That image you see above? That’s a screengrab. I make those all the time. It’s part of the job. When musicians perform on late-night shows, it can be hard to get a good one of those. You want to pause the video when the musician is still enough that there won’t be some weird blurry effect, but you also want to get one where the musician’s eyes are open. A lot of musicians keep their eyes closed! Or they look down at the ground the whole time! Most of them rarely, if ever, make eye contact with the audience, or the camera. The looking-down thing was not a problem for the New Zealand singer-songwriter Aldous Harding, who made her US TV debut on The Tonight Show last night. Harding, instead, did all kinds of things with her eyes.
Harding recently released Designer, an album of gorgeous and slightly off-kilter mostly-acoustic music. She’s good at that. She’s also good at making strange, unsettling music videos. You can’t really recreate the feeling of one of those on the Tonight Show stage. You can, however, do little things to keep people feeling slightly off-balance. Aldous Harding did that with her eyes.
In a lot of ways, Harding’s performance of the Designer single “The Barrel” was relatively conventional. She sat onstage, played an acoustic guitar, and sang. It sounded lovely. She also dressed like Little Red Riding Hood, which was a choice. But Harding also spent the whole performance casting her eyes in weird directions, smiling at inexplicable times, and generally quietly dismantling the whole enterprise. Maybe I’m projecting; I don’t know. Maybe I wouldn’t have even realized it if I didn’t have to make a screengrab. But watch her face. She does some things. (I also appreciate how she doesn’t bound out of her chair to shake Jimmy Fallon’s hand after it’s all over.) Watch the performance below.
Designer is out now on 4AD.