Music

Curtis Harding: Face Your Fear

Photo courtesy of Anti- Records

Curtis Harding vocalizes with a poignant ache that says more about the human condition than mere words can say.

There are lots of old saws about facing one's fears. Pundits from Theodore Roosevelt to Yoda have eloquently espoused the benefits of taking action over being ruled by one's apprehensions and hesitations. Curtis Harding gives his take on it over a sultry soul beat on the self-titled cut of his latest release. The sexiness of his delivery may fool you into thinking he's singing about some kind of carnal activity. But a closer listen reveals the night terrors with which he's concerned are of a more mortal kind. Death will greet us all someday. The best we can do is to be cool and stay strong.


Curtis Harding

Face Your Fear

Anti-

Release Date: 27 Oct 2017

One doesn't have to be Sigmund Freud to understand the relationship between sex and death. Harding's suggestion that "If you're afraid of the grave, be brave and pick up the phone" turns his comfort into a booty call. The anxiety of life loss is as good of a reason to make corporeal love as any other excuse. The comfort of another can help one tackle another day.

Harding co-wrote each of the 11 tracks songs. They are short on particulars and long on platitudes. Normally that's a bad thing, but Harding makes it work through his relentless expressiveness. Whether he's singing about leaving or getting back together with his girlfriend, working too hard, drinking at the bar, or just being pissed off at the world, Harding vocalizes about it with a poignant ache that says more about the human condition than mere words can say. He's frequently joined on vocals by Amber Mark, who knows how to stay in the background yet remain a powerful presence. That creates a dialogue more than a duet and causes lines such as Harding crooning, "I'm gonna tell you right now baby whatever the fuck you do that shit drives me crazy" into a profound statement of commitment. Mark's cynical response makes you understand how hard Harding has to work to be believed.

This is smooth soul music with musical snatches that recall the classic tunes of Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield and others thanks in part to the production tricks of Danger Mouse and Sam Cohen. Cohen also plays guitar and bass on almost all of the tracks and keeps the beat slow and steady without coming off as ponderous. He keeps the groove steady so that Harding can take off on falsetto or change the lyrical flow without losing the song's foundation. So when Harding slips into an "ooh ooh" on "Need My Baby", or starts talking in the middle of "Need Your Love", it comes off as an essential part of the material instead of filler. The cuts stay tight.

The famous sayings about facing one's fears being the path to enlightenment suggest there's a reason for everything. Harding implies that may not be true. But he offers a more insightful rationale. If being afraid makes one hold on to another person, that's motivation enough to celebrate being scared. That's a wise observation. People do what they do for a multitude of reasons, but there is none better than to become closer with our fellow human beings in the name of love. Harding's music provides a sensual soundtrack for such activities.

8
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Books

How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.

Film

From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?

Music

The 50 Best Songs of 2007

Journey back 13 years to a stellar year for Rihanna, M.I.A., Arcade Fire, and Kanye West. From hip-hop to indie rock and everywhere in between, PopMatters picks the best 50 songs of 2007.

Music

'Modern' Is the Pinnacle of Post-Comeback Buzzcocks' Records

Presented as part of the new Buzzcocks' box-set, Sell You Everything, Modern showed a band that wasn't interested in just repeating itself or playing to nostalgia.

Music

​Nearly 50 and Nearly Unplugged: 'ChangesNowBowie' Is a Glimpse Into a Brilliant Mind

Nine tracks, recorded by the BBC in 1996 show David Bowie in a relaxed and playful mood. ChangesNowBowie is a glimpse into a brilliant mind.

Music

Reaching for the Sky: An Interview with Singer-Songwriter Bruce Sudano

How did Bruce Sudano become a superhero? PopMatters has the answer as Sudano celebrates the release of Spirals and reflects on his career from Brooklyn Dreams to Broadway.

Music

Inventions Conjure Mystery and Hope with the Intensely Creative 'Continuous Portrait'

Instrumental duo Matthew Robert Cooper (Eluvium) and Mark T. Smith (Explosions in the Sky) release their first album in five years as Inventions. Continuous Portrait is both sonically thrilling and oddly soothing.

Music

Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch Are 'Live at the Village Vanguard' to Raise Money for Musicians

Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch release a live recording from a 2018 show to raise money for a good cause: other jazz musicians.

Music

Lady Gaga's 'Chromatica' Hides Its True Intentions Behind Dancefloor Exuberance

Lady Gaga's Chromatica is the most lively and consistent record she's made since Born This Way, embracing everything great about her dance-pop early days and giving it a fresh twist.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Street Art As Sprayed Solidarity: Global Corona Graffiti

COVID-19-related street art functions as a vehicle for political critique and social engagement. It offers a form of global solidarity in a time of crisis.

Music

Gretchen Peters Honors Mickey Newbury With "The Sailor" and New Album (premiere + interview)

Gretchen Peters' latest album, The Night You Wrote That Song: The Songs of Mickey Newbury, celebrates one of American songwriting's most underappreciated artists. Hear Peters' new single "The Sailor" as she talks about her latest project.

Music

Okkyung Lee Goes From Classical to Noise on the Stellar 'Yeo-Neun'

Cellist Okkyung Lee walks a fine line between classical and noise on the splendid, minimalist excursion Yeo-Neun.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.