Album of the week : Pure Heroine - Lorde

There are a lot of ‘overnight success’ stories in the music industry, but not many are quite as literal as is seventeen (yesterday!) year old Ella Yelich-O’Connor’s tale.  We know the New Zealand singer/songwriter by her stage name, Lorde, and that’s pretty much all we know.  It’s like she was an apparition who suddenly appeared out of thin air and onto the number 1 spot on the US Billboard charts, but no one knows who she is or where she came from.  Lorde’s story starts in late 2012.  Working with producer, Joel Little, she recorded a five-track EP.  With absolutely no marketing, no music video, and illustrated cover art, they decided to release the EP in Spring 2013.  Despite the lack of release preparation, The Love Club EP still found its way to number 1 on the New Zealand Album Chart.  Lorde’s dark, mysterious voice coupled with her wise-beyond-her years lyrics has spread easily beyond the borders of New Zealand.  People everywhere are addicted to Lorde and it’s ironic because her brand new LP is aptly titled, Pure Heroine

Pure Heroine is nothing that you would expect to hear from a seventeen (yesterday!) year old female.  The lyricism alone defies her age as she sings of topics that aren’t commercial or glamorous.  Everything about Lorde down to her stellar, gritty vocam of the weeks is raw, which is probably why so many people are drawn to her

Opening track ‘Tennis Court’ is essentially a criticism of modern-day society and the constant act of masking emotion so as to fit in with those around us.  It also seems to be a promise to herself to not let fame change her.  What starts off as haunting vocals and a slow and steady beat quickly evolves into an in-your-face melody as the chorus kicks in.  She mocks society with the lyrics, “Baby, be the class clown / I’ll be the beauty queen in tears / It’s a new art form showing people little we care, yeah. // We’re so happy even when we’re smiling out of fear / Let’s go down to the tennis court and talk it up like yeah, yeah”

’400 Lux’, the only love song on the album, is femme fatale pop at its finest: over canyon-sized bass and popping percussion, Lorde throws out a deeply evocative lyric (“You drape your wrists over the steering wheel”) in the same couplet as a powerful declaration (“We might be hollow, but we’re brave”). ‘Royals’ is the third track and first single from Pure Heroine and it’s also currently taking over your radio station! It’s another jab at society and the things humans tend to glamorise.  Lyrics include, “But every song is like gold teeth, Greygoose, tripping in the bathroom, // blood stains, ball gowns, trashing the hotel room.” The background music is pretty stagnant but that’s only because Lorde’s bluesy vocals are enchanting enough all on their own

‘Ribs’ is the most synthetic sounding song on the album, but it still carries a mature theme about the alienation one feels as they grow up. The ambient opening leads into an exhausted-sounding Lorde growing more frantic with each passing second, as if she’s discovering new maturity and grown-up problems in real time

‘Buzzcut Season’ is the next track and Lorde’s second single.  The futuristic sound puts this song on a platform that could be compared to singers like Ellie Goulding and Florence and the Machine, but the lyricism is anything but comparable.  In this track, Lorde sings about the blind ignorance we’re brought up to believe in even through the harsh realities of this world

Manipulating her voice into a dead-eyed rumble at the beginning of ‘Team’, Lorde spirals her pipes downward in a manner that recalls Vampire Weekend’s Diane Young’. But ‘Team’ crackles thanks to its gentle waves of synthesizer and Lorde’s disinterested take on modern pop: “I’m kind of over getting told to throw my hands up in the air/So there”

‘Glory and Gore’ is a standout song for the album because unlike the other tracks where the focus has been solely on Lorde’s vocals, this song has more musicality about it.  It’s dark, eerie, and the rawness of Lorde’s voice only adds to the already dramatic music.  It’s everything you would expect to hear in a song with such a cryptic title

The next two tracks, ‘Still Sane’ and ‘White Teeth Teens’ could easily be discounted because other songs on the album are already so brilliant.  However, the multi-layer vocals, the synth and snare backgrounds, and the superbly-written lyrics make each of these songs anything but boring

The longest song on Pure Heroine is the most ambitious, with a roaring dance beat that circles in and out and Lorde offers a snapshot of her world at large, which is composed of haters, existential musings, endless Internet chatter and the one person with whom she can escape all the judgments. A stunning song and ideal album closer, because, really, nothing here is strong enough to follow ‘A World Alone’

“People are talking, people are talking,” Lorde tells us at the end of ‘A World Alone’. She’s right - music fans are talking about her, a lot. And  Pure Heroine is unique and engaging enough to keep the conversation going

Buy it here

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