Secret Meeting score: 86
by Phil Scarisbrick
It’s hard not to like Aldous Harding. The New Zealand-born artist recieved almost unanimous universal acclaim for her last album, Party, and rightfully so. It was a heady blend of jazzy alt-folk and pop that was deeply captivating. Now she has returned with its successor, and boy does it live up to its predecessor.
Once again, Harding has teamed up with PJ Harvey collaborator, John Parish, and together they have created another beautiful collection. Designer feels like the perfect next step for Harding, combining the same atmosphere and sound of Party, only creating something even more impressive.
Songs such as The Barrel and Zoo Eyes feel cinematic in scope – gracefully floating along with peaks and troughs that keep things interesting. The lyrics are tantilisingly vague. “It’s already dead/I know you have the dove/I’m not getting wet/Looks like a date is set/Show the ferret to the egg/I’m not getting led along” she sings on The Barrel, which has an equally interesting video.
The title track shimmies in and out of staccato stabs that feel like tiptoes around the tricky subjects within, while the closing pair of Heaven is Empty and Pilot rely simply on a single instrument to back Harding’s yarns, and act as the perfect end to the album’s third act.
The South Pacific has already produced one of the year’s best records with Julia Jacklin’s magnificent Crushing, but now it is joined by this beauty. Though a very different album, it is just as wonderful.