Aldous Harding

(Copyright © 2019 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of Use )
Aldous Harding (2014), 6.5/10
Party (2017), 6.5/10
Designer (2019), 5/10
Warm Chris (2022), 4/10

Aldous Harding, the project of New Zealand's singer-songwriter Hannah Topp, debuted with an album of melancholy folk songs, Aldous Harding (2014), produced by John Parish (who produced several PJ Harvey albums). It's an album in the style of the 1960s folk revival. In fact, the medieval Celtic bard-influenced Stop Your Tears and the waltzing lullaby Merriweather evoke Donovan and Sandy Denny (the latter with a haunting ending shrouded in a funeral choir). The most upbeat moment is Hunter, which is almost a lively folk dance for guitar and violin. Her fragile voice seems to fly in the wind in No Peace and becomes a mere humming in a ghostly theremin breeze in Two Bitten Hands. On the other hand, Titus Groan is Joni Mitchell fronting a slightly drunk bluegrass band and a synth from outer space. The closing songs, the six-minute Small Bones of Courage and Titus Alone, rely exclusively on the words, which makes for an ardous listening.

Party (4AD, 2017) is a more extroverted work. It even begins in the mode of danceable folktronica with Blend, that glides over a neurotic digital beat. She feels more comfortable with her own voice, spanning different tones within the same song, like Imagining My Man, where she both croons like a madwoman and digresses in a colloquial tone before the coda of a mournful saxophone fanfare; and Party is both a slow childish plea and a lonely sorrowful lullaby. Her voice shouts vibrant and almost defiant in Horizon over a shy piano accompaniment. Living the Classics, on the other hand, evokes a mildly psychedelic Nick Drake, and What If Birds Aren't Singing They're Screaming is a jazzy soulful ballad over a piano carillon.

Designer (4AD, 2019) is a more melodic collection, reminiscent of British bedroom pop of the 1980s with a touch of country-pop of the 1970s, which generally makes it a lot more predictable, like background lounge music (Fixture Picture, Zoo Eyes). Designer even winks at the most bombastic synth-pop, and Weight of the Planets is an update of Sade's sensual soul ballads. The solemn chamber pop of The Barrel and the fatalistic nocturnal six-minute piano ballad Damn is the best this new style can deliver.

Warm Chris (2022) is a collection of mediocre folk-pop ditties, from the more or less martial Fever to the casual and whispered Staring at the Henry Moore.

(Copyright © 2019 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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