Aldous Harding


Recently crowned as having made the best album of the year by Rough Trade, New Zealand’s Aldous Harding is at a sold out Gorilla tonight for a victory lap of that very fine album, Party. It’s her second full length effort, and is appearing left, right and centre across other early album of the year lists, published to take advantage of shopping and publishing deadlines, and it’s a well deserved accolade; ethereal, enchanting and occasionally obtuse, it’s a fascinating listen. She’s one of an embarrassingly rich group of women who have released stunning albums this year, a list which includes the likes of St Vincent, Kelela, Florist, Lomelda, Fever Ray, Kelly Lee Owens, Torres, SZA, Waxahatchee and many more; it feels like they’re so ahead of their male counterparts as to render them obsolete.

Even on a bitterly cold Sunday evening, the crowd has turned up and is excitedly chattering away in anticipation. Harding comes onto the stage to a warm round of applause before reverential and expectant silence washes over the audience. She sits down with her guitar and plays the most stunning version of album closer ‘Swell Does The Skull’, to an enraptured crowd who are pin-drop quiet. Repeatedly imploring “I don’t want to be a sinner”, it’s quite unbelievably brilliant and moving. I’m with a mate from London, and after the gig he tells me he can’t believe how quiet the audience were throughout that opener, he’d never heard (or not heard…) anything like it – that’s London crowds for you though. ‘Swell…’ is so beautiful, I think I would have been happy for the gig to end there having heard a single song, but the rest of the set is equally as mesmerising.

The majority of Party is given an airing, either by a solo Harding or alongside support act H Hawkline who steps in on keys and synths every now and then, like on the brilliant ‘Imagining My Man’ with its kids chorus of shouted ‘heys’ punctuating Harding’s musings imaginatively. Harding is, in the best possible way, an odd and awkward presence on stage, her face contorting around her words, angular shapes thrown when not wielding her guitar, fitting the nature of her songs perfectly. The deliciously titled ‘What If The Birds Aren’t Singing They’re Screaming’ is another stunner, Harding singing along to Hawkline’s gentle piano lines, with an undercurrent of menace about the whole thing that’s impossible to ignore. A couple of tracks from her debut album are equally as well received, if not as well known as the Party tracks, with ‘Elation’ being the pick.

After ‘The World Is Looking For You’ has drifted away perfectly, Harding singing ‘there is no end to the madness I feel’ to intricately plucked strings, she briefly departs the stage, only to return to play a new track, ‘Pilot’ and before leaving again. It’s an exciting glimpse of what we’ve got to look forward to when she starts to put together new music, but for now I’m just going to bask in Party as the long, cold nights draw in – it’s as good a place as any to retreat to.

Aldous Harding: Official | Facebook | Twitter