Annie Galvin is a writer and academic in Charlottesville, VA. She has written about books, music, and theater for PopMatters, LA Review of Books, Slant Magazine, Washington City Paper, and others. She has a PhD in English and teaches courses on global literature, gender studies, and media at the University of Virginia.
What makes the Alabama Shakes sound new is that they’re evidently devoted to their musical forebears -- everyone from Etta James and Aretha to Bowie and Zeppelin -- yet also coquettishly unfaithful to each one of them.
On its second album After It All, the Durham-based sextet successfully raids the storehouse of American musical traditions, incorporating influences ranging from blues to folk, rock to pop, and hip-hop to musical theater.
The eclectic guitar becomes a tool that complements Laura Marling's lyrics on this pivotal album, at times articulating visceral anger and, at others, obliterating psychic barriers and clearing space for something new.
It's worth crediting Maroon 5 for having spawned a guilty-pleasure earworm, containing just enough traces of actual instruments to remind listeners that digital synthesizers haven't completely cannibalized rock 'n' roll.