Most likely the most anticipated solo debut of the year, Brittany Howard's Jaime, named for her sister, is wholly exceptional in every possible way.
For weeks now I've been waking up with Brittany's beautiful Stay High easing me into my day. It's so sensually mellifluous that sometimes it loops around before I really get to stirring. The insistently gentle trilling guitars, the toy piano, those drums so slacked off so much, maybe Angelo Dundee was in the control room... Oh wow, and that deliciously audacious opening line just drips the lilting intense intimacy we need to feel to stay alive with someone we love,
I already feel like doing it again, honey
Oh the way those words come spilling from her lips. It's true if there were phone books she'd find a way to sing them interesting... It's a joyous way to begin a day which almost instantaneously every day descends into wishing I was dead. Every day. So for a few minutes, it's something, let me tell you...
As an aside, my unending ear thing had me feeling a little vertiginously wobbly when I woke this morning, then, that rope ladder staircase in this ancient victorian was even more woefully treacherous than usual. When I put on a pair of glasses, I couldn't see a damn thing. I couldn't see the coffee pot, I couldn't read the label on my morning medication, when I took the glasses off, my eyes were way better. I could see more clearly. I tried it again, and again. My eyes were better without my varifocals. I ran around the house Lerner and Loewe style, giving witness, "My eyes! My eyes are better!" "How are things in glauca oma." Well I didn't say that but it crossed my mind. The Pharisees, attempting to sleep late, were positively perturbed. "I can see better without my glasses, look!!! It's a miracle!" I took the glasses on and off several times to prove that overnight my eyes had changed for the better. I am beset by miracles.
In some ways, without her band, it seems as if Brittany Howard can see things a little differently too. How do the great ones do that anyhow, write something so entirely for themselves but make us feel so close, that we are part of it? I don't know. It's a beautiful thing.
I don't even know if she even thinks that way but you feel Brittany Howard is such a restless musician that she never wants to repeat herself. Her LPs with Alabama Shakes are lyrically and sonically languid and pushy. Their musical highs are higher than the highest high. Few bands of late have challenged as they have done from the outset. On Jaime, everything is stretched out even further. It's full of jazz and soul inflections that rock and little lines shooting off at tangents... and then the voice. And the bit where I thought the percussive piano sounded like Benny and the Jets... It's everything. And it's all so great. From start to finish. I keep waiting for a mediocre song to come along and there isn't one. From start to finish, Jaime is just a great record.
Listen to Brittany Howard's Jaime here
I like to look at things while listening to things I am not looking at. But doesn't everyone.