“Shake” – The Grenadines
This is one of the first songs I’ve heard urging us to “shake” that strikes me as actually sexy. We begin with an itchy disco riff that might be a cliche except that this is really not a disco tune at all when you pay closer attention. There’s a thoroughgoing blurriness at work here–disco but not disco, indie but not indie, retro but not retro–and this, to me, is the achievement and the allure. It’s an expert blend, not a single malt. What comes through most of all, beyond questions of labels and genres, is the unifying force of music being created through the palpable efforts of human beings in physical space. There is no trace of electronics or loops or anything that creates sound without physical movement–and not that there’s anything wrong with all that under many different circumstances. But here you can feel the movement that music, an ancient force, is founded upon: vibrating vocal cords (and not one but two vocalists), fingers on strings, sticks and mallets on drum skins. Shake, indeed.
And it’s done with such a sultry touch, at once as casual as a glance in a bar and as purposeful as the instinctive movement the leads here are singing about. Husband and wife Michael and Lauren Shackelford bring something arresting to the alternating boy-girl vocal thing, he with his nasally charm, she with the lower, breathier magnetism. Listen in particular to how the last verse is presented, as the singers still alternate the lead while now singing together–until the last, repeated line, when each claims, alone: “I found your weakness.” Ooh, baby. Anyone who found a lot to like in Rilo Kiley’s unfairly maligned Under the Blacklight album will likely connect to this without hesitation. The rest of you should listen, too.
The Grenadines are based in Birmingham, Alabama, and in addition to the Shackelfords employ the very capable David Swatzell on guitar and the equally praiseworthy Jesse Phillips on bass. “Shake” is the lead song on a special 7-inch vinyl release, from Birmingham-based Communicating Vessels, one of a series featuring so-called “secret songwriters from the Southeast.” Rightfully, the Grenadines may not need to be such a secret moving forward.