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Metascore
88

Universal acclaim - based on 18 Critics What's this?

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7.6

Generally favorable reviews- based on 22 Ratings

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  • Summary: The third full-length release for the New Zealand singer-songwriter was produced by John Parish.
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Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 17 out of 18
  2. Negative: 0 out of 18
  1. 100
    At an age where the pressure is on to have everything worked out, Harding sounds delightfully free.
  2. Apr 24, 2019
    100
    Designer is a record entirely in the image of its creator--Harding remains as lyrically oblique as ever, and the idiosyncrasies in her voice remain her calling card--and yet one that strongly recalls Julia Holter’s Have You in My Wilderness or Angel Olsen’s Burn Your Fire for No Witness in how calmly it oozes confidence.
  3. Apr 25, 2019
    90
    A singular talent, Harding seems to have hit her stride on album number three, and while the darkness of previous efforts is still pervasive, Designer feels like a summer record, though it's probably best suited for dusk.
  4. Apr 25, 2019
    80
    For anyone braced for a further explosion of oddness, the strangest thing about Designer might be how disarmingly pretty it is. The staginess of Harding’s vocals has been slightly toned down, although she is still wont to sing with a curious enunciation, as if she’s invented her own accent. The tunes are sweetly charming.
  5. Apr 26, 2019
    80
    It is definitely the voice that is center-stage here, whether she is adopting an aviary croon or a mead-rich sing-speak that gives her a commanding confidence an air of detachment. The magic of her work is how she becomes more human by recognizing the alien lurking in our loves and lives
  6. 80
    Elegant and elemental, quietly confident and masterfully understated, Designer feels like a breath of fresh air in a time dense with noise and algorithmic hiss.
  7. Apr 26, 2019
    60
    At their core, the songs are fundamentally concerned with unguarded and confessional intimacy yet the manner in which they are presented is a hindrance as, on the whole, there is a sheen to Designer which it could well do without.

See all 18 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 1 out of 1
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 1
  3. Negative: 0 out of 1
  1. May 4, 2019
    10
    I grew up feeding on great music - The Smiths, Fairport Convention, Talking Heads, Joni Mitchell, XTC, The Pixies, but at a young hearted 49I grew up feeding on great music - The Smiths, Fairport Convention, Talking Heads, Joni Mitchell, XTC, The Pixies, but at a young hearted 49 years old I find it harder and harder to find music that grabs my intellect and soul. Then I discover Miss Harding.. and there is that magic again. Her previous albums have been spell-binding, stylish, captivating - but also dense and sometimes difficult to listen to (unless one is in a dense and difficult mood). Designer is a somewhat different proposition. It is lighter, more precise, less murky. Musical passages are pristine, stripped back - each section of instrumentation fitting neatly in place. There is a sparseness that throws gorgeous little details into relief…. The isolated sassy little bent string note in “Weight of the Planets” for example. The consistency in songwriting is highly notable... The melodies are wonderful throughout - some (such as found in the Barrel) are instantaneously catchy, addictive and joyfully funky and odd, Others reveal themselves more slowly and subtly, but are no less rewarding… in fact they might be even more so in the long term. Lyrically the album is a surreal cut and paste of memorable phrases. At times similar to David Byrne - the oblique lyrical snippets create an impressionistic playground in which the listener can formulate their own meanings and feelings (if they want to) - regardless the lyrics are fascinating and enigmatic throughout. Miss Harding’s voice is astonishing in it’s flexibility emotional clout, and range… I have not heard an album before with such a diverse selection of styles from a single vocalist… From deep sonorous Weimar cabaret style chanteuse to the flute like sugary sweet laurel Canyon angels choir found on “Zoo eyes” the listener is delightfully disoriented at every turn. “Designer” is an album of wonders that deserves to top the end of years polls. Packed full of strong melodies, deft minimalist arrangements full of air and light... and a delightfully subtle production, it’s bloody good. Expand