Aldous Harding is throwing a party and we're all invited. The New Zealand singer-songwriter's work recalls the unbound spirit of Kate Bush and the otherworldliness of Björk; add in some appearances from Perfume Genius' Mike Hadreas and you've got one of the more unique voices in indie songwriting today.
Harding occupies a unique space characterized by her liquid approach to composition; even in the middle of songs, the tempo ebbs and flows, like on the stark "The World Is Looking for You," giving the song an almost improvisational quality. Harding worked with John Parish, a long-time PJ Harvey collaborator, and it's hard not to compare the two after listening to the power and restlessness of the record.
Party's best and most beautiful moments come when Harding strips back any excess to let her voice shine through. The sombre, piano-driven "Horizon" and "Swell Does the Skull," one of two duets with Hadreas, both display the power of her voice well. Her voice is compelling enough that any other flourishes seem excessive. The "hey!" interjections that pop up on "Imagining My Man," for example, are a slight distraction from one of Harding's stronger vocal performances and a strong supporting turn from Hadreas.
Even at her most abstract, there's a great deal of beauty to be found on the record, from the simplicity of "Blend" to the vulnerability of "Horizon." Party takes a few listens to truly unravel, and you'll find yourself discovering new quirks from Harding each time. Even with the occasional misfire, there are still enough captivating moments to warrant multiple returns to this party. (4AD)