Nearly instantly afterbroke by way of with tasteful retro-soul type, pushed again towards categorization. Her band’s Grammy-winning 2015 report, , borrowed from touchstones as far-reaching as Y2K post-punk, , and , however it was Howard’s 2019 debut solo album, , the place her experimentation actually 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 unique beast. Its subject material is extra gestural and existential—a love gone mistaken, a name for peace, a bout of melancholy within the close to future. It feels each looser and brawnier, a sound nerd’s undertaking 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 by way of the environment, whizzing previous soul, blues, funk, jazz, psychedelia, and home music. If Howard’s lyrics make it look like she’s nonetheless working by way of issues, her music appears like she’s bought all of it found out. Each music right here, even the sluggish stuff, feels large 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 thecollege of pulling a groove out of absolutely anything, thanks partly 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 ; “Endurance” morphs from a bog-standard sluggish jam into a stunning showcase of warped keyboard results; a minimum of one music options Howard banging on a trash can. There’s the muscular, hermetic funk-rock of the , the frenetic boxed-in percussion of “Crimson Flags,” and a giant swing at home music on “Show It to You.” But a few of the album’s most impressed selections haven’t any rhythm in any respect. Between practically each monitor, the singing bowls return, performed by sound bathtub practitioners Ann Sensing and Ramona Reid, offering a quick respite and sealing What Now collectively like religious glue.