The Party That Devastates
Party is New Zealand-based folk singer Aldous Harding’s second album. Featuring dark lyrics, deep trembling vocals and various wind instruments and vocal textures, Party is Harding’s most devastating album yet.
The album opens with “Blend,” which bears a striking resemblance to Warpaint’s early material. It’s rich and full, with deliberate vocals that feature male harmonies. “Imagining My Man” showcases deep vocals and repetitive piano as Harding sings, “All my life (hey!)/ I’ve had to fight / to stay/ you were right / love takes time / hey hey,” sharing that love isn’t always a clear-cut experience. Smack in the middle of the track is an element of surprise, as Harding’s voice comes in strong, followed by a delightful, upward, embellished sequence. The song fades with a textured sax and humming duo that leaves the listener to reflect on love.
“Living the Classic” is a fast-paced folk track with nasal, Little Dragon-esque vocals and reverberating guitar triads that give the song a country feel. Title track “Party” features a slow, meandering melody. “I was as happy as I will ever be / believe in me / I will never break from you / if there is a party / will you wait for me?” Harding belts in the chorus, taking the register up an octave. And the second time the chorus is heard, additional belting vocals and a drum are added, providing that variety for which the ear was longing. What sounds like bass clarinet adds texture to the instrumentation before the track quiets again, only to build again, this time with even more defiance in the chorus. “I’m So Sorry” also offers breathy saxophone and sighing choral additions on what is the darkest track on the album so far. “Horizon” features Harding’s full voice, complete with trembling vibrato, to a pop-inspired tune that repeats. “What If Birds Aren’t Signing, They’re Screaming” brings a sense of levity to a dark question, all set to an upbeat yet reflective tempo. “The World Is Looking For You” and “Swell Does the Skull” close Party in slow, dark ballad fashion, bringing to mind PJ Harvey and Chelsea Wolfe.
Party is a dark, introspective work that is beautifully devastating to listen to. It requires great patience, and a willingness to allow one’s dark parts to shine through. Harding’s work can best be described as goth-folk, which is maybe not everyone’s idea of a party.