Musicality – Alabama Shakes, The Avener, Anne Steele, Fifty Shades of Grey

Alabama Shakes
Sound & Color
(ATO/Maple/Rough Trade)
A fusion of rock, blues, and soul, Alabama Shakes’ sophomore album will breathe life into you. It hits you right at the core and reminds you how music can be such a powerful motivator. Sometimes it just sounds and feels right. The vocals stand out, and fans of Alabama Shakes’ radio singles will love the album. My favorite song, “Don’t Wanna Fight,” blends ’70s-style high vocals over an alternative rhythm, which worked surprisingly well. Another good track, “Shoegaze,” is a celebration of all that is considered alternative music. Every so often, some funk and punk influences pop up in fun songs like “The Greatest.” The only complaint I have is that the album ended far before I was ready. Other good songs on the album are “Future People” and “Sound & Color.”
The Avener
EP
(Casablanca/Republic Records)
I’m immediately a fan. The addictive beats that grace this EP will thump their way into your heart. The electronic style isn’t over the top with unnecessary sounds. My favorite song is “Let Myself Go (featuring Ane Brun).” It’s thick drums and smooth bass melody layered into a welcoming blend and further brightened by complex, delicate guitar and wonderfully haunting vocals. Oddly enough, The Avener pairs perfectly with Alabama Shakes, though this is a bit more heavy with the bass drum. The EP features a variety of remixes of the song “Fade Out Lines,” the Avener’s debut single. I love the original, but the Alle Farben Remix is really good. I can’t wait to see what this artist comes out with next.
Anne Steele
What’s Mine EP
(Steele Records)
At the beginning, I was a bit torn about this one. I was not a big fan of the three pop songs that make up the first half. Though I know there was talent there, I just didn’t quite feel it. The songs have a catchy flair, but they didn’t do enough to grab my attention. I’m lucky that I didn’t stop there, because the last three songs redeemed the EP. I really enjoyed “Without You Tonight,” because it has a healthy pop bounce and catchy piano hook. The vocals are well-highlighted, reminding me a bit of the pop star Pink. Another good track, slightly more serious, is “Don’t Tell Us How to Love.” It is paced well and appropriately dramatic. Don’t let the lackluster beginning of this EP fool you. Definitely check these songs out.

Fifty Shades of Grey
(movie soundtrack)
(Republic)
Fifty Shades of Grey is a bad movie with a decent soundtrack. The movie has some enjoyable bits here and there, and not necessary the naked ones. But sexual politics of the movie aside, the soundtrack is good and star-studded, including such performers as Beyoncé, Rolling Stones, and popular composer Danny Elfman. I never pictured those particular artists being on the same compilation album — there is a bit of everything. Annie Lennox’s classic “I Put a Spell on You,” was a great song to start with. Normally I’m a fan of Ellie Goulding, but “Love Me Like You Do,” her latest single featured here, is a miss for me. My favorite songs are the ones featuring Beyoncé or Danny Elfman.

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