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Curtis Harding

If Words Were Flowers

Curtis Harding is one of those artists that can do anything. An old school soul singer who grew up in the church – like so many great soul singers did – he can croon on a ballad with all the emotion of Otis Redding, yet be lethargically cool on a funk jam. Like Bill Withers, he knows that if your message is sincere, you don’t need to slather it in effects and bizarre arrangements for people to take notice. He also knows how to add atmosphere with intricate melody while maintaining the groove. And he writes great songs; songs that anybody can relate to – without sounding contrived or clichéd. His band sounds amazing and his lyrics are clever without being overly complicated or esoteric.

On his sophomore solo album, 2017’s Face Your Fear, he wrote about race and religion, love and loss, nostalgia and community. He was searching for a sound to match his spectrum of emotion, which led him to reaching out to Sam Cohen and Danger Mouse for production. The result was a modern masterpiece of genre-defying neo-retro soul.

So how do you follow up a metamorphosis as striking as the one he delivered with Face Your Fear? The answer lies with If Words Were Flowers. a lush, harmonious follow-up with raw emotion and passion in every track.

From the self-titled opening track, the meaning behind much of what Harding pens is clear: there is beauty in words. The words may be songs, but they are also flowers; just as their namesake assists in the propagation of plants through reproduction of pollen, so do these songs assist in the reproduction of moods and emotions through Harding’s voice.

If Words Were Flowers takes this theme and runs with it, taking the listener on a journey that explores determination, defiance and solidarity. The message is deep, but the music mostly remains upbeat and joyful, brought to life by compelling rhythm, rich instrumentation, and addictive vocals.

Throughout, the album is in constant motion, swirling and swaying, shape-shifting from jagged funk to classic soul to psych rock soundscapes. At times it sounds like something that belongs on an early Tame Impala album, while at the same time retaining the dust-encrusted grit of old soul LPs. In the end, If Words Were Flowers is another soul music masterclass that constantly shifts in terms of style and production (again thanks to Sam Cohen), yet manages to be cohesive from top to bottom. Curtis Harding knows exactly what he wants to say and how he wants to say it – and if words were flowers, then this is surely his garden.

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curtis harding if words were flowers