One of New Zealand’s most successful music exports returned over the last few months, with multiple singles ushering in her sophomore album. Eleanor has a listen (or 5) and gives us some thoughts on each track.
Track 1: Green Light
Green Light dropped at 8am on a Friday morning (as did the other pre-release singles – is this the new thing?) and I timed my drive to work accordingly. I was not disappointed. Pop writing king Max Martin called it ‘incorrect songwriting’ but I love it; the out-of-nowhere key change, the excited (and awesomely screechy) backing vocals and the masterful ‘you’re such a damn liar’ line which is perfectly emphasized by the fact that it doesn’t rhyme so spectacularly. In light of the rest of the album, Green Light is one of my least favourite tracks, which just goes to show how masterful the rest of the album is.
Track 2: Sober
The second track takes us completely into the party narrative that over archers the record, but just as prevalent as the partying theme is the self-awareness: ‘what will we do when we’re sober’ and ‘we pretend that we don’t care, but we care’. The beat is syncopated and catchy, the track is vocally driven (reminiscent of Pure Heroine) with intriguing backing vocals, while introducing horn stabs. The production alternates between full and sparse, while Lorde’s breathy voice sits front and center.
Track 3: Homemade Dynamite
This track introduces some dirty distortion in the beat and I love it. Highlights include the syncopated mini drop at the beginning of the chorus (the first one in particular) which was totally unexpected and genuinely gave me goosebumps and made me want to dance. The other highlight of this song with when the instrumentation drops out completely and Lorde sings ‘now … it’s really gonna blow ..’ and makes an explosion sound, as if she is sharing an in-joke with us. A party anthem has never felt more intimate or amusing.
Track 4: The Louvre
This epic, lush ode to falling in love (and ignoring the cracks which begin to appear) is one of the highlights of the album. The song talks about how on top of the world you feel at the beginning of a relationship, with title of the track coming from one of my favourite lines from the album: ‘they’ll hang us in the Louvre, down the back, still the Louvre’. It’s another example of Lorde’s playful humour on the record, another sneaky nod to the listener making the track sound intimate and familiar.
Track 5: Liability
The second song we hear from the record, this piano ballad is haunting, beautiful, heartbreaking and hopeful all at the same time. Lorde is singing about the repercussions of her fame on her friends and family and the way they react to her now. The hopeful part comes from her self love: ‘… into the arms of the girl that I love, the only love I haven’t screwed up’.
Track 6: Hard Feelings/Loveless
Hard Feelings is about going through a breakup, the repercussions of that and getting used to being alone again: ‘I care for myself the way I used to care about you’. But paired with Loveless, I think Hard Feelings is also about thinking ‘I won’t be that girl during a breakup’. We’ve all been there: thinking I’ll be cool, we’ll be friends, it will be fine, I won’t be angry or crazy or irrational. But then paired with Loveless we see the reality – that actually having your heart broken sucks and sometimes you have to go through the motions, and there is nothing wrong with that: ’cause I’m gonna mess your life up, gonna wanna tape my mouth shut’. I particularly love the cute, innocent sounding melody and vocals paired with some cutting, harsh lyrics. The contradiction works perfectly to sound scathing and, again, winks at the listener like and old friend.
Track 7: Sober II (Melodrama)
This string and piano led song is peak ‘melodrama’. Continuing on from Sober, we not see what were simply the cracks in Sober; the drama, the intense feelings, the love, the loathing. The melodrama.
Track 8: Writer In The Dark
Another piano ballad and another highlight of the album. Writer in the dark speaks directly to Lorde’s ex, almost taunting him with ‘bet you rue the day you kissed a writer in the dark’ and then pulling no punches in the chorus with ‘I am my mothers child, I love you til my breathing stops, I love you til you call the cops on me’. Lorde has never sounded better here, and the emotion is cutting even on the 10th listen. The song is haunting, beautiful and heartbreaking. One of my favourite break up songs ever.
Track 9: Supercut
Supercut is an 80s inspired pop track which explored the waves of memories that haunt you after a breakup, the supercut of a relationship that is over now. This track is insanely relatable to anyone who has ever gone through a breakup – we are all haunted by sweet memories turned bitter.
Track 10: Liability (Reprise)
The vocoded reprise of liability is pleasant, but does nothing to touch the original track.
Track 11: Perfect Places
Perfect Place rounds out the album, finishing the party with an upbeat, pop tune about how we party to forget: ‘blow my brains out to the radio’ ’cause we are young and we’re ashamed’. ‘Perfect places’ refers to the plight of our generation, and I read it as the response to social media – the perfect party, the perfect looking friends, the perfect photos and the perfect clothes. None of which truly exist and it drives us mad. The track ends the album where it begins, with just Lorde and a piano, as she sings ‘what the **** are perfect places anyway’.
THE VERDICT: a fantastic album which equally celebrates and critiques what it is like to be a twenty-something. Lorde more than delivers on her follow up to Pure Heroine. Lyrically, she is one of the strongest writers in the pop field at the moment. This album gets better the more you listen.
FAVOURITE TRACKS: The Louvre, Writer In The Dark, Homemade Dynamite.
Eleanor is a music and business grad who works part time for AYM, including GC stuff! She loves music, movies and being behind a camera. She writes for the blog and often MCs our cafe events, as well as playing a cheeky set or two.