Alabama Shakes first appeared in our Best of 2012 post. Fletcher selected "Hold On" as one of the best songs of the year while I selected Boys and Girls as one of the best albums of the year. Since 2012 AS has toured the world, grown in popularity and worked on their sophomore album, Sound and Color. Their new album moves in some surprising directions, preventing the band from becoming locked stylistically into the retro sounds of their first album, and establishes the band as one that continues to grow musically and takes risks. They have not let their sound become boxed-in by their success. Whereas Boys and Girls was clearly influenced by creative classic southern R&B sounds, Sound and Color's musical influences are much greater. In addition to the classic R&B sounds that defined the sound of Boys and Girls, one can hear the band playing homage to some of the music that they grew up with. Listing to Sound and Color I hear echos of several psychedelic bands, Led Zeppelin, and others. Those influences, blended with the sounds that defined AS's debut album, along with the growth of the band's music makes Sound and Color work so well.
Fletcher and I have been fans of The Damnwells for over a decade. We first saw them perform live at one of WTMD's first ever First Thursdays in the Park concerts when the band was touring for their debut album, Bastards of the Beat. Over the years, the band, fronted by songwriter, singer, and guitarist Alex Dezen, has gone through several personal changes. One of the many joys of their new album, The Damnwells, is that the original band is back. The new album used crowd-sourcing by fans via Pledgemusic as a funding mechanism.
The Damnwells first four albums have featured terrific songwriting by Dezen, whose songs are often based on his personal experiences. This album continues that tradition. Dezen, who turned 37 in June, composed songs about growing up for this record, and growing up is not always pleasant. While the album's songs are performed by musicians who have recently reunited, many of the stories on this record are about breaking up. For example, Dezen recently divorced as that life experience is shared in this music. While breaking up is never pleasant, listening to this record is. The Damnwells are a great band, one that deserves far more attention than it receives.
The Lone Bellow: Fletcher's May 31, 2013 post turned me onto this terrific band. While I enjoyed their first album, I'm totally blown away by the melodies, harmony, and musicianship of their sophomore offering, Then Came the Morning. I play this album, in its entirety frequently. Each time I listen to it I find myself feeling refreshed, having a positive outlook, and feeling a profound sense of joy.
So there you have it. I encourage you to check out all three of these records. They will add to your enjoyment of your summer. In a few short week's Jason Isbell's new album 24 Frames will be coming out. This is turning to be a great year for music.