Aldous Harding
Designer


3.5
great

Review

by Thomas S. USER (29 Reviews)
February 6th, 2020 | 61 replies


Release Date: 2019 | Tracklist

Review Summary: feels like a sly wink

When Aldous Harding rose to prominence with 2017’s Party, the commentary was as much about the artist as the art itself. It was as if the entire music world was asking the same question – who exactly is Aldous Harding? It’s a question that has no simple answer, or rather has several, because Hannah Sian Topp, the vaudevillian behind the red curtain, makes no such delineation between performer and performance. When Topp inputs her creative energy into the back box that is Aldous Harding, the output is always delightfully weird and unexpected: take, for example, the music video for ‘Blend’, where Topp, dressed as the cowgirl playmate from Apocalypse Now, dances licentiously for the male gaze; or her Jools Holland performance of ‘Horizon’, a lugubrious catharsis set to stage lights. More nebulous than a mere persona, Aldous Harding is the mannequin that bends and contorts to Topp’s pulling of the strings – and in Designer, we’re given front row seats to the show.

It’s fascinating to hear Topp’s subtle recalibrations and transmutations, from song to song. Her vocal range in ‘Zoo Eyes’ is so impressive as to feel schizophrenic, with low, sonorous verses propping up those diaphanous choruses, breathy and puerile. In ‘Weight of the Planets’, Topp burnishes a bossa nova groove with rounded jazz vowels, while in ‘Designer’ she swaggers with a touch of PJ Harvey’s trademark laconism. Though Designer is decidedly more buoyant than the oppressively brooding Party, Topp’s lyrics remain as dense and impenetrable as ever. During ‘The Barrel’, her pensive meditations on the finality of love – ‘When you have a child, so begins the braiding,’ she laments – are betrayed by bucolic fingerpicking and piano plonks. All plangent strums and languid strings, ‘Fixture Picture’ is as bittersweet as a long sigh; and yet Topp’s opening verse – ‘It's better to live with melody and have an honest time, isn’t that right?’ – feels like a sly wink, in retrospect. This is not to say that Designer is at all dishonest or contrived, but rather the opposite: It’s paradoxical that an artist as beguiling as Aldous Harding can create music as strikingly earnest as this.



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user ratings (54)
3.6
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
tombits
February 6th 2020


3572 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

it's a yes from me dog

ramon.
February 6th 2020


3795 Comments


wordy and colourful little review, probably perfect for the record tbh

shit slaps, pos

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
February 6th 2020


20874 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

title track is cool but this didn't do much for me on first pass

Digging: Moon Kissed - I Met My Band At A New Years Party

Lord(e)Po)))ts
February 6th 2020


66861 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Excellent and spot-on review. You detailed perfectly what made this album so puzzling at first, and such a rewarding grower in due time.

tombits
February 7th 2020


3572 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

cheers guys, glad you liked the review - i pared it right down from a longer draft and was worried it might be a bit indigestible. wish I spent more time with the slower songs ('damn' and 'heaven are empty' are pretty great) but i guess i really appreciate this album for its subtle pop flair

Lord(e)Po)))ts
February 7th 2020


66861 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Damn and Heaven Are Empty are two of the only moments that remind me that this is somehow the same artist that wrote tunes like Horizon. If she wasn't so roguish about the poppier material I wouldn't even believe it. It's shocking how much her personality elevates otherwise fairly garden variety stuff. A lot of this album would have no business being as affecting as it is (at least with familiarity and time) if it weren't for her inexplicable amounts of charisma.

Lord(e)Po)))ts
February 7th 2020


66861 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

all of the music videos for this are amazing too, i think they had a hand in helping me understand/appreciate this

MiloRuggles
Staff Reviewer
February 7th 2020


1248 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Good review, this needed one.



Nu zild music rise up

ramon.
February 7th 2020


3795 Comments


Yea her music videos are phenomenal

tombits
February 7th 2020


3572 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

@ lord & ramon, completely agree. the weird disparity between her personality during interviews and her live / music video persona(s) makes it almost impossible to get a handle on who is actually singing these very earnest and sentimental love songs. and yeah, i've watched 'the barrel' clip more times than i'm willing to admit.

tombits
February 9th 2020


3572 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

new kexp session: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O-_yCMPNNEo



never seen cheryl so rattled during an interview haha

NorthernSkylark
April 21st 2020


11361 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

happy bump everyone

Digging: Dire Straits - Love Over Gold

Lord(e)Po)))ts
April 21st 2020


66861 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

great bump thanks

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
April 21st 2020


36208 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

this is good?

Digging: Lenny Valentino - Uwaga! Jedzie tramwaj

NorthernSkylark
April 21st 2020


11361 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

i just pulled out the vinyl, it's excellent yeah

Lord(e)Po)))ts
April 21st 2020


66861 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

"this is good?"



huge fan

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
April 21st 2020


36208 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

how many minutes of length is it? i think i have one more sub-50min discovery in me today

Lord(e)Po)))ts
April 21st 2020


66861 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

40 mins

NorthernSkylark
April 21st 2020


11361 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

just in over the 40 mark

theBoneyKing
April 21st 2020


20415 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Pots rated this a 4.5 wtf



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