range of her sophisticated harmony in “Where’d You Go.” To say that Jenn Howard is giving the performance of her life from Valiant Woman’s title track to the unfiltered “Lay Down the Law” might not be doing what she’s done here justice; from where I sit, this is a watershed moment in both her career and the underground circuit she’s looking to break free from.
See, Valiant Woman doesn’t present us with Jenn Howard as we’ve come to know her through the first LP bearing her moniker; it gives us a closer look at her artistry through both passive cuts like “I Can’t Call” and refined content like “Hold On” and the old school “Pocket Fox.” Colorful crooning and lush instrumental textures make this an unforgettable addition to her discography, but more than that, the very substance of the musicality in this LP makes it a required acquisition for anyone who can’t get enough of a captivating melodic treasure.
The vocals are unbelievably decadent in “Better Than You Think” and “Microphone,” and for me, the indulgence is breathtaking. It’s a far cry from the minimalist aesthetic that many of her peers have been utilizing when producing new content of their own, but it doesn’t make other songs like “Lay Down the Law” or “Where’d You Go” feel woefully conservative by comparison at all. There’s always a lot of intensity coming from the backing band in Valiant Woman, but the swagger of Howard’s performance dismisses the idea of this being anyone else’s showcase.
“I Can’t Call” and “Better Than You Think” definitely make me want to see her live in concert at some point in the future, and not because of her adept management of the music exclusively. You can tell she comes alive on the stage in ways that most of us could only dream of experiencing, and her star factor is what essentially makes each of these tracks sound as though they’re some of the most robust compositions in 2023’s underground pop soundtrack.
You don’t have to be a long-time fan of Jenn Howard’s music to immediately love what she’s serving up in Valiant Woman, but those who have been keeping up with her story since the beginning are likely to agree when I say this is too is a record that no fan should be without. Howard’s fantastic presence alone is a reason to believe in her eminence in the greater pop genre in general, and if she can build off of the steam this release will undoubtedly create for her, it’s difficult for me to picture her remaining a purely indie force for much longer. The mainstream is hungry for someone of her skills, and right now, she’s offering what could be the most powerful vocal LP of the year in Valiant Woman.