Critics having been anticipating Aldous Harding’s fourth album for months. What’s Warm Chris like? Four Spinoff fans take it for a spin on release day.
Alice Neville: I’ve been looking forward to this album for a long time and Warm Chris doesn’t disappoint. Harding has always had an uncanny ability to change up her voice for different songs but she takes it to new levels on this album, at times sounding like an entirely different artist from one track to the next. It somehow still flows though, and I love it more and more on each listen. There’s not a single dud track, and when I tried to choose a standout I ended up listing most of the album.
But today I’m loving the eerie, uneasy country vibes of ‘She’ll Be Coming Round The Mountain’ (no, no relation to that one) and the batshit but catchy AF ‘Leathery Whip’ that closes the album. There’s no getting around the fact that Aldous Harding’s music is quite weird, and this won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. But I plan on listening to little else for the next month, to the point I’ll probably go slightly mad. Can’t wait. PS Aldous, please do some shows in Aotearoa – no outdoor capacity limits as of this weekend!
Chris Schulz: At Womad in 2018, New Plymouth’s Bowl of Brooklands was a picture of serenity. I sat on a picnic blanket in fresh grass. Ducks swam on the moat around the stage. Aldous Harding arrived and spent the next hour breaking me apart. During one of the bleakest hours of my life, she plucked at her guitar and tormented my soul, her ghostly wailings shaking me to my core. “Heaven is empty,” she sang to close the night. Broken, I made it to the doughnut stand to recuperate. There, Aldous emerged, chipper and non-plussed about the damage she’d just done, queuing directly behind me. I couldn’t look at her, couldn’t bring myself to say anything. I was shook. Take the ferret to the egg. I needed those doughnuts.
Every time I listen to Aldous Harding’s music, I’m reminded of that moment: eating warm, cinnamon- and sugar-crusted deep-fried dough to recover from an incredibly bleak time. Her music always sounds familiar, drawing you in, wrapping itself around you. Then she eviscerates you, chilling you with warped lyrics, haunting melodies and her endless array of evocative vocal performances. Her albums should be stored in the record store tub marked “Murderously ethereal”. Warm Chris — it’s not about me, and I’m glad about that — is no different. “Guess we did what the other expected,” she moans, savagely, on ‘Fever’. My standouts are ‘Tick Tock’, ‘Lawn’ and ‘Leathery Whip’, but I’m going to be unraveling this record for months. The recovery period is going to take even longer.
Stewart Sowman-Lund: I love how unique Aldous Harding’s sound is, but also how every album has a distinct feel about it. This is very clearly an Aldous Harding album but it does not feel like a retread of what we’ve heard before. It sounds new. There’s a more mellow sound to all the tracks on Warm Chris. My personal favourites from initial listens are ‘Tick Tock’ and ‘Fever’. However, I think it’s unusual that ‘Old Peel’, released as a single last year, is not on this album as it would have fitted in nicely. The only thing missing, for me, is a big, memorable track à la ‘Remembering My Man’ or ‘The Barrel’ from Harding’s previous work and ‘Old Peel’ could have been that song.
Sam Brooks: The most disappointing thing about Aldous Harding’s new album is that ‘She’ll Be Coming ‘Round The Mountain’ is not a cover of the folk classic. The second most disappointing thing about Aldous Harding’s new album is that it’s aggressively lovely. It’s unlikely to make anybody mad, but if you put this on at a party or in a cafe, it wouldn’t really register. On this new album, Harding sounds like Joanna Newsom without the edge, the near-impenetrable depth, or the acute pop sensibilities. There’s nothing to really dislike about it, but I can’t help but want more for our most popular avant-garde pop singer – a little weight, a little heft, a little something to turn my head. There’s every chance it’ll grow on me with future listens, but I imagine those listens will be far and few between.
Warm Chris is out today.