My introduction to Aldous Harding was a musical friend of mine sharing her music video to “Blend” on his Facebook wall with the comment “This is the most stupid music video to such a sombre song ever – and I love it!” – so naturally I was intrigued. I’ll include the video at the end of the review. Harding’s blend of quiet hushed vocals, sad acoustic guitar melodies and a splash of subtle noise effects make her album “Party” stand out as something wiser beyond its years.
“Blend” is two and a half minutes of what I described, and she hits such a great sweet spot in terms of style and nuance. “Imagining My Man” lets the piano and organ play out a simple circle of chords. Aldous’ husky voice has pangs of pain as she switches between short, sharp statements and then bellow cries of lament. She isn’t afraid to disrupt flow and tone, with sharp “hey”‘s that burst in and a lovely brass ensemble to close out the track. She also isn’t afraid to twist her intonation as the finger picked “Living the Classics” speeds past with some of most unusual word pronunciations outside of a Tori Amos album. The track itself is bouncy and fluid though and adds much-needed pace to what is a generally sombre and reflective album.
“Party” is another but. It’s beautiful and builds to an almost religious climax of voices over a slow dirge. The track is quite minimal, as the album is in general, but Aldous is able to command every sound with aplomb because you can feel every fibre of every word she sings. “I’m So Sorry” has a slight Spanish edge to the chord structure and plays off Harding’s voice perfectly, whereas “Horizon” is a simple piano and brass piece that I wish had a bit more of a climax towards the end as it hits its ceiling mid track. “What If Birds Aren’t Singing They’re Screaming” channels everything that’s fantastic about Agnes Obel into a single track. The muted piano hammers, dual vocal production and slightly creepy melody are perfectly matched. The final two tracks return to an acoustic guitar and vocal performance and are lovingly pitched, with a classic songstress of folk feel that remind me of some of the best of the early 70’s female folk singers.
If I was being very critical, “Party” goes for one note and flavour of folk and doesn’t mix and match very much from it. Aldous’ voice and musical talent are not in doubt, but she hints at a much wider palette of sound that makes me very, very excited for her future projects. “Party” feels like a great base camp.
Recommended Track : Imagining My Man