Aldous Harding hasn’t been around long, with ‘Party’ being only her second album. However, her new release and her accompanying tour has gained her a strong reputation within her field. Kevin Morby recently tweeted:
“Aldous Harding is the best thing i’ve seen in a very long time.”
Lorde agreed, stating Party’s best track ‘Imagining My Man’ “blows her head off” (genius imagery from the chart musician, flaunting the reason for her success).
I share my opinion with Morby and Lorde, with my first experience of Harding’s music being only positive. A stripped back album, with clear distinction between instrumental tracks, Harding produces a piece of work which is both simple and entrancing. Songs like Imagining My Man are successful due to their limited production. Instruments are played raw and the vocals are untouched, producing a track which requires little from the listener, but gives a lot back.
Throughout the first half of the album, there is a sense of direction. Tracks 1 through to 3 all develop in energy levels until it reaches its apotheosis with track 4: ‘Party’. A slow tempo piece, Harding injects energy through her vocals, which are stretched to limit during the chorus. Planting herself among female artists such as Julia Holter and Alynda Lee Segarra, Harding makes no effort to distract from the vocals, instead basing her instrumentals around them. A move such as this pays off, with her vocal style shining through.
Nonetheless, an issue for Harding is the problem of track order. Whilst the first half of the album is characterized by clear progression, tracks 5 through 9 fail to develop into anything meaningful. Possessing the structure of a best-of album, the latter half of ‘Party’ has trouble in maintaining listener concentration. Like a Mathew E. White concert, all the tracks blur into one, with the songs possessing few distinguishing features.
Harding has effectively produced a perfect EP in tracks 1 to 4, but a mid-level album overall and for this reason, the album’s rating is hit quite hard. Lorde is right that individual tracks show signs of genius, but as a whole, ‘Party’ lacks the quality of music produced by established musicians due to the inclusion of tracks without suitable consideration. ‘Swell Does the Skull’ demonstrates this will, displaying few characteristics of a closing track, so much so that one could passively listen to the album and not realise it had looped 3 tracks ago.
Overall, Harding’s work is brilliant, but her consistency is not. For that reason, she can’t be put on the same level as the four star albums reviewed this year.
Artist: Aldous Harding
Release date: May 19, 2017
Play time: 38 mins
Standout track: Imagining My Man