Album of the Week: 'What Now' by Brittany Howard
"What Now" by Brittany Howard is KAXE's Album of the Week for Feb. 12-18, 2024.
Brittany Howard, one of the most captivating musicians today, has outdone herself with the release of her second solo album.
What Now starts with the calming chime of crystal singing bowls, which continue throughout the album as a sort of palette cleanser between songs. The chimes lead into the very jazz-infused "Earth Sign" that offers up just the right amount of chaos to welcome you into the album.
"I Don’t" moves right into familiar territory for the Alabama Shakes frontwoman with vintage soul mixed with sounds from today. It features one of my favorite variations of the well-known phrase, ‘All work and no play, makes me a very sad one’.
"What Now" was the first single released and have had time to sit with it long enough that it feels like classic Brittany Howard. "Red Flags" taps back into a bit of the "Earth Sign" chaos and is a song that keeps growing on me the more I listen.
In what feels like the peak of the record, Howard channels what kind of music Prince would be making if he were still here today on "Patience" and "Power to Undo". The guitar work, the energy, vocals - all is perfection and perfectly Brittany Howard.
Marking the halfway point through the record is a muffled snippet of Maya Angelou reading a poem. The second half of the album includes the dance heavy "Prove It To You", evoking 1990s Eurythmics. The understated heartbreaker "Samson" reveals Brittany grappling with disappointing a loved one. The story laid out over a somber muted trumpet played by jazz musician Rod McGaha.
Channeling Radiohead on "Every Color in Blue", the last song ties together all of the elements from earlier in the album, culminating in an incredible end to What Now.
Since her entrance into music, Howard has consistently been a catalyst. Every album she puts out, whether part of a group project or through her solo work, is thoughtful, intentional, new, and 100% Brittany.
What Now is exactly that, and has a little something for everyone, most of all, for Brittany.