January 2014: Lorde’s Pure Heroine

 

So, I’m late to Lorde’s album, only by a couple of months, but it’s been worth the wait. The hype’s been around for months and months, following her single, Royals, earlier in the year, which I’d realised had permeated my brain thanks to the peerless 6Music, which seems to sow the seeds of records I like without me even realising it on a weekly basis (see also: Midlake).
Let’s look at the facts: Lorde is Ella Maria Lani Yelich-O’Connor (yeah, Lorde’s easier, isn’t it?), a 17-year old New Zealander from Auckland. She first came to prominence with her Love Club EP back in the second half of last year (when she was still 15!), and this album was produced by local Joel Little. What’s it like? Well, it’s very modern electronic pop, if we’re going to get all genre-y. You can see the influences – she’s often cited James Blake’s sparseness – and it’s pretty stripped back, with clever, barbed lyrics, very much showing a love for hip-hop, but putting it in the prism of a girl that, at the time, had never left her home country, it’s pretty startling that it’s actually written by someone that’s tucked away in the end of the southern hemisphere. And that’s not being patronising, it’s just that it’s an unlikely result of such a situation, especially in terms of her age (one lyric on the album states “pretty soon I’ll be on my first plane”, which says it all).
But it’s a great example of lyrics and songs that a 25-year old over here may have written, but likely with songwriters and other producers behind her, as soon as the hype machine took hold. While those not in the know (or too lazy) dismissed her as another record-company construct, she’s the opposite, arriving as a pretty fully-formed artist, most likely a product and a benefit of the cultural or musical isolation of sorts. There’s hints of stuff like James Blake, Massive Attack’s more Spartan arrangements, Lana Del Rey’s languid style (which she’s also stated as an influence) and most obviously the xx (minus the guitars). Most of the album’s dubby pop, but there are a few dancefloor moments too. And there’s a good slab of irony in there, which sings to my ears. Having been to NZ a few times – and this is no slight, as it’s an amazing place – the ennui that also sits throughout the album isn’t faked. Small-town life out there is pretty dry when you’re near to Auckland, let alone coming from London.
I’ve only had a week or so with this album, so my opinions aren’t fully formed yet either, but it’s clear that Lorde’s a precociously talented artist. There’s a bit of a dip in the middle of the album, but then considering that I was busy drinking cider and scooting around Surrey in my Mini at 17, and she’s writing music like this, I can’t really get my head around just what it must take to do that at that age. And most of all, it’s refreshing to have someone emerge like this from an unlikely location, without the taint of record companies and hype or being pushed to work with producers or use songs written for her. Only time will tell how she develops, and one would hope that, while she absorbs the expanding world around her, it doesn’t affect her ability to do what she does.
She’s touring now, especially in the States, where I think her songs will go down as well as they do in the UK, and I can’t wait for her next album.
Enjoy, brothers!

13 comments

  1. misterstory

    Not much time for anything too deep and meaningful but a quick post none-the-less. I love this album. All killer no filler. Track after track of pretty pop perfection. I love the sparseness. I love the ‘Del-Ray-Esque’ lyrical hooks, I love the Santi-Gold flavoured tracks too. 17 or not, its damn good. Plus my wife likes it very much too which means it’ll get a lot of play in Casa-Story.

  2. whyohwhyohwhy

    Glad it’s hitting the spot. I love it. It’s a case that the more I listen the more I like it, rather than it fading away. The closing track – A World Alone – is especially brilliant.

    Brother Nolan?

  3. David Allison

    I’m only a second listen. The first listen, I thought: “Oh god, she’s only got one song and it’s Royals. This is VERY samey and bland.” Second listen: “Ah, maybe there’s more going on here than I thought.’ Will keep you posted on subsequent listens!

  4. misterstory

    I’m so beyond being on the ball that Xmas Top of the Pops was my first exposure to Royals though I had heard of Lorde by reputation. Royals was and is my least favourite track on the album so I had a very different response to David. I don’t think its the weakest track but its my least favourite. I keep finding me and more in this album. One man’s ‘samey’ is another man’s ‘consistent mood / style / body of work’. Vs. other ‘pop’ albums (with tracks written by different people and produced by different people and played by different people) this feels like an album put together as it was written together (ish) with the same thoughts and emotions driving it consistently. I also love that its 30 odd minutes long. I can listen to it twice without noticing which feels luxuriant considering I’ve battled to listen to Hadestown start to finish once or twice. My wife loves ‘pop’ music too so this allows me plenty of home-play too which is great. More ‘pop’ albums brothers 🙂

  5. whyohwhyohwhy

    Yeah, I feel very much the same way brother Joseph, aside from the fact I love Royals, but there’s so much more to the album. It’s got some really hidden depths that you uncover as you listen, and the more you listen and you get the lyrics and it’s just bonkers that she’s as young as she is. There’s a wry nod to hip-hop life and how it’s absolutely the opposite of hers, but she’s pretty self-aware for it. I’m listening to this once a day mostly at the moment, it’s so short it’s sweet.

  6. David Allison

    I’m afraid I’m still not feeling this. I don’t want to get into how young she is too much – after all, music should be judged on what it is – but I find it lacking in personality and I do wonder if her tender years are part of that. I mean, she’s obviously insanely talented and I’m just in awe that a 16 year old could produce an album like this, but it’s not pressing any of my buttons – except for Royals, which I love, AND has something to say.

    It’s very pleasant and it washes over me nicely, and I’d maybe stick it on in the background if I had mates over, but I’m not sure it’s going to stay on my playlist for long.

  7. nolankane706

    I LOVE THSI ALBUM!

    I must be honest; with all the hype and the over playing of Royals I wasn’t sure where I would sit with this but I can’t get enough of it.

    Tennis Court is a great start to this album, and if you have the album on repeat A World Alone slides nicely into Tennis Court.

    It’s poppy, and catchy and I have no problems with this. I think she’s as insightful as she can be at her age and the type of album this is.

    Like brother Joey, I too feel there is a ‘Del-Ray-Esque’ sound…. but she’s a bit happier.

    I’m struggling to have more of an opinion on this album. I like it, all of it. It’s short and well put together. I like all the tracks. Simple.

    Good work brother Guy, it’s the soundtrack to my January.

  8. misterstory

    I agree with Brother David when he says he’s not up much for discussing her age – if it’s good it’s good – and I think this is really good. I do think she has quite a bit to say too, not just on Royals. I think more than anything I like the simplicity and the consistency. Good pop tunes, always a winner.

  9. David Allison

    Why am I still not feeling it? Why? WHY?
    It washes over me like a slightly underwhelming radio show in the background. I’ve sat down, I’ve listened hard and I’ve listened several times. What are you guys getting into that I’m not?

  10. whyohwhyohwhy

    Brother Nolan, loving that you’re loving this as much as I am. I just get even more enjoyment out of every listen.

    Her voice is really sparky, which I think is a great part of it. She’s got that Lana Del Ray thing, for sure, but her voice has more notches and more character, so it doesn’t get lost in this gloopy, molasses delivery.

    Brother David – I think it’s just a great example of why music is so interesting and divisive. One man’s Oasis is another man’s Shed Seven. The line is so narrow, and if you try and put your finger on why it’s one side or the other, it often just ‘is’. But this is my favourite album in a long while, even though the new Midlake one is brilliant too.

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