Following the career of Aldous Harding can feel a little bit like a slow and steady descent into madness. From early songs that styled her as a accomplished and interesting folkster, we have seen the oddity of her personality increasingly creep into her music, her videos, and especially her live performances. Watching her can be mesmerising, mildly terrifying at times, but always exhilarating. Over the course of her first three albums she definitely got more and more eccentric, more willing to try strange things, but she also slowly carved a path as one of the most fascinating artists on the planet. Fourth album, Warm Chris, somehow manages to be both her most straightforward and her most off the wall album to date. That makes no sense, right? Let me explain…
When I say that Warm Chris is straightforward at times I am talking in terms of song structure. Across the album, we are treated to some of her most musically simplistic and easily replicable tracks so far. On a first listen, the likes of ‘Fever’, ‘Lawn’, ‘Ennui’, and the title song sound so much easier to play and produce than much of her earlier work. They sound like songs we could all make a go of. I should say straight away that this isn’t meant to be disparaging. In reality these songs aren’t as simple as they sound, but Aldous makes them sound absolutely effortless. There are a million musicians of this ilk out there who would kill to create an album that sounds so invitingly simple, but manages at the same time to still be so captivating.
And this is where the ‘off the wall’ side of Aldous’s performance comes so strongly into play. To make my point, let’s take a look at the song ‘Passion Babe’. As is often the case with her music, when I first heard this song I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of it. On the one hand, the piano loop and percussion are incredibly basic. But then we stick our singular performer over the top of it and, lyrically and vocally, it becomes one of the most surprising and interesting songs she has put out to date. From the early line of ‘of all the ways to eat the cake/this one surely takes the knife’ we are pulled into the obscure and intriguing world of Aldous Harding, swimming round in an unknowable land that gets more interesting even as it makes less sense. You could spend years trying to understand the meaning of this and many of her other songs, and that’s what makes them so damn good.
‘Passion Babe’ is just one of many highlights, though. ‘Tick Tock’ is a gorgeous, soulful song that erupts into a typically weird chorus, ‘Fever’ is Aldous in full fun mode and is another of her best songs so far, ‘Lawn’ comes as close to being a pop song as she may ever come and is infectious as hell because of that, ‘She’ll Be Coming Round The Mountain’ is the album’s mostly beautiful moment and is reminiscient of her early work, and ‘Leathery Whip’ reaches new levels of addictive madness. There is definitely an argument that these songs are her most simplistic yet, but they are also her most catchy and accessible while still being tinged with Aldous magic. It might not be her best album, but Warm Chris is confirmation that she is going to continue to do things in her own unique way, to intrigue and delight her fans while confusing those who doubt her. In the career of Aldous Harding it’s another bold and daring step. And it’s also a shit ton of fun.
Words by Fran Slater