Brittany Howard’s first solo album overflows with power

Former Alabama Shakes singer Brittany Howard’s first solo album, Jaime, puts race, gender, and religion center stage.



Alabama Shakes singer Brittany Howard performs at the 58th Annual Grammy Awards on Monday, Feb. 15, 2016, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Austin J. Yerington, Arts Reporter

At 30 years old, Brittany Howard has already made a massive impact in the music industry as the former lead singer of Alabama Shakes, but after her first album as a solo artist, Jaime, it is evident that she will keep changing the business with her unique and resonant sound.

Jaime is an album about religion, love, and race. Howard’s intoxicating vocals meld with the many of the snippets of recorded sermons sprinkled throughout, all with biblical sounding synths and reverbs.

The album begins with the rumbling of a single snare. A full drum kit and funky keys soon follow, turning into a ‘70s style swing with track “History Repeats.” Then “He Loves Me” takes its turn, introducing religion into the album.

In the song, Howard talks about her experiences with love and her faith and where it differs from what may be seen as conventional religion. This track is the weakest of the 11 songs on this album. It suffers from a boring lyrics and a shallow depth, its greatest strength being the interwoven audio tears and guitar breaks.

But the album then finds new breath that builds with each songs once “Georgia” starts. This slow and groove-heavy love song details a person desperate for the attention of their crush, with each section of Howard singing “I just want Georgia to notice me” building with each repetition.

Jaime does a great job building peaks and valleys for the listener to experience. Each track compliments the last with a different energy, yet common thread of intent. The song that I have caught myself listening to dozens of times since my first play have been “Short and Sweet.” This track is a simple, soft spoken song that packs so much in its minimalist production. Howard’s voice in this track seems as if it is coming from the very room you are sitting in, with you as the only audience member.

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After this emotional one person show, “13th Century Metal” begins. It starts with electronic tones clucking like sci-fi typewriters. Soon, Howard starts a prayer of sorts, or an oath. This prayer is a promise to protect others and practice nonviolence to every prevailing spirit. It builds as Howard chants to a chaotic out pour, but this just slows and leads to another strong and groovy song on this album, “Baby.”

“Baby” slides and bumps, with Howard enunciating words such as “equality” as the bass bounces. Once this ends, Goat Head begins, a track that discuss race, and society’s assumed expectations of one’s race with lyrics such as “My heroes are black/So, why God got blue eyes?”

“Presence” is the penultimate song from Jaime. This song, like the one prior, and much of the album, talks about race and love for a significant other. “You make me feel so black and alive,” Howard sings in this track.

The final song, “Run to Me,” is a haunting track on all fronts. The musicality of the tune is drawn out, the reverb heavy with a drumming, striking heartbeat throughout. Howard sings with such a jagged and howl-like edge that added more of this sad and fearful end. The lyrics speak of the loneliness that can come with “being free and wild.”

Jaime is an album that shows an artist at their most experimental to date. The album’s journey can take the listener to places they haven’t heard in modern music for a long time. Jaime feels both grand at parts, but deeply personal and intimate in others. This album is sure to create a following with all generations and will find life long past this year’s Billboard charts.