck’s Morning Phase’s surprise win caused quite the upset – just ask Kanye West. So maybe, just maybe, Sound and Color will eke out a win for the one of the Grammys’ highest honors.