Thursday, 31 December 2015

Volcanic Getaway

Vacation time? Really? Already? Yes! This year we start the new year on a high right away. Don't worry, be back in a few weeks. Have a good one!

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Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Top 10 Albums 2015

Yes, it's that time on the year again where people like to look back and make a best-of-list. 2015 was another great year where I saw many great concerts, heard wonderful music and discovered some new bands on the go. So for what it's worth, here's my top 10 album list. Have a great new year's and let's make 2016 at least as good.

1. D’Angelo - Black Messiah
Play in Spotify

2. Tame Impala - Currents
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3. Protomartyr - The Agent Intellect
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4. Unknown Mortal Orchestra - Multi-Love
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5. Daniel Norgren - Alabursy
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6. The Icarus Line - All Things Under Heaven
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7. Ought - Sun Coming Down
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8. Wolf Alice - My Love Is Cool
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9. Blur - The Magic Whip
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10. John Coffey - The Great News
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Monday, 21 December 2015

On Stage: PAUW + Birth of Joy at Paradiso Amsterdam

Psychedelic rock band PAUW and blues rock band Birth of Joy both on the same night in Paradiso? Say no more, say no more! Needless to say I wanted to see this and it was even free with the Indiestadpas!

PAUW + Birth of Joy at Paradiso Amsterdam, December 20 2015

It appears to be a double bill, but I also read about PAUW being the support band. It's not quite clear and doesn't really matter. We make sure to arrive at Paradiso in time to see both bands play.

PAUW Earlier this year PAUW released their first album Macrocosm Microcosm after releasing a successful EP a while ago. They have spent many hours on stage and this shows. The band looks very convincing and their songs sound great. Driven by inspired guitar playing and a wonderful groovy band, the songs are floating around. The band knows how to stretch out the songs to wonderful jams and accompanying hallucinating visuals add to the atmosphere. For a moment we appear to be back in the time when Paradiso was full of youngsters smoking joints and spacing out to this kind of music.

Their set is not perfect though. Sometimes you can hear them making small mistakes and not always are the band fully in sync. Now and then you can see the crowd is losing attention as well. You really need to focus and try to get into the hypnotizing grooves to experience their music the fullest. But when that happens, you will find yourself in the beautiful world of PAUW, showing all its beautiful colours. These talented musicians can come a long way.

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Birth of Joy The blues rock band Birth of Joy have been around a little longer and released their third album Prisoner last year. The band have grown a lot since they started out which you can hear on that record. But the best way to enjoy this steaming rock band is live on stage, something they prove tonight. A set full of smoking rock songs are played with so much power and heart, it's impossible not to go wild about. It's even harder to stand still, when you hear the grooving seventies style classic rock songs and their heavy guitar riffs, rolling drums and screaming and growling organ.

The strength of the band is that each musician is very skilled at his instrument and that they are making perfect use of the trio line-up. It gives them a lot of freedom and every single one gets enough space to show their skills. That way they get the best out of each other. We hear a few new songs of their new record that will come out in a few months. The songs show that the band is still growing and they are always looking to stretch the boundaries of their music and look beyond them. The band is willing to take risks and this results in highly explosive, energetic rock music. This is obvious from the crowd that is going nuts and keeps asking for more. In the end the band has to play two encores before any one is willing to leave. I can't wait for the new album and to see what this band is up to in the future.

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Monday, 7 December 2015

On Stage: dEUS at Carré Amsterdam

On the Into The Great Wide Open Festival a few years back, dEUS was playing as one of the headliners. They also played a surprise show in the woods, that unfortunately I didn't know about. The band played songs they hardly play live in a sort of acoustic setting and afterwards people were calling it the highlight of the festival. The short "Soft electric tour" that is currently under way is a chance to see them in a similar setup.

dEUS at Carré Amsterdam, December 3 2015

The wonderful theatre of Carré has been chosen as the venue for this event. It is a well chosen spot since the theatre can seat many people but still remains somewhat intimate. dEUS didn't bring a lot besides themselves, their backline and a few lights. It's obvious they want to let the music speak for itself. Singer Tom Barman is in a chatty mood tonight and it immediately turns the show into a pleasant and relaxed one. Even when guitar player Mauro Pawlowski is experiencing technical difficulties, the band stays relaxed, cracks a few jokes while a roadie is changing a cable.

It's wonderful to hear these dEUS songs that are taken from their entire discography. It's not an acoustic unplugged show, what is obvious from the tour's name, but merely a tuned down one. A chance to hear songs that are apparently not suited to go on their normal setlist and some songs in a different arrangement. It turns into a diverse evening where dEUS proves once more why they are such a highly acclaimed band and also how well written their songs are. Since songs like 'Constant Now' and '7 Days, 7 Weeks' which are on their regular set as well, don't lose any of their sparkle when played like this. Some of them even sound better.

When the band kicks off the first encore with 'Bad Timing' I hold my breath and brace myself. Since this is one of my favourite songs and it's hard to imagine this song will work in a stripped down arrangement. But this song too holds up easily and still gives me goose bumps. The beautiful 'Serpentine' fits in perfectly of course. The band return one more time to the stage and turn up the volume for a stormy performance of 'Dream Sequence #1' to end the night loud and on a high. Maybe they can be persuaded to play like this more often and put it on a record?

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01. Wake Me Up Before I Sleep
02. The Real Sugar
03. Eternal Woman
04. Include Me Out
05. Magdalena
06. Right As Rain
07. Nothings
08. Constant Now
09. 7 Days, 7 Weeks
10. The Magic Hour
11. Secret Hell
12. Smokers Reflect
13. Sirens
14. Nothing Really Ends
15. Bad Timing
16. Serpentine
Encore 2:
17. Dream Sequence #1

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Wednesday, 2 December 2015

On Stage: Ginger Baker's Jazz Confusion at North Sea Jazz Club Amsterdam

The question “who is the best drummer ever” is quite useless I think. There have been so many great drummers around and there still are, that are impossible to compare, so it's a waste of time trying to answer it. But if you ask people, quite a few will answer that it must be Ginger Baker. Although he is still playing regularly I never had the chance to see him until now.

Ginger Baker’s Jazz Confusion at North Sea Jazz Club Amsterdam, November 26 2015

When you think about the legendary drummer, you automatically think about Africa, the continent he grew really fond of and the one he got so much inspiration from. As he explains himself he’s already 76 years old and things aren't so smooth for him any more. He’s playing with some fine musicians, Pee Wee Ellis on saxophone, Alec Dankworth on bass and percussionist Abass Dodoo. All the ingredients for an explosive night you’d think.

But Baker’s age is starting to get to him and he’s not in great shape. The rhythmic and groovy compositions by Wayne Shorter, Sonny Rollins and himself, sound uninspired and simply aren't really exciting. Ellis also looks far from being in great form and when he’s not playing he is sitting on his stool looking tired. Dodoo and Dankworth are the only ones that have something to show tonight with some great sounding solos. Especially Dodoo is showing great skills behind his percussion set, playing with a big smile on his face.

Baker is occasionally addressing the sold out venue, sounding short-winded, but explosive as always telling someone to “fuck off” after shouting out something. Now and then we get to see some sparkles of the old master’s brilliance and his wonderful technique. He tells us he’s not playing his own drum kit and the setup is not to his liking. Especially the pedals’ setup is causing him trouble and give him cramp. In the end it's clear that his best years are behind him, but still it's wonderful to see the living legend in the flesh behind a drum kit.

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Thursday, 26 November 2015

On Stage: Wolf Alice at Bitterzoet Amsterdam

It's been quite a year for British band Wolf Alice. Their long awaited debut album My Love Is Cool was received very well and landed them a spot on Glastonbury and numerous other festivals and even got them a Mercury Price nomination. Within no time they outgrew the smaller stages and are now moving to the bigger clubs. Fortunately they were booked in Bitterzoet before that, so this is the last chance I get to see them in a small club.

Wolf Alice at Bitterzoet Amsterdam, November 24 2015

Needless to say the venue was sold out weeks before the show. In the meantime a new show was announced in February in the much bigger Paradiso. So everyone here tonight kind of feels lucky to be able to see this band on the rise in such a cosy environment. They kick it off in style with 'Your Loves Whore' and right from the start it's clear this band has spent many miles on the road. Every song sounds very convincing and the group is playing like a well oiled machine. The mix of grunge and electronic music works very well and sounds great tonight.

Wolf Alice is clearly able to write very good songs, since the album doesn't have a weak one on it. And so it already sounds like a greatest hits setlist. It does take a while though before the crowd gets wild. Singer Ellie Rowsell doesn't talk to crowd a lot, but bass player Theo Ellis is the one that will occasionally shout out or try to fire us up. But although everything sounds great, there isn't a real fire starting. A small pit is forming in front of the stage where people are dancing and jumping, but the band could have picked it up a notch to really make this room go wild. All the ingredients are there, but they just forget to light the explosive mix.

Maybe it's because they play the same setlist every night and are starting to run it like a routine by now. It's something you can forgive a young band like this, who want to play as good as possible and can't solely rely on experience. Of course they don't have that many songs to choose from anyway. Besides it's only a minor detail in an otherwise flawless show. Rowsell's voice is strong and clear and the sound mix is pretty good tonight. Before the encore Rowsell leaves the stage at the wrong side of the stage and probably spent the break in limbo. When she returns she's giggling about it and it's nice to see these young musicians still have a whole new world to discover. In the end we've seen a band who already is too big for such a stage and may even play the large venues and festival's main stages in a few years.

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01. Your Loves Whore
02. Freazy
03. Bros
04. You're a Germ
05. Lisbon
06. Silk
07. The Wonderwhy
08. Storms
09. 90 Mile Beach
10. Swallowtail
11. Fluffy
12. She
13. Moaning Lisa Smile
14. Blush
15. Giant Peach

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Tuesday, 24 November 2015

On Stage: Speedfest at Klokgebouw Eindhoven

For the tenth time Eindhoven band Peter Pan Speedrock are organizing their Speedfest festival, that focuses on everything heavy. Things took an ugly turn last week with the Paris terrorist attacks that cast a dark shadow on the music scene and took away one of their headlining bands Eagles of Death Metal.

Speedfest at Klokgebouw Eindhoven, November 21 2015

The schedule was shuffled a bit to deal with the empty spot in the line-up and security was increased. It causes a bit of a delay when entering the festival which was announced by the organization days ahead of the festival, but the seemingly long line moves fast. We arrived a little later than planned anyway and unfortunately therefore have to miss some of the early bands.

Scorpion Child
We can still catch the last bit of Scorpion Child's show, a hardrock band from Austin, Texas who made the big step across the pond this year. Their retro style hardrock, on the heavy side of Led Zeppelin, is not a bad start of the day. Solid guitar riffs on heavy grooves support the howls of singer Aryn Jonathan Black. It definitely got us warmed up for what's more to come.

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Backyard Babies
A big skull, the logo of the band, is grinning at us from the back drop behind the Swedish Backyard Babies, but at the same time red LED lights are running around the amps on stage. This means it's time for some sleaze rock from this group that has been around since 1987. All these years pay off in a tight show that is a mix of hard rock and punk, but always with some tongue in cheek. Their sound reminds of Guns N' Roses a lot, but more importantly the band is playing very convincingly and with a lot of heart. They showcase all rock poses known to men and make use of small risers at the front of the stage to go through them. It results in a very entertaining show and positive vibes across the hall.

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Nick Oliveri's Mondo Generator
I was disappointed with Nick Oliveri's latest album and wasn't even planning on going to his performance today. Fortunately my friends wanted to go, so I find myself at a surprisingly tight show with lots of stoner. The former Kyuss and Queens of the Stone Age bass player is going through his whole long music background and is playing a mix of stoner and metal. Of course the name "Mondo Generator" comes from the Kyuss era, but especially the stoner songs sound great, with heavy grooves, laid down by the three piece band, sounding very tight. Oliveri shows why he was so important for Kyuss and Queens of the Stone Age in the earlier days.

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Unfortunately it leaves little time for Giuda who are about to wrap up their show. The Italian band play retro style glam rock in the style of T. Rex and The Sweet and are doing a good job at it. Both band and crowd are all fired up and singer Tenda's voice is strong. Hopefully next time I will be able to watch them longer.

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The Dictators NYC
Punk band The Dictators are regarded as the missing link between bands like MC5 and The Stooges and the later punk wave in the late seventies. They had a few line-up changes but still have some of the original members including front man Richard Manitoba, guitarist Ross Friedman. They went on a long hiatus halfway the seventies only to return beginning of the nineties. The band, solely relying on their old songs because of lack of new material, shows why they are still meaningful with an inspired performance that breaths their long history. Especially Manitoba, Friedman and bassist Dean Rispler, although grey and older, act like young dogs and show they still haven't lost their touch.

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One thing I like about this festival is the number of fresh hardrock bands like Crobot. The band from Pennsylvania has a typical retro hardrock sound with that heavy blues core. They went on tour with Motörhead a few months ago and by the sound of it will have won some new fans over. Singer Brandon Yeagley has an impressive voice and looks like a rabies dog now and then when he has his eyes spread wide open. It certainly rubs off on the crowd and it results in an energetic performance.

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Danko Jones
By the time Danko Jones take the stage, this festival is running at full speed and power now and you can leave it up to Danko Jones to put some more oil on the fire, especially on a festival like this. It is clear Danko Jones himself is feeling like a kid in a candy store, with so many great rock bands around, something he tells the crowd halfway the show. It makes their show even more explosive where bass player John Calabrese is firing up the crowd in his usual fashion with a never fading smile on his face.

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All fired up it is time for Refused to keep this party going and it's exactly what they are doing. The Swedish band became something of a cult name during their hiatus that started end of the nineties. I was expecting to find more people at their show, but maybe I've just overestimated their popularity. It doesn't matter since the band is still full of fire and is playing an inspired show. Singer Dennis Lyxzén is all over the place and the wild punk songs sound sharp and convincing. Always a band to share their political opinion Lyxzén briefly addresses the Paris attacks at the end of the show, with a well meant short speech. Hopefully they are now here to stay for many years to come.

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After their show is over, there's a moment of silence out of respect for the victims of the terrorist attacks. This is the spot Eagles of Death Metal was supposed to play and it's the only time today the Klokgebouw is absolutely quiet and isn't shaking from the heavy rock grooves. It's a well chosen moment and everyone honours the silence.

Peter Pan Speedrock
Organizers Peter Pan Speedrock are now playing themselves and moved up in the bill to fill up the empty spot. The large turn up for their performance, shows everyone is fine with this change in the line-up. Their no-nonsense straight on heavy rock, reminds of Motörhead sometimes with double bass grooves and blast beats. It's obvious it goes down well with the crowd, who shake their heads and down a few more beers.

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The Vintage Caravan
The festival is far from over after the show of the hosts and there are a few more bands still to come. We watch our last band of the day, The Vintage Caravan from Iceland. The band is playing classic style psychedelic rock inspired by the big bands from that era like Led Zeppelin, Rush and Cream. The band is doing a good job at it, playing heavy groovy jams with great sounding guitar solos. However sometimes the prog rock elements can make it a bit weary and unfortunately singer Óskar Logi Ágústsson's voice isn't really strong. Still it is a nice end to a heavy but satisfying day.

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Today showed that the terrorist attacks in Paris has left its marks in the music scene especially the rock scene. Personally I feel it affected me too, since music has always been my happy place. No matter how I feel, when I play a record, but especially when I go see a band play, I feel energized and happy again. The attacks in Paris violated that world and my happy place. But today Speedfest and all the wonderful people at the festival restored it in all its glory. It also showed that you can't rob us from our music, since it will always bounce back.

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Tuesday, 17 November 2015

On Stage: Taxiwars at Bitterzoet Amsterdam

Of course Tom Barman is known for one of Belgium's finest bands dEUS, but he keeps himself busy with numerous other projects. We learned about his newest project Taxiwars at the Into The Great Wide Open Festival last September. Their performance there sure tasted like more so we headed to Bitterzoet to get more.

Taxiwars at Bitterzoet Amsterdam, November 13 2015

The cosy venue has filled up quite nicely and we're eager to see this band play. The combination of exciting jazz with Barman's lyrics and vocals are simply a great match. Indeed again the band is convincing and plays a fired up show with plenty to enjoy. Saxophone player Robin Verheyen is mostly playing his tenor sax. The one time he wants to play his soprano it doesn't cooperate and he decides to play part of the song on his tenor after all. It doesn't matter since Verheyen treats us to thrilling solo's that sometimes are crazy free jazz and other times are bop style pieces. But all of the time he knows how to keep it interesting.

Completing the combo are contra bass player Nicolas Thys and drum player Antoine Pierre, who play very catchy grooves, which make the songs hard to stand still to. It also enables Barman to embed his vocals into the groove, which works very well. It's wonderful to see how Barman is clearly enjoying making music in this band, judging from the big smile on his face and the freaky dance moves. When the band is playing solos, Barman moves to the stage to let them take the spotlights.

It's a delight to see top musicians like this make such exciting music together and have such a great time at it. Parts of the music is improvised on the spot which keeps them on their toes and gives them the opportunity to surprise each other. It's another example of how exciting and danceable jazz music can be.

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Monday, 16 November 2015

On Stage: Sleaze Express at W2 Den Bosch

Once a year there's a great party called Sleazefest at the wonderful beach bar Timboektoe. It is a night full of sweaty rock 'n roll bands and lots of fun at the beach. The organizers of this event are Dutch band zZz who thought it was a good idea to have a small tour around the clubs with the same idea. I think it's an excellent idea, so I hopped on their Sleaze Express.

Sleaze Express at W2 Den Bosch, November 12 2015

For the rest the idea is quite simple: get two other bands to join them and have a great time. The Sleaze Express also stops at my home town, but that night I have another concert planned, so it was a good excuse to go to Den Bosch to meet up with one of my best friends who lives there. So I hop on a normal train to the city of Den Bosch and there we switch to the Sleaze Express after a little walk. It looks pretty quiet but starts to fill up by the time the first band takes the stage.

Green Hornet
From the north of the Netherlands comes the garage rock band Green Hornet, who have been around for quite a while and can be considered veterans. It's been awfully quiet for a while around them but recently they returned with a brand new album Never Enough that sounds great. On stage they prove to be a good live band. Their gritty songs have lots of rock 'n roll and are at their best when André Dodde makes his organ go nuts. The trio try to light a bit of a fire but that may be a bit to ambitious for this crowd at this time, that is still getting into the sleaze mood. But Green Hornet certainly got us warmed up and got me in the right mood!

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The Deaf
Leave it to this rock 'n roll band from The Hague to give the crowd the final push needed to tear the place down. Singer Frans van Soest, better known as Spike, mentions he's actually sick, but that doesn't show for a bit. Like always he's full of energy and doesn't rest until he gets the people at the front crazy. Keyboard player Maurizio Pinna is exploring every inch of the stage and is showing great acrobatic moves on his organ, while bass player Janneke Nijhuijs, aka Miss Fuzz, is rocking around her big bass. It finally catches on with everyone and there's even an attempt at a wall of death, that turns into a "fence of death" according to Spike, but it's the thought that counts.

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Apparently many people came to see The Deaf because some of them have left when zZz themselves take the stage. I think their groovy danceable tunes are brilliant and indeed they are the sleaziest of all three bands. Everyone that stayed around has put on their dancing shoes and the band ends this night in great style with dirty, sexy and sweaty dance tunes. Of course they play the excellent 'Juggernaut' off the latest record by the same title. I wonder if I will every hear them play all full glorious twenty minutes of that song.

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Unfortunately I have to jump off the Sleaze Express before it comes to a full stop, because I have to catch the normal train back home. I thought this night was a great success and hope their will be more of these to come in future editions.

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Tuesday, 10 November 2015

On Stage: Alabama Shakes at Paradiso Amsterdam

Things moved really fast for Alabama Shakes, especially after releasing their first record Boys & Girls. The band played many gigs and the stages they play on have grown since then. From small clubs they can now take on the bigger clubs and also the big stages at festivals. Their second album Sound & Color is a brave change of direction that works very well. They bring soul singer Michael Kiwanuka as support with them so all the more reason to go check them out.

Alabama Shakes at Paradiso Amsterdam, November 7 2015

Ahead of the show I get an email with the advice to show up early because many people want to see Michael Kiwanuka and it may get crowded early. Indeed by the time the singer takes the stage the venue has already filled up considerably. I always find it wonderful to watch and listen to Kiwanuka. His voice is gentle and comforting but still strong. His band is standing close to him as if they try to make the space as tiny as possible. This works well and it turns the performance into an intimate one. The new songs sound promising and some of the old songs get new arrangements. I’m looking forward to hearing more new music by him.

From the first song on you can tell Alabama Shakes spent a lot of time on the road. Of course the wonderful Brittany Howard has an overwhelming appearance, but she has grown into a charismatic artist on top of it. Her incredible voice alone can carry all the songs, but she looks really comfortable on stage now, mostly with her guitar, knocking out solos with great ease. Sometimes she will put it away and move around the stage like a first class crooner. It suits her well and it makes the performance a lively one.

The band, extended with background singers and an additional keyboard player, are always on the background. Although they are not in the spotlight, you can hear they have become more tight and provide a sturdy foundation for Howard’s big voice. And that voice never fails to impress, even after having seen them a few times before. However the big difference with those other times are some of the new songs, where the band have chosen to do things differently. They could have done a similar second record, but this is so much better.

They have mixed in some R&B, garage rock, pop and more swing, really broadening their sound with it and Howard is using her voice in a more diverse way. Confidently they have put all songs of the new album on tonight’s setlist. Live it is even more clear how good songs like ‘Dunes’ and ‘Gimme All Your Love’ are, but especially the songs that really show the new direction like ‘This Feeling’, ‘Gemini’ and ‘Over My Head’ sound incredible, sometimes reminding me of D’Angelo. It proves Alabama Shakes are now a confident and established band and have chosen the right way. That way is only going up.

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01. Dunes
02. Future People
03. I Ain't The Same
04. Rise to the Sun
05. Heartbreaker
06. Boys & Girls
07. Guess Who
08. Miss You
09. Be Mine
10. The Greatest
11. Shoegaze
12. Hold On
13. This Feeling
14. You Ain't Alone
15. On Your Way
16. Always Alright
17. Don't Wanna Fight
18. Gemini
19. Joe
20. Sound & Color
21. Gimme All Your Love
22. Over My Head

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