Vintage inspired music can be a double-edged sword, and there’s a fine line between aesthetic and derivative. For Curtis Harding’s latest effort, the essence of soul is alive and well, with Harding’s passion for his music setting it apart. While it could be taken as just another rehash of the genre, Harding’s subtle production updates and overall emotional weight make the record stand out from other records. While it does have moments that feel too familiar, it’s energy lift it to a worthy listen. As long as you can get past it’s clearly derivative writing, this is a loud and excited record that’s a joy to listen to again and again.
Bringing his retro tones to the modern age with some powerful contrast, “Wednesday Morning Atonement” rolls out on an ominous descent of bass. Through shredding guitars and Harding’s passionate wails the track carries the same dynamic power of classic soul with a little bit of Bond. Grooving on a pumping bass hook, “Face Your Fear” drives steadily as the strings create a haunting atmosphere around the hook. Leaning into the catchy nature of his pop writing, the final melodies of the song are intoxicating as he closes the track on subtle but captivating harmonies.
“On And On” beats away steadily with brash brass to back up the racing energy of the track as Harding’s falsetto cascades off itself. Swelling in each chorus with triumphant emotions, the track is derivative to be certain but effortlessly fun. Taking in tons of wah and a delicious rhythm, “Go As You Are” cranks up the trippy effects. While a little slow to start, as the bass finally kicks in, the momentum of the track makes up for slightly more stagnant composition.
Classic sounding to almost corny ends, “Till The End” doesn’t shy away from its vintage pop hooks, instead getting the tone perfect while updating it in more subtle ways. With small vocal interjections and glorious backup vocals throughout the chorus, it makes for a beautifully cheesy power pop track. Screaming from the start on “Need Your Love” the bass purrs as the synths hum, for a track that’s teaming with electric fury. Straight and to the point, the track booms on every chorus and keeps it tight and explosive, especially in the spoken bridge where he plays with the band.
“Dream Girl” takes its R&B roots to dark modern places, giving a deep sonic pallet for the grooves to roam and making each vocal soar in a different direction. A lush production and endlessly seductive, this track is a beautiful mix of great writing and production. Flickering while a little repetitive, “Welcome to My World,” flies in its spoken word verses, as the reverb gives them a dreamy quality. Though the drums sound their best on this track, the smoky quality of the female vocals as they rise and rise is the clear standout here.
Blending the different moods of the record on “Ghost of You” it’s a little hard for the track to feel too unique, except for Harding’s surprising rasp. Easily catchy, it’s the solos and little differences that keep this track from feeling too redundant. “Need My Baby” lets the xylophones ring sharply, and the piano drive the song for hefty kick of rhythm that oozes through each instrument. Leaning into the beat with exciting energy, the track swings excitingly and lets its melodies flourish in popping ways. At his most personal on “As I Am” the record closes with some exciting and sultry guitars that don’t show up on enough of the record. Through the strings and his more intimate delivery on this track, he closes the album strong.
Words by Owen Maxwell