Top 15 Albums at 15 | #15 Sound & Color
Aug 17, 2016 • Matthew Wang
~ 6 minute read • 1206 words
All of my friends are turning 16 this year, but due to the unfortunate nature of having a late birthday, I’m still 15. It also means that I’m less likely to become a hockey player but I’m fine with that. To “celebrate” my late birthday, I want to talk about something that I’m late to the party about: my favourite albums. My Top 15 Albums when I was 15 to be exact. These are albums that I hold dearly to my heart; ones that I jam to or bump in the trap or just sit there and enjoy; ones that I’d recommend to any friend. Here’s my Top 15 at 15.
I’m not making a list of the 15 best albums. There, I said it. I’m here to talk about the 15 albums that have impacted my life the most: that might mean getting me through tough times, that might be my gym song, that might be how I’ve met new friends. And I’ll talk about that in every article that I write. In addition to that, I’ll try to analyze why I like that album, that artist, and maybe a few of my favourite songs. Obviously, it’s all opinion, but you’re on my blog to get my opinion.
One thing I really liked about most Top 10 or Top 100 lists is that the list isn’t revealed completely immediately. It adds a level of suspense, as I try to figure out who the most impactful artist of 2000’s was, or which rapper dropped the f-bomb the most. I’m going to do something similar here: I’m going to go from #15 to #1, doing one album per day (with an honourable mentions + reflection at the end). Hopefully it’s enough for my tens of readers (wow, so popular). In any case, even if nobody else reads it, it’ll be interesting to reflect on my favourite albums in a year, 5 years, or 10 years. Who knows? Maybe I’ll do a 16 by 16, 20 by 20, 40 by 40, or something like that.
Without further ado…
Album #15: Sound & Color, by the Alabama Shakes
When people imagine what kind of music I listen to, there are usually two categories that come to mind: Shake it Off by Taylor Swift, Single Ladies by Beyoncé, and other female “sassy” pop anthems, and modern rap to the likes of Pop Style by Drake, or King Kunta by Kendrick Lamar. And it’s true: I like sass songs, and I like rap songs, but I do try to diversify and branch out a bit. In my quest to discover new genres of music that I might like, I stumbled upon Sound & Color.
Sound & Color is the second studio release from Alabama Shakes, a rock band that is in fact from Alabama. And while to me they were relatively unknown (I had no idea who they were until that fateful click on Spotify’s Discover Weekly), they’ve been doing pretty damn well. Boys & Girls, their first studio album, was nominated for 3 Grammys; Sound & Color was nominated for 6 (and ended up winning 3, including best Alternative Music Album).
Even though they’re pretty successful, Alabama Shakes is able to keep up a very passionate, dedicated feel: every guitar riff, drum hit, and syllable uttered has emotion, passion, and meaning. That, combined with their seemingly small-time alt rock sound with large, intricate swells matching calm, cool troughs (similar to other alt-rock bands like Alt-J) was what caught my attention. Songs like Miss You, Gimme All Your Love and Future People are amazing examples of this: as you listen to the song, you can hear the atmosphere and the emotion of the song ebb and flow. It’s calming and relaxing, but also uplifting and energizing at the same time. Each song has a certain flow to it that’s unique to both the song and the band, and that’s ultimately what made me put Sound & Color as #15.
Catchy songs alone don’t make me instantly love an artist, like how I instantly loved the Alabama Shakes after hearing Sound & Color. Coming from a rap background in music, I’m especially fond of songs that tell good stories: in the same way that Eminem can tell you a rather cruel and heartbreaking story in Stan, I think that Sound & Color tells you some amazingly inspiring, romantic, sometimes sad, and sometimes downright depressing stories. For example, the lead single Don’t Wanna Fight tells you about a relationship that’s not paradise, but filled with resentment, fighting, struggle; but filled with passion, pride, and dedication. And at the end, maybe it’s not worth fighting so hard against someone that you love. Maybe you just go with it. Or maybe you just give up. It drives home a powerful message, that’s not unicorns and rainbows, but real. And real recognizes real.
But at the same time, I’m no critical music reviewer, and I’m definitely not saying that this ranking is the 15 best albums that I’ve listened to; rather, it’s the Top 15 Albums that have influenced me. So let’s talk about how Sound & Color has influenced me, as both a music listener, and as a human being.
As a music listener, Alabama Shakes was a gateway into other alternative music groups: The Black Keys, alt-j, Foster the People, and Arcade Fire are groups that I got to delve into more after realizing just how awesome Sound & Color was. The part of me that said “hey Matt, maybe you shouldn’t be listening to Logic 24/7” was right. And now, I still listen to loads and loads of rap: but I’ve come to appreciate both my own music tastes in other genres, and other people’s music tastes. A lot of my friends love music, but it’s not the same type of music: it’s vast, it has breadth and depth. And I didn’t realise just how much there was to listen to: songs that didn’t emphasize lyrics, or rhythms, but songs that told a lot with very little. Songs that created emotions without saying words. And for that, I’ll be forever grateful.
Though, what specifically made Sound & Color special to me was the humanity it was able to convey. Something about their music was powerful, and while I tried to touch on why it was so powerful earlier, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to fully grasp it. After a fight with a friend, I’ll put on Sound & Color. After heartache (oh no!), I’ll put on Sound & Color. After meeting some of the smartest and coolest people in my life, I’ll put on Sound & Color. It describes being human; being imperfect; but being real. Deep. Wide. A full picture, or as close you can ever be in an album. And for me, that’s all I’m going to need in my life: just a bit of Sound and Color.
Favourite Songs: Sound & Color, Don’t Wanna Fight, Future People, Gimme All Your Love, The Greatest, Miss You, Gemini, Over My Head
Thanks for reading! Tomorrow, we’ll switch gears into a very, very different type of album. Until then!
This was: Top 15 Albums at 15 | #15 Sound & Color
Aug 17, 2016 • Matthew Wang
~ 6 minute read • 1206 words