Curtis Harding Face Your FearIn 2015, Curtis Harding and Leon Bridges were plopped onto pedestals as the new harbingers of classic soul, influenced by Otis Redding and Curtis Mayfield but with a modernity to their arrangements.

While Bridges’ album Coming Home pleased those after a straighter homage, Harding’s Soul Power piqued the ears of those keen for a more dangerous adaptation. With this month’s Face Your Fear – created in collaboration with producers Danger Mouse and Sam Cohen – Harding establishes himself as a musician unafraid to mesh his ‘60s soul influences with some of the most magnetic ideas in hip hop and electronica.

“We wanted to make it as cinematic as possible,” Harding tells STACK from his home in Atlanta. “We had three minds in [the studio] that… in our own right, we all do things really well. But collectively we were able to come together and make something really amazing. It was awesome.”

Lead single Wednesday Morning Atonement includes bow-wowing electric guitar, lazy tambourine, and a woodwind section with totally unironic flute to achieve that potently cinematic feel Harding wanted. The eponymous track takes inspiration from Bill Withers’ Use Me in its perfectly synchronised guitar and basslines, with shivering strings that are the musical manifestation of the title’s emotion. Till The End showcases Harding’s humour: as the song’s protagonist sings each lyric, a ‘woman’ (Harding himself, in character voice) counters with little asides. (“See, I was p-ssed at you”/ “I was mad too!”, “I’ll be on my way”/ “Now wait a minute, where the f-ck you going?”) Harding chuckles deeply as he describes its concept: “I was channelling a nagging girlfriend, but no one in particular.” So it’s an amalgamation? “Exactly. Girlfriends in some of my friend’s lives, my cousin’s lives. But then, I’m the annoying boyfriend! That I’ve been before, and that women have experienced in their lives, my sisters, you know. We both were annoying each other, but we still love each other.”

The other mega stand-out is the trembling synth-led Dream Girl, whose mysterious feel is offset by an incredible drum beat. “I initially didn’t like what [Danger Mouse] was doing,” Harding admits. “But I was like, OK, I’m gonna see if I can work with this. And then it just grew on me. I was like, yeah. This is movin’. This has moved into a whole progressive disco song.”

Face Your Fear is out October 27 via ANTI-.

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