The most immediate thing you notice about Party, the sophomore album from kiwi songwriter Aldous Harding, is the artists’ voice. It’s a peculiar, mercurial thing – shifting from song to song, almost as if Harding utilizes a different persona for each. It’s a stunning display both of vocal range and dexterity. Here she’s plumbing operatic depths, pulling up each note like a bucket from a well. There she’s a piping squeak – a sprightliness to rival Joanna Newsome. It’s all folk music, but generally most folk records don’t come painted in quite so many different colors.
One might expect the overall effort to add up to something disjointed. However somehow every note is reconciled to the the overarching form. Harding’s distinctive and cryptic songwriting, coupled to the obvious deep personal connection she instills in her songs, draws the everything into a cohesive whole. And what a whole it is – Party is a terrific listen. A dark, brooding listen (though punctuated by moments of levity) but a terrific listen all the same.
Harding accompanies her songs with a range of instrumentation. Most often a softly finger-picked guitar, but also piano and woodwind. She also gets the occasional background vocal assist, most notably from Perfume Genius in standout track “Imagining My Man.” John Parrish, best known as for his work with PJ Harvey, helmed the production of the record, and creates a lean, spare atmosphere that doesn’t distract from the raw power of Harding’s songs.
Harding was going to be performing on Thursday night at the 7th St. Entry but unfortunately it appears that she has had to cancel. Hopefully she’ll be returning to the Twin Cities soon.