Brittany Howard – What Now (Album Review)


Best known as the leading voice and rhythm guitarist of Rock band Alabama Shakes, Brittany Howard has spent the last five years walking a solo path. First releasing her debut Jaime in September of 2019 just after Alabama Shakes went on a hiatus, the material Howard put together solo was different, but exciting to listeners. A very personal debut, the album mixed various styles from Blues Rock to Synth-Rock, Howard even offered listeners a different view of the material with 2021’s remixed Jaime (Reimagined). A rock-solid foundation to build on as a solo artist, now Howard returns in 2024 with her proper sophomore album What Now. Released on February 2nd through Island Records, What Now creates yet another wrinkle on Howard’s stylistic approach. An extension of Jaime, yet different, this new collection of twelve songs really is all over the map.

As mentioned, overflowing with diversity, What Now begins with a smooth, soft mood on “Earth Sign.” Lulling you in, it gets you swaying along to the music, but don’t be fooled… this is only a spring board for more momentum. With the following song, “I Don’t,” Howard slowly works together Electronica with Soul music, and it works quite well. This in mind, throughout What Now there are some songs which go more towards the psychedelic side of things. However, with each of them Howard takes you on a journey through space and her creative mind. Look at it this way – she is taking you by the hand and gently guides you through the amusement park of inner thoughts.

Really up and down, like an emotional roller coaster, some songs are more mellow, while others are faster and fierier. Keeping a good balance in the process, Howard’s vocals also vary between being soothing and emotive. In all, it shows that Howard sure knows how to use her voice in a way that paints visual pictures. Looking at the substance of it all more, the aforementioned “Don’t I” is heartfelt and digs deep. Here the melodies grab hold of you, while on the other hand, the title-track is quite upbeat and danceable.

Overall, the lyrics of What Now are taken out of life and it is easy to relate to each song. Furthermore, the arrangements make it quite easy to tap into the emotion Howard is trying to get across. Mixing Electronic, Soul, Psychedelic, Funk, Rock, and Jazz, What Now is full of surprises. Delightful, each song has its own life, and that is why Cryptic Rock gives this new piece of art from Brittany Howard 5 out of 5 stars. 

Brittany Howard - What Now album
Brittany Howard – What Now / Island Records (2024)

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