Originally from Massachusetts, but now hailing from L.A., Lauren Harding set out to create a unique brand of pop music, mixing the warmth and organic feel of vintage tunes with modern texture and and somewhat of an indie edge.
The singer locked herself up in the LA Producers Club studio to record her debut EP, “Heart in a Box”, over a short, but tight and intense weekend session.
The EP is a collection of 6 piano-driven songs, held together by a very tasteful production and “less is more” arrangements that truly work to push the songs, rather than slowing down a perfect performance with the weight of an overload of futile ornaments.
The dominating sounds on these recordings are definitely Lauren´s vocals and keys (courtesy of Mallory Trunnell). The rhythm section (James Longstreet behind the drum kit and Andrew Perusi on bass) dives in smoothly, with a minimalistic approach and a jazz-oriented vibe. The performances are all very organic and dynamic, captured in a way that was definitely inspired by the old-school of sound recording (think warm compression, spacious and dark vintage reverb tones…)
"Heart in a Box" is also an emotional outlet for the singer, who filled the songs with heartfelt and emotional lyrics about life and relationships. The songs manage to remain very introspective without sounding too melancholic, keeping the music dynamic and colorful throughout the release.
The opening track “Give it away” starts the EP with a dark piano groove, brought to life by a tight, repetitive beat troughout the song. Here we have a first taste of Lauren´s voice, which is without a doubt influenced by the darkness and grit of blues performers, still retaining all the brightness and melody of pop. This tune is the shortest of the whole release, and it serves really well as an intro, because of its anthemic nature and crescendo build up, until it melts into the next song, Shooting Stars. The second track is based on a classic blues riff, (Think timeless masterpiece “Feeling Good”, recently revisited by alternative rock band Muse, among countless other covers). Although you have heard this melody many times before, Lauren and her band set out to arrange a fresh and credible version, infusing tons of personality into it, turning the song into an original work, far from the many mockups and “covers with different lyrics around”.
Half way through the the EP, we come across something different: “My Heart Flies” takes the blues aside for a moment, lightening up the vibe of the entire record. This is a vintage-pop tune that would sit well alongside tunes by Kate Nash, Regina Spektor or KT Tunstall: A modern, radio-friendly approach that does not need to compromise quality to try and be “catchy”. This song is appealing effortlessly, and it does sound honest and inspired in the process.
"Poison" is perhaps one of the most eclectic songs on the whole EP, bringing back the blues watermark, but this time with shades of swing and heavily distorted rock guitars. A statement of the versatility Lauren and her band can achieve, even when introducing elements that at a first glance might appear to be out of their comfort zone.
A melancholic cello line introduces the next number, “Front of The Line”, a pop-rock ballad with a late 60s - early 70s twist to it (Think Elton John, or the late british invasion). This is nothing but a good, old-fashioned love song that set out to sound wider than the rest of the record, without dramatically altering the band´s line up.
It was a great idea to end this EP on a playful note: “Sunset” does just that. Despite singing about a break-up, the infectious, percussion-driven rhythm of this tune brings a smile to my face, and reminds me of edgy tunes such as Tom Wait´s Step Right Up. Just swap the grit and sarcasm with a dancy, light-hearted feel, brightened by harmonies and backing vocals.
This is definitely an EP that you will enjoy, wether you like “the good old stuff” or contemporary indie-pop far from the dominating synth-and-drum-machine plastic hits.