Aldous Harding – Designer (5 stars)

This article is from 2019

Aldous Harding – Designer

Fascinating collection full of melody, evocative poetry and exceptional musical arrangements

There's something about Aldous Harding. In an increasingly crowded musical landscape, a world where there has never been more singer-songwriters, she stands out as a unique, singular talent. Then, to define Harding as a singer-songwriter is reductive. Her live shows are a beguiling kind of performance art, in which she grimaces, gestures and glares wildly as if something's gone horribly wrong; her music videos provocative and richly metaphorical in themselves, short films rather than obligations. Better to call Harding an artist, and one who's undeniably hit her stride with her third album.

Designer is a fascinating collection, full of melody, evocative poetry and exceptional musical arrangements. Lead single 'The Barrel' arrives at Designer's halfway point and is the record's ambiguous centrepiece, a song that could be interpreted as a dissection of all the games surrounding love, sexual awakening, mortality or all of the above. As with all of Designer, it's best taken as a whole, the musical language of its component parts singing in harmony.

Like 2017's intense, brooding Party, Designer was produced by John Parish, who oversees some expertly judged embellishments to Harding's material. There are the layers of backing vocals on 'The Barrel', Claire MacTaggart's intermittent violin shrieks in 'Weight of the Planets', Stephen Black's soaring clarinet on 'Zoo Eyes', and the folk shuffle groove of the standout title track. The album's second half is more stripped-back but loses nothing in the process; in particular, 'Damn' – revolving around a piano ostinato – is disarming in its beauty.

Lyrically too, Designer is a treasure trove, full of memorable turns of phrase and paragraphs worth poring over. 'Zoo Eyes' – the closest thing on Designer to a conventional love song – is on one hand direct and specific, but also sees Harding sing 'all fear is the cream that sits above the classroom of your dreams', and 'all love is fleece that leaves a cold lamb laughing in the breeze'. Designer is a truly exceptional album.

Out Fri 26 Apr on 4AD.

Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the information displayed here is accurate, always check with the venue before attending (especially during the Covid-19 pandemic).

Aldous Harding

New Zealand folk singer-songwriter.

The Adrian Flux Waterfront, Norwich

Fri 1 Apr 2022

£22 / 01603 508050

Albert Hall, Manchester

Thu 7 Apr 2022

£25.43 / 0161 817 3490

Barbican Centre, London EC2Y

Wed 30 Mar 2022

Barbican Hall

£23.10–£28.60 / 020 7638 8891

Hall

£21–£26 / 020 7638 8891

Thu 31 Mar 2022

Barbican Hall

£23.10–£28.60 / 020 7638 8891

Hall

£21–£26 / 020 7638 8891

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