New Zealander and alt-pop queen Aldous Harding has returned with her latest LP Designer and we’re besotted with this laid-back pop-noire masterpiece. The album comes complete with a ‘best song of the year’ contender in ‘The Barrel’ and further hammers in her stake as one of the most interesting artists in the scene right now.
What that ‘scene’ may be is often very hard to nail down. Harding isn’t confined by genre or aesthetic, instead, she lets her wild imagination have the plains of our stereo to frolic in. Whether it’s the jazz tones of title-track ‘Designer’ or the pillow-soft charm of ‘Zoo Eyes’ at every turn Harding makes the vision and the sonic integrity of the song her own.
To record Designer, Harding joined forces once more with John Parish, recording with him over 15 days in Wales and Bristol. Parish also produced her previous effort Party, continuing a working relationship that seems to be as fruitful as his one with PJ Harvey. Designer also features a raft of Welsh musical talent including H. Hawkline and Sweet Baboo, which all benefit from Harding’s idiosyncratic direction.
As mentioned, ‘The Barrel’ ranks as the album’s best single, but Harding’s colour and creativity still rings true on the album’s remaining songs ‘Weight of the Planets’, ‘Heaven is Empty’ and ‘Pilot’. In which, she explores a world inside her own imagination, vividly rendered with grooves from the Gods and a sadness that’s normally only evoked by strange French poetry.
All in all, Aldous Harding has done what many artists set out to achieve. She has hand-crafted a world where the audience can lose themselves. While others are brash, bold, bratty, and broken on request, Harding represents a return to the authenticity of music. She’s offering her audiences a beautifully illustrated escape from a world which can feel all too claustrophobic.
Designer wasn’t created for any particular audience, radio station or social channel except Harding’s own internalised amphitheatres, and because of it, she’s made one of the best records of the year.