This storming debut album from the hot-ticket Alabama soul-rock quartet fully delivers on the groundswell of anticipation built up by already legendary live performances and the acclaim of peers such as Adele and Arctic Monkeys’ Alex Turner.
It also bears out the principle, often derided in this age of nanosecond YouTube legend and instant talent-show celebrity, that for a band there is still no substitute for learning the ropes the hard way, plugging away and developing your sonic chemistry through night after night of gigs in tiny clubs. It’s absurd to imagine that a group like the Alabama Shakes, with their raw, grainy take on Southern soul, arrived fully formed in the world by sheer good fortune. This kind of relaxed, easy reliance on each others’ abilities and support, the knowledge that you’re all thinking with one mind musically, comes from months of getting to know each other through banging out cover versions and discovering shared tastes. There’s nothing formulaic going on on Boys & Girls, and certainly no effort unnecessarily wasted on visual styling or plotting market strategy. Just a series of great, swampy soul grooves, fronted by the most arresting new voice you’ll hear this year, and the kind of natural songwriting that seems to contain the entire history of Southern music within its staves. — The Independent