Listen to This Killer Song

by Belle Waring on May 7, 2015

This song is objectively awesome. I…have to go to the doctor in a bit, and I might need to study kanji* re-play Monument Valley, so I don’t have much to say except OMG THIS THIS EVERYTHING!

Lead-singer and guitarist Brittany Howard has an incredible voice, obviously. I thought she was a dude at first. (John professed bafflement that I ever thought this. [This was not a function of her incredibleness, but just plain I didn’t know who was singing and heard it as a dude.]). Alabama Shakes has a really wide range of song-styles. What is this like? I would say sort of reminiscent of the Doors in ways, but I actually kind of hate the Doors, so. The guitar able to go so clean when she wants it to, as all the other instruments cut out, like at 2:19, it’s a later Pink Floyd-ish thing? (Which, btw, I have been really feeling lately. Anybody want to join me for some Shine on You Crazy Diamond? It’s only 25 minutes long. IT’S WORTH IT.)

*I am just going to stop taking topamax. Screw this. My brains have turned to mush and I have horrible headaches anyway. Though to be scrupulously over-generous to myself, our tutor gives us the hardest test I can think of: Japanese sentences with blanks for the kanji and hiragana for the sound, and then we have to write the character. It’s easy to see each character and remember what it means. The sounds…more troublesome. I would do better by just flipping the paper over and writing all 15 characters down. I should probably do that Sunday, then cross them out as they go in, but I’m doing the class with Zoe and I am way slower than her already.

OK, I got y’all this far, now you get a video about outer space. It’s AWESOME.

P.S. I will take ALL THE GRAVY BOATS. Just send’em on over. (John waves hands like X in background mouthing “noooo!”)
P.P.S. I am aware the title is now inaccurate.



Doug 05.07.15 at 12:54 pm

Topamax is bad, bad news. I took it for migraines for about six months and had dreadful insomnia and near suicidal depression, even thought the doctor swore up and down that topamax didn’t have psychiatric side effects (cough bullshit cough)

I had to take Seroquel for a month just to resolve the side effects of Topamax.

I’m surprised its still prescribed, I’d heard that it was being phased out.


Belle Waring 05.07.15 at 2:27 pm

Wow, that’s something, sorry to hear it. I’ve taken Seroquel before and it totally blows so the fact that it was a step better is scary. [kvetching about my health redacted because some people have real problems, etc.]


Kiwanda 05.07.15 at 3:30 pm

I have to fully burn out *Hold On* before I’d rather listen to this than listen to *Hold On* again.


William Timberman 05.07.15 at 3:52 pm

Two things:

1. Belle, you’re the queen of impulse buying. I went straight to iTunes and plunked down the cash. Not the first time, either.

2. I’d read years ago that migraines went away once you reached fifty, and in my case that turned out to be hallelujah true. Over the years, I had all the kinds and manifestations — clusters, three-day specials, auras, nausea and reduced heart rate, sound sensitivity, yadda yadda. I had the first one at age five. My parents rushed me to the ER, thinking I had polio. The doctor put me on a cold steel table in my underwear, tapped with his little rubber hammer and got no reaction. Then whispered panic from the mother and father, no other indications — no fever, etc. — we’ll just to have to wait and see from the doctor. At age eight, I remember going totally blind about 5 minutes before the onset, my vision clearing only as the pain started. At age 27, I remember my new wife finding me in the bedroom with a wet towel on my face, taking one look at my color and convincing herself that I was dying. I could go on and on, but I know you know. Anyway…just hold on till you’re 50. How’s that for helpful advice?


Belle Waring 05.07.15 at 3:54 pm

Belle, you’re the queen of impulse buying.
It’s like you’ve known me all my life! I’m hoping to hold on till I’m 50 generally, so that is probably solid advice.


Bill Benzon 05.07.15 at 6:23 pm

Well, if you’ve been listening to Jimmy Scott, then, yes, Brittany Howard’s voice could well belong to a dude.


Doug 05.07.15 at 7:23 pm

About five years after my debacle with the Headache clinic that gave me Topamax, I tried again with a different clinic. Not as disastrous, more of a waste of time.

Luckily, I’ve become adept at recognizing the difference between true migraines and rebound headaches (thanks to 20 years of NSAID abuse), and the true migraines do seem to be decreasing in frequency as I turn 40. And both my parents reported a dramatic decrease in frequency AND intensity as they got older.

Hey, something that doesn’t fall apart as we age!


ZM 05.07.15 at 11:02 pm

Belle and Doug,

I take seroquel and find it the most tolerable of the drugs I have tried so far in the last almost 9 years, and with the least effect on cognition. I saw a talk by a highly regarded UK affective disorders specialist last year and he had a graph with axes of efficacy and tolerability and seroquel was high in both in comparison to others.

Relating to cognitive abilities, he had done research into how overly high amounts of stress hormones relates to the decline over time of cognitive abilities in specific areas of cognitive functioning in people with affective disorders (distinct from the cognitive issues as side effects of medications), and he did a trial that found that I think by blocking hydro-cortisol receptors cognitive abilities began to improve., but the drug he used is not available for that purpose in Australia.

There is also a lot of evidence of the role of inflammation in the body as playing a part in various disorders including migraines, so maybe you could see a nutritional medicine specialist and see if nutrition and techniques to reduce inflammation helps , it might help with other chronic pain too.


Helen 05.07.15 at 11:19 pm

Yes, I just got this album too, coincidentally. It’s so wonderfully OTT.
Apropos of the recent gender thread, maybe there isn’t an objective thing called a “dude voice” or a “female voice”? A friend of mine also “read” Brittany as a dude when she first heard the Boys and Girls album, whereas I’d bought it knowing she was a woman so we were coming from different places as far as “reading” her voice was concerned.


Belle Waring 05.08.15 at 3:05 am

IPAD ATE MY COMMENT RRr ahem: yes, Howard is belting it out in a real rock and roll way. She’s not just growling on some words and pulling back clear on others, either. I read that they did classic rock covers when they started, which makes sense. I can imagine her tearing up a Led Zeppelin song. Like Jeff Buckley, but less range, because dudes with a strong falsetto have a bigger range than anyone, unless that anyone is Joni Mitchell or something. Patti Smith is a woman rocker going balls-out all the time, but she doesn’t have that kind of timbre–her voice seems “thin” I think in comparison (though awesome, obviously). Janis Joplin is kind of all I’m falling back on for a good comparison. OK, how about Brittany Howard is matter and Neko Case is anti-matter.


maidhc 05.08.15 at 9:13 am

I guess this kind of voice is fashionable. I tried to listen to it yesterday, and I lasted about 5 seconds into the vocals. But I didn’t want to be the first person to post. Today I thought I should be more open-minded, so I took another try. This time I lasted around 10 seconds.

I suppose I’m just an old fogey, but I would much rather listen to, say, Sister Rosetta Tharpe(it’s BBC, that’s why the audience it all white) than anything like that.


Belle Waring 05.08.15 at 3:50 pm

maidhc, this kind of voice isn’t fashionable because no one else has a voice like this! Did you listen to the second song? It sounds way more like an Andre “Ice Cold” 3000 OutKast B side, if you like that kind of thing. I like that sort of thing.


Dave Maier 05.08.15 at 8:46 pm

Shine On You Crazy Diamond pt. VI – IX used to be my favorite thing ever [note: that was before anyone said “evar”].

Unlike maidhc, I’m not an old fogey b/c I would much rather listen to Sr. Tharpe; I’m an old fogey b/c I would much rather listen to, I don’t know, Gentle Giant. I do know who Andre 3000 is, though.


Paul Davis 05.08.15 at 10:13 pm

Belle, I found the voice simultaneously utterly familiar and right-now-fashionable but I was also unable to name anyone else doing this sort of thing right now. Somehow she/they are tapping into the eclectic thing in a way that makes the overall vibe familiar even though some of the components are really their own. Or the other way around. Or something.


JPL 05.12.15 at 8:53 am

I’d been following Alabama Shakes with interest via their live appearances on SNL and Letterman, and I was impressed. The lead singer struck me as being an original talent (like Jimmy Scott– definitely one of the great original talents in American music! (Thanks, Bill Benzon!)). All branches of American music, to remain vigorous, need periodically to return to their roots in the blues; artists who do this, and this band seems to be musically quite ambitious, usually don’t do it in order to follow fashions, but to explore possible paths not taken, since people’s timelines are different from that of the musical ideas. Anybody wanting to hitch a ride on Brittany Howard’s popularity, such that it is, would probably not be as serious about the music as she clearly is.

I’ve now listened to both of their albums: the first one seems more straight bluesy, and Brittany is absolutely in the tradition; in the second they’re combining this basis with more contemporary ideas. “Sound and color” evoked, for me, Roy Ayers. (Is that weird?) Those four- note guitar figures and those chords at the beginning of “Gimme all your love” — I know those, but I can’t just put my finger on them right now. I’ll find them eventually. But the songs where she sings falsetto, like “This feeling” and “Guess who”, make me remember music like this old favourite song of mine that I haven’t heard in quite a while. Maybe you remember it. I really shouldn’t put this one up on here.

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