Hunting for new music I was dwelling in the YouTube dungeons, only to end up finding myself once again watching a Later … with Jools Holland episode. In my world, it is absolutely inexplicable why there are no similar programs around. Why no other country nor broadcaster in the world manages to present live music on a similar silver platter as the Brits and Mr. Jools do, it is a mystery to me. The show has been running for an astonishing 25 (TWENTY-FIVE!) years and has showcased a dazzling number of known and unknown talents. For the majority of those years it has proved to be a constant garden of delight for me.
Mesmerized I watched the artist who was performing. Up till now, she had been unknown to me. Dressed in a white outfit, as if she was part of that gang of thugs in A Clockwork Orange, this woman delivered a performance that was gripping and uncanny at the same time. The shifting voices, the strange grins and the conviction with which she was pouring her soul and heart out, it seemed to serve as an exorcism ritual. I was stunned by the high stamina of her act solely consisting of a sparse melancholic piano and a voice.
A feeling I dealt with by straight away and thoroughly researching this New Zealand-born artist and her work. Which revealed that she had just released her second studio album, ‘Party’. An album produced by John Parish, a.o. known through his collaborations with PJ Harvey, Sparklehorse and Perfume Genius. With the latter making twice a guest appearance on the album.
The album, one could call it folky, is dark, hypnotizing and at moments raw and intensely personal. It allows the various and quite diverse voices of Ms. Harding to flourish upon a bed of spot on and subtle instrumentation. Thus allowing them to take you into this slightly uncomfortable but ever so beautiful world. Picking favorite tracks is impossible, every song is a gem on its own. There’s no doubt ‘Party’ will feature in my ‘Best of 2017’ list somewhere in December. That is, if I ever would bother to make these kinds of lists.
Although it is easy to make references towards other strong ladies of music (PJ Harvey, Chrissie Hynde and Nico come to mind), I am utterly convinced that we are dealing with a truly unique and soon to be considered ‘important’ artist here. We are witnessing the rise of a new grand dame. I could be wrong but if I would be forced to place a bet right now, this is a gamble I would be more than willing to take.
Btw, in the quite possible event that you do not want to take my word for it: Lorde has an opinion on it too.
Artist: Aldous Harding
Released: May 19 2017 (4AD)
Must listen: the whole album