Curtis Harding's 'If Words Were Flowers' Blooms with Love and Optimism

Curtis Harding's 'If Words Were Flowers' Blooms with Love and Optimism
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There's no singular way to describe Curtis Harding's sound, aside from how it always manages to evoke emotion, immediately drawing listeners in. Nearly a decade into his solo career — following early stints backing CeeLo Green and as a member of the Black Lips side project Night Sun — his three albums demonstrate a progression within his sound. With each project, Harding aims to move away from minimalism, implementing new layers and textures into his music.

Third album If Words Were Flowers builds off of the multidimensionality of his acclaimed sophomore record, 2017's Face Your Fear. On this latest effort, the multi-instrumentalist delivers a wide range of eclectic love compositions and opts to focus on the more positive and hopeful side of life. Harding also explores new territories, incorporating elements of jazz into his self-proclaimed "slop 'n' soul" mix while also embracing his gospel roots. That soulful foundation that encapsulates his sound remains prominent throughout the album, as the jazz and gospel influences linger throughout the record, creating a mosaic.

Drawing inspiration from an old saying of his mother's that stuck with him, If Words Were Flowers alludes to paying respect and appreciating people while they are still here. Throughout the album, Harding emphasizes the need for more love during these difficult times, and aims to look forward in a reflective and cathartic manner instead of dwelling on the negativity.

Lead single "Hopeful" sets the tone, with a cathartic feeling that highlights the importance of resilience. Harding illustrates the hardships faced by Black people and the need to move forward while paying homage to those who lost their lives. Instead of dwelling on trauma, Harding takes a positive perspective and conveys the importance of searching for the light within the darkness.

The first half of the record is lively, moving in an orchestral direction, with choral harmonies, horns and strings pairing well with Harding's leading vocals. "Explore" is a percussion-driven love ballad that swells near the end thanks to strings and an alluring theremin solo. Meanwhile, the last few songs adopt a melancholic yet reflective tone. The experimentation continues with the addition of the flute in "So Low," a sax solo in "Forever More" and the prominent keys in "It's a Wonder."

If Words Were Flowers is Harding's most experimental record to date, touching on a wide range of genres. This radiant record serves as a reminder to look forward and the importance of love during chaotic times. (Anti)