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Friday, March 1, 2024

Brittany Howard: What Now Album Evaluation

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Nearly instantly after Alabama Shakes broke via with tasteful retro-soul model, Brittany Howard pushed again towards categorization. Her band’s Grammy-winning 2015 document, Sound & Colour, borrowed from touchstones as far-reaching as Y2K post-punk, Erykah Badu, and Portishead, but it surely was Howard’s 2019 debut solo album, Jaime, the place her experimentation really blossomed. Its sound gravitated between quiet torch songs and raucous declarations that blended funk-rock with electronica, sure by startling lyrics mined from Howard’s biography. What Now, recorded in the course of the pandemic in Shawn Everett’s studio, is a special beast. Its subject material is extra gestural and existential—a love gone incorrect, a name for peace, a bout of despair within the close to future. It feels each looser and brawnier, a sound nerd’s challenge with stadium-sized panache and a grab-bag strategy.

What Now opens calmly sufficient, with crystal singing bowls and some tentative piano chords and cymbal hits, as Howard narrates her trepidation. “However will I do know?/Will I really feel it?/The primary second that I see it?” she sings, her voice layered over itself in a blanketing echo. Then, with a whirling synth and explosion of drums, she’s off, blasting via the ambiance, whizzing previous soul, blues, funk, jazz, psychedelia, and home music. If Howard’s lyrics make it appear to be she’s nonetheless working via issues, her music seems like she’s bought all of it discovered. Each music right here, even the gradual stuff, feels big and propulsive—a grand celestial tour of rock and R&B, guided by one of many few singers and multi-instrumentalists with the vary and instinct to tug it off.

Howard is studied within the Stevie Marvel faculty of pulling a groove out of absolutely anything, thanks partially to her rhythm part right here, drum virtuoso Nate Smith and versatile Alabama Shakes bassist Zac Cockrell. “I Don’t” builds round a melancholy chipmunk-soul hook within the vein of Cam’ron; “Persistence” morphs from a bog-standard gradual jam into a stunning showcase of warped keyboard results; at the least one music options Howard banging on a trash can. There’s the muscular, hermetic funk-rock of the title monitor, the frenetic boxed-in percussion of “Crimson Flags,” and an enormous swing at home music on “Show It to You.” But among the album’s most impressed selections haven’t any rhythm in any respect. Between practically each monitor, the singing bowls return, performed by sound tub practitioners Ann Sensing and Ramona Reid, offering a quick respite and sealing What Now collectively like non secular glue.

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