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Studied nonchalance sets the pace on the slippery, fascinating fourth album from New Zealand’s Aldous Harding. Shaped by gentle piano, her subdued folk-pop songs putter along amiably like a leisurely stroll in the woods, offering a soothing backdrop for her cool, offhand singing, which suggests she’s not telling everything she knows. Sometimes Harding assumes a deadpan tone akin to Nico or Cate Le Bon; elsewhere, she adds a soft note of tension or slips into a cartoonishly distorted voice to indicate profound unease. While the frequently oblique lyrics suggest an off-kilter internal monologue, hints of real-life romantic distress seep through the calm pose. “Fever” looks back at a brief encounter, concluding, “You know my favourite place is the start”; “Passion” observes, “Passion must play or passion won’t stay.” Thanks to Harding’s understated, albeit sly, demeanor, Warm Chris makes fine background listening, but there’s far more to discover for those who pay attention.
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