The sophomore album from Kiwi singer-songwriter Aldous Harding, Party, is also her first on seminal indie label 4AD, and as her first international release acts as a sort of debut for a wider audience. 2014’s self-titled record on Flying Nun brought acclaim from critics, but this latest effort sees her set for greater acknowledgment, despite Harding’s very particular style of performance.
Party‘s two singles are the instant stand-outs. ‘Imagining My Man’ is subtly challenging – a soft, low-key consideration of a dissatisfying relationship backed with plucked guitar that undercuts its own seriousness with a childish shout of ‘HEY!’ in every chorus, and a ‘YES!’ in one of them.
‘Horizon’ is almost, by today’s standards, a kind of piano-led pop ballad, and not a million miles away from the work of fellow New Zealander, Lorde. The song doesn’t necessarily go anywhere, but then it doesn’t need to: its character, its tone and its theme is right there from that first note, to the last.
And that’s the key to understanding the album – Harding gives us not one singing style, but a whole load of them – a party of nine, if you like. Interspersed on the album’s tracks are a troubled outsider troubadour on ‘Blend’, with a more Gothic variant of the same on ‘What If Birds Aren’t Singing But Screaming’ and ‘Swell Does The Skull’; an indie-folkster on ‘Living The Classics’ and a trad-folkster on ‘The World Is Looking For You’.
With its nine tracks covering just less than forty minutes, this is both a no-filler LP and one that covers so much territory its feel is epic.
Party is out now on 4AD.