WILLOW Takes a Jazzy Turn on New Album ’empathogen’ (Review)

WILLOW is back with a jazz, post-punk project that is trippy and truthful. ‘empathogen‘ is the LA native’s sixth studio album. Thematically, she takes us on a similar journey to her previous work – deep introspection, angst, and self-discovery. However, sonically, this is a sharp jump into the genre of jazz. This suits her style superbly, as she scats, riffs, and shows off some vocal gymnastics.

This genre fluidity has been WILLOW’s trademark, yet never feels disingenuous. Despite its jazzy underscore, there are still elements of Paramore meets alt-R&B. She partners with both St. Vincent and Jon Batiste on this album, somehow still managing to keep a consistent sound.

Certain tracks on ‘empathogen‘ will really speak to those going through inner battles. She matches her therapeutic vocal chanting to the guitar strums in ‘the fear is not real‘ and lets the drums take on their own life. ‘“i know that face.”‘ proves why real instruments in music make the best records. Songs like these showcase more than her inspiration, but her firm appreciation for jazz as an art form.

false self

This is a stand-out rock-pop anthem with touches of jazz influence throughout. Here, the singer-songwriter speaks of shedding her old self and begging for change. This song is a feel-good emotional release for everyone who listens.

between i and she

This record represents what I wanted from this project in one song – a free-flowing, rhythmic ode to life’s ups and downs. This is WILLOW aligning to Mother Earth, submitting to the uncertainties of life. ‘Everything is here, no need to try / Palms to the earth because I feel her breathe / Syncing to a rhythm between I and she‘. It’s an upbeat reminder to appreciate the here and now with some awesome guitar sounds.


This is a bare-it-all project from an emotionally intelligent artist who clearly appreciates music in its many forms. Certain records on this project majorly outshine others, but there is one common thread between all tracks – exceptional instrumentation. Fans of any genre can appreciate the hypnotic piano keys, sensational strumming, and frantic drumming on ‘empathogen‘. It captures the freestyle and frenetic of live performance. Some tracks are clear winners, others growers, and others just to be admired for their emotional gravitas. This album, like all her music, feels like WILLOW following her artistic instincts, which should always be saluted.

Rating: 7.5/10

WILLOW is on Instagram, X, and TikTok. Read more album reviews here and stream ‘empathogen‘ below.

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