INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY
Being Aldous Harding CONTENTS
- INTRO: Being Aldous Harding
- PLAYLIST: Designer : 2019 CD on Spotify
(FYI, most tracks are unavailable on YouTube)
- VIDEOS; Six videos from albums Party and Designer
- REVIEW: 4-star Guardian review of Designer
- BIOGRAPHY: On AllMusic.com
- INTERVIEW: 3-minute interview On The Song I Wish I Wrote
(Her pick: Single Pigeon by Paul McCartney.)
- CONCERT: 2019 Live show on public radio station WFUV
- CONCERT: 2017 NPR Tiny Desk Concert
HAPPY INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY!
Today Kurated features Aldous Harding – a talented and eccentric singer, sure-fingered player and strong composer.
Her music brings to mind women from both the British and North American folk revivals of the late 60s and early 70s – singers like Vashti Bunyan, the McGarrigles, Joni Mitchell, Sandy Denny or Maddy Prior. However, she brings a 21st century attitude to the proceedings. I think she’s an artist worth knowing about and hearing many times over.
8 March 2020
BEING ALDOUS HARDING
Her persona intrigues, ranging from vulnerable and haughty to intimate, gawky and more
Many of Aldous Harding’s songs are indecipherable –but they’re fabulous to listen to. Seeing her live can leave an audience uncomfortable as she openly extends an invitation to look into the heart of a poet and artist at work. Her career is an ongoing exploration of the opportunities this creative stance affords.
Many of her lyrics are inexplicable. Her videos present an array of alternately stilted, surreal and inventive scenarios. Live performances go from bug-eyed-weird to deliberate and assured. Her persona intrigues, ranging from vulnerable and haughty to intimate, gawky and more.
A Minimal and Deliberate Sound
The foundation for these explorations is her songs. They integrate the deep, dulcet tones of her voice (which also soars girl-group high); minimalist arrangements, intricate playing and well-considered compositions.
Alexis Petridis writes in his Guardian review of her latest CD, Designer: “… the strangest thing about Designer might be how disarmingly pretty it is…. The tunes are sweetly charming.
“The music… is drawn in soft, warm tones: piano, Mellotron, fingerpicked nylon-strung acoustic guitar, subtle shadings of woodwind and brass, gently pattering congas.
“It occasionally sounds like a lost Laurel Canyon singer-songwriter album from the immediately post-psychedelic era – there’s a faintly lysergic shimmer to the tempo shifts and pregnant pauses of the title track – and occasionally like the work of Leslie Feist.”
Harding’s small collection of videos are miniature masterpieces and add an important dimension to understanding her work. The cinematography and editing are superior while the singer’s nuanced facial expressions and deliberately off kilter gestures convey a knowing self awareness.
As NPR producer Bob Boilen says: “Aldous Harding’s music isn’t universal, but if you lean toward loving the poetic, the melodic and the mysterious, you’ll likely love it.” Perhaps you will. Have a listen.REVIEW
DESIGNERCryptic charm and shimmering psychedelic pop
By Alexis Petridis / The Guardian / 25 April 2019
Comebacks come no more enigmatic than The Barrel, the first single to be taken from Aldous Harding’s third album, and its accompanying video. It featured the New Zealand-born singer-songwriter performing stylised dance moves and giving knowing looks to camera while variously wearing a tall white hat, a white ruff and enormous platform boots; a grotesque blue mask and a T-shirt and white underpants accessorised with a pair of maracas. The lyrics were as puzzling as the video: “I know you have the dove, I’m not getting wet … show the ferret to the egg, I’m not getting led along.”
Perhaps understandably, what the whole thing was supposed to be about was the subject of considerable online debate. Depending on whose interpretation you plumped for, the video was either a homage to Alejandro Jodorowsky’s surreal 1973 film The Holy Mountain, a nod to the national dress of Wales (where Designer was partly recorded and where Harding currently resides), analogous to the faintly disturbing vision of pregnancy found in Sylvia Plath’s 1960 poem Metaphors, inspired by postmodernist poet Susan Howe’s book Singularities, which surveys the 17th-century First Nation wars in New England, somehow related to menstruation or – a more cynical view – a canny artist doing a load of self-consciously weird stuff on screen with one eye on the end result being GIF-able and meme-worthy. Whatever it was, Harding wasn’t letting on: “I feel we’re expected to be able to explain ourselves after we’ve worked the space and have purpose, you know, in a little bag that you carry around everywhere,” she told NPR. “But I don’t necessarily have that in me.”
Long-term observers of Harding’s rise might note that this is all par for the course. After attracting attention for a pared-down, folky debut, things in Harding’s world got weird fast. On 2017’s Party, the lyrics became more oblique, her videos more inscrutable, her interviews more vague and her live performances more mannered and strange, as evidenced by the divisive explosion of bug-eyed gurning that accompanied her appearance on Later With Jools Holland. For everyone moved to purple prose by her stagecraft, there was someone expressing their displeasure in more earthy terms: “She looks like she’s escaped from the nut house,” protested one YouTube commenter.
For anyone braced for a further explosion of oddness, the strangest thing about Designer might be how disarmingly pretty it is. The staginess of Harding’s vocals has been slightly toned down, although she is still wont to sing with a curious enunciation, as if she’s invented her own accent. The tunes are sweetly charming. The music, meanwhile, is drawn in soft, warm tones: piano, Mellotron, fingerpicked nylon-strung acoustic guitar, subtle shadings of woodwind and brass, gently pattering congas. It occasionally sounds like a lost Laurel Canyon singer-songwriter album from the immediately post-psychedelic era – there’s a faintly lysergic shimmer to the tempo shifts and pregnant pauses of the title track – and occasionally like the work of Leslie Feist. The emotional temperature seems to drop midway through, with Damn’s hushed six and a half minutes ushering in a shadowy, twilit mood that lingers to the album’s conclusion, but even then the songs are draped with graceful, inviting melodies: driven by the muffled tick-tock of an ancient-sounding drum machine playing a vaguely Latin pattern, Weight of the Planets is particularly lovely.
The lyrics are cryptic almost to the point of impenetrability and are clearly going to keep Harding’s army of online interpreters busy for some time: relatable everyday incidents are swallowed up by bizarre imagery. If it’s hard to say what Treasure or Zoo Eyes are actually about – “I made it again to the Amazon, I’ve got to erase the same as the others” opens the former, while the latter concludes with repeated demands to know “what am I doing in Dubai?” – a distinct sense of disquiet and darkness seeps through the splintered imagery, scraping unsettlingly against the music. She alludes to something grim and bloody in the lyrics of Treasure, completely at odds with its breezy musical setting; the honeyed vocals and beautiful harmonies of opener Fixture Picture conceal a bleak worldview: “You can’t be pure and in love.” Even if you don’t feel like spending hours trying to unpick what she’s on about, there’s something oddly compelling about the contrasts.
Making an album that’s both captivating and indecipherable is no mean feat. What seems like the work of an unbiddable artist, operating according to her own baffling internal logic, turns out to be something rather more finely wrought: the fractured and confusing weighed out against the straightforwardly appealing, the darkness balanced by airy light. It’s a strange world that Harding has created, but it’s also an inviting one.
The Barrel Aldous Harding I feel your love I feel time is up When I was a child, I never knew enough What that do to me? The wave of love is a transient hunt Water's the shell and we are the nut But I saw a hand arch out of the barrel Look at all the peaches How do you celebrate? Can't appear inside of nowhere It's already dead I know you have the dove I'm not getting wet Looks like a date is set Show the ferret to the egg I'm not getting led along I rushed in to hold down your page And now I sleep 'side words you do not read with me I hear a song from inside the maze, the very one you made You shook at the ivory mantle As a poet, I knew to be gentle When you have a child, so begins the braiding And in that braid you stay Look at all the peaches I want to celebrate I can appear inside of… It's already dead I know you have the dove I'm not getting wet Looks like a date is set Show the ferret to the egg I'm not getting led along The wave of love is a transient hunt Water's the shell and we are the nut But I saw a match struck outside the barrel It's already dead I know you have the dove I'm not getting wet (The barrel) (The barrel) Looks like a date is set Show the ferret to the egg I'm not getting led along (The barrel) (The barrel) It's already dead I know you have the dove I'm not getting wet (The barrel) (The barrel) Looks like a date is set Show the ferret to the egg I'm not getting led along (The barrel) (The barrel) (The barrel) (The barrel) (The barrel) (The barrel) (The barrel) (The barrel) (The barrel) (The barrel) (The barrel) (The barrel) (The barrel) (The barrel) Source: LyricFind
Blend Aldous Harding Hey, man I really need you back again The years are plenty Somewhere I have a watercolour you did I saw you walking on the sand In Thailand I used to watch you from the van It was your band Don't let us bully you, baby Got problems of the heart And you're the the perfect blend Can't seem to let you off the chain That is our name A few of your letters came from Limoges She's gonna struggle day to day But she deserves a place You and walking in the sand And you're the perfect man You're the perfect man You're the perfect blend