There’s a point on WHAT NOW, Brittany Howard’s long-awaited follow-up to 2019’s Jaime, where the Nashville-based, multi-Grammy winning singer-songwriter proclaims: “I am having the time of my life,” on ‘Another Day’. From the very opening moments of Howard’s latest release, this sense of joy and satisfaction is palpable.
WHAT NOW offers a kaleidoscopic palette of infectious instrumentation which sometimes incorporates luminous 1970s avant-jazz elements (‘Earth Sign’), Prince-like hooks (‘Power To Undo’) and velvety smooth vocals that give Smokey Robinson a run for his money on the alluring groove of ‘I Don’t’. These are all classic and timeless influences that have informed so many exciting contemporary artists, yet Howard also presents moments here that don’t feel a million miles away from the likes of the late and great Richard Swift and, unexpectedly, the enveloping polyrhythms of the excellent closer ‘Every Color In Blue’ wouldn’t feel out of place on a black midi release. While that might seem like a lot of external noise, Howard, taking control as producer of her second solo LP, demonstrates an extraordinary ear for texture and how to elevate the general mood. Here, she does this with deft drumming which pulses through the album, notably on ‘Red Flags’, introduces interesting woozy effects and within the myriad of wonderful tones throughout WHAT NOW, Howards anchors the album with the ethereal glow of singing baths which nicely tie all of the different strands together.
These 12 songs are commanding and coupled with Howard’s effervescence and formidable vocals make for an irresistible body of work abundant with personality. An awe-striking album.