Aldous Harding (born Hannah Sian Sunday Clark on November 18, 1988) is an enigmatic and ethereal folk singer-songwriter from New Zealand. She is known for her boundary-pushing expressive songwriting style, her raw emotion expressed through her breathtaking vocals, and her captivating live performances. Her music is often described as somewhat untouchable, with a contemporary alternative-folk sound that bends genre boundaries.
Born and raised in Lyttelton, New Zealand, Aldous Harding spent her childhood surrounded by the old-world, rural customs of the nearby village, overlooking the coastal harbor. Despite growing up in rurally remote surroundings, she was exposed to diverse musical influences such as Tom Waits, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, Billie Holiday, and Nina Simone. While in high school, she sang in a ukulele club and began experimenting with songwriting.
After graduating, Aldous left home to attend East 15 Acting School in Essex, England. It was during her time in England that she earned her nascent artistic identity, playing open mics and street corners as she continued to develop her inventive songwriting. In summer-autumn of 2012, she self-released her debut EP, Aldous Harding, followed in June 2013 by a six-track live EP produced by Ben Edwards. The Dark Things EP was released in May 2014 and showcased a compelling signature style, combining evocative poetry with passionate vocal delivery.
In April 2015, Aldous Harding released her critically acclaimed debut full-length album, A Careful Hand, on the independent Southbound label. Containing ten songs of intimate intensity and whimsical beauty, the album earned her four-star reviews in both MOJO and NME as well as high-rotation radio play on BBC 6 Music and a nomination for the Silver Keswick Prize at the New Zealand Music Awards.
In July 2017, Aldous Harding released her sophomore album, Party. The simplistic album explored themes including death, grief, loneliness, empowerment, and betrayal, all within a series of decaying rock and folk-influenced ballads. Recorded live with a five-piece band in seven days, Party garnered Harding praise and airplay all around the world, making her one of the most visible acts in New Zealand music. Her release also featured several singles including "Imagining my Man" and "Horizon".
In 2020, Aldous Harding released her third album, Designer, on Jagjaguwar Records and 4AD. Designer was described by Pitchfork as â€œa difficult and opaque record full of warnings and uncertaintyâ€ and dwells on what she regards to be the intimacy and freedom of making music for herself. The iconic album reached Top 10 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart, emerging as her most successful record to date.
As a singer-songwriter, Aldous Harding's life is a continuum in which her painting, act of therapy, playing violin, and collecting vintage clothes all feed into her music. She is a passionate and driven artist whose enigmatic presence adds a hard-to-define spark to her curious and unique sonic lexicon. She has created a revered body of work and extensively toured around the world, receiving accolades that ensure she occupies one of the highest tiers in the folk music genre.