Parties are fun, confusing, confronting, drunk, scary and delightful; often all at once. Aldous Harding knows this, and she wants you to really feel it. Her sophomore album Party is an arresting and often challenging record that's made all the more impressive for its minimalism; Harding can move with nothing but light guitar, soft drum arrangements and her broad, exquisite voice.
Harding's vocals won't be for everyone - one person's bold may be another's piercing. But it's hard to deny their commanding, spellbinding effects. The title track's extraordinary chorus, with Harding's cries to the heavens and a backing choir's rousing support, lifts the track to an almost brutal beauty. Horizon manages to be an album standout with just three piano chords and Harding's intoxicated, fiery calls to a lover. Surprises lurk around every corner; Harding's not afraid to use "hey, hey" or "babe" as lyrical adornments, and the sharp chorus of "HEY!" on Imagining My Man is a glorious jolt to the heart.
Lyrically, Harding is endlessly intriguing, delivering lines that leave you winded; "What if birds aren't singing, they're screaming?" she asks on the track of the same name. On The World is Looking, she gives a haunting observation: "there is no end to the madness I feel".
Where Harding's debut was an introspective, mournful folk album, Party is more reflective, grand, and sobering. Harding creates hypnotic spaces that can be both exhilarating and chilling; she demands attention from a listener, but she certainly deserves it.
Aldous Harding, Party
Artist: Aldous Harding
Label: Flying Nun/4AD
Verdict: Haunting, bewitching folk will challenge some and reward others