“Earth Sign” kicks off Brittany Howard’s second solo album with an opening that is as powerful as ordinary individuals may struggle to achieve in their own endings – a soaring burst of optimism complemented by intricate vocal harmonies, jazzy drums, and unique instrumentation. This album continues to impress with its masterful exploration of love while flawlessly executing its musical elements.
Howard initially gained recognition and won multiple Grammy awards as the lead singer of Alabama Shakes. Her first solo album, Jaime, released in 2019, further solidified her success. During the pandemic, she took the opportunity to refocus by setting up a home recording studio and experimenting with unconventional sounds using items like bin lids and cutlery. The tracks on her latest album, What Now, revolve around themes of fading love, new beginnings, and Howard’s tendency to overlook red flags in relationships. These songs are tied together by the use of singing bowls, creating a cohesive auditory experience. Howard showcases her versatility with unexpected dance tracks like “Prove It to You,” as well as soulful and funky tunes. One standout track, “Power to Undo,” not only pays tribute to Prince but also showcases Howard’s impressive vocal range. It’s difficult to pinpoint the most praiseworthy aspect of the album, whether it’s the delicate trumpet playing by Rod McGaha, Howard’s own guitar skills, or her powerful vocal performance on “Every Color in Blue.”