ALBUM REVIEW: Lorde, Solar Power
Editor's Note: I think it's really necessary to admit to ourselves that this album is mediocre and Lorde's absolute worst. It was the peak of this Jack Antonoff production boom this year, and by peak I am mean the exhaustion of the style. This album is too slow and folky, Lorde is about pomp and being cheeky. It's not bad, that's for certain, but it's the most disappointing album of the year in my opinion, I expected so much more from Lorde.
I hate the lazy way in which big publications like Pitchfork and NME just lazily regurgitate the buzz surrounding albums. They write this Zodiac Killer ransom note of press releases, interviews and Twitter jokes to spit us a hook like “Shouldn’t an album about climate grief and puppy grief and social grief by one of the best pop songwriters of her generation make you feel something?”. Legitimately, what the fuck does this even mean? This is not Ancient Dreams In A Modern Land, the politics of it are truly not that on the nose. Also, the lead track has nothing to do with grief at all, it’s a song about lifting the burden of anxiety off you and worshipping the sun. Can’t a 24-year old like me or Lorde have a summer of fun?
For this review, I will be speaking only on my true feelings and not the limited reference pool these other people draw from with their criticism. But first, a little context. It’s important to note that her producer, Jack Antonoff, is on the tail end of his streak of W’s that started with Lorde’s sophomore record, Melodrama. Next it was St. Vincent, Lana Del Rey, Taylor Swift and then St. Vincent again. W, W, W, and yet another W for Antonoff. I feel like with this album, the Clairo record and his own Bleachers record, he has plateaued and began his slow descent into “doing too much”. I feel like this album just stands out enough to deserve praise, but if I was Pitchfork I would give this an 8.1, like the very least I could give and it still is designated as “Best”. “The Path” opens with the lines “Born in the age of oxycontin/Raised in the tall grass” which among other lines, shows a lyrical progression that gets better with each Lorde album. The imagery throughout the record is really well done, and it sounds blissful over lots of interesting drumwork. “We are all broken inside? Where are the dreams that we had?” she sings over a break that reminds me of Primal Scream.
The U.K. pop-rock influence continues on the title track, which borrows heavily from George Michael’s “Freedom”, a man who’s estate said he would’ve been “flattered”, and I agree. Not only is this track breezy and catchy, but it is vocally stunning as well. “SOOOOOLLLLAAAAAR POOOOOOOOOWER!” Yes Pitchfork, this does make me feel something because I’m a human being and this is good music. And maybe it’s my recent escapades to the West Coast getting the best of me, but I love “California” as well. This instrumental feels like a home video montage of Lorde and her girls running around and smiling in Santa Monica. “Goodbye to all the models/Goodbye to all the bottles/Goodbye to the kids in line for the new Supreme” is such a fake LA person thing to say, and I love it. Speak your damn truth Lorde, nobody in LA is from LA. I love California, the state and the song.
“Stoned at the Nail Salon” sounds so much more purposeful in the context of the album too. This is definitely Lana Del Rey-core in the best way possible, existential thoughts about pretty girls withering away and growing out of music you loved at 16 coming to light as a result of smoking weeeeeed (Hell yeah dude *coughs*). I don’t even mind the slow pace, because I think the song writing and the topic at hand is interesting and feels natural in Lorde’s generally pleasant tone. The slow pace does kind of stick through the rest of the record, and that’s when it starts to get dicey in my opinion. “Fallen Fruit” is such a snoozer, I did not need something acoustic and choral as a follow up to “Stoned at the Nail Salon”. The volume change at the end doesn’t make things much better, truthfully the lack of a rhythm section is what kills it for me. Some artists have compelling enough songwriting to go drumless (Frank Ocean), and Lorde is definitely one of them, just not on this track. “Secrets from a Girl (Who’s Seen it All)” is kind of like “Solar Power Pt. 2”, but I think it really works as a reprise. Lyrically, It feels like 24-year old Lorde giving her 15-year old self a pep talk, like a modern update on “Ooh La La” by The Faces. I also really like the playful “Strange Airlines” skit at the end, lacing in sweet nothings with pilot's announcement fodder.
I really enjoy the one-two punch of “Dominoes” and “Big Star”, which both use the concept of “celebrity” in romantic contexts. The former opens with “I heard that you were doing yoga/With Uma Thurman's mother/Just outside of Woodstock/Now you're watering all the flowers/You planted with your new girlfriend/Outside on the rooftop”. I love these songs about tenuous clout chasing, especially with Lorde’s eye rolling tone. “Big Star” is a great companion track as well, the line “Baby you’re a big star/You're a big star/Wanna take your picture” is pure Melodrama-era Lorde and I love it. “Leader of a New Regime” and “Mood Ring” feel like companion pieces as well, just two that I don’t particularly like. I feel like the slight hints at bass and rhythm on “Mood Ring” could trick me into thinking this song isn’t kind of a slog, but it really is. AHHHHH but I kind of like it, fuck. On my second listen of this album, I’m seeing all the nice qualities and I gotta say, I really do enjoy it quite a bit. I was going to give this a C/C+ but I just feel relaxed and lines like “You can get sage and I’ll cleanse the crystals/We can get high only if the wind blows” is just some fly shit to say, I don’t know. Standout for sure, good job Lorde. It could’ve been better, definitely an Antonoff downtrend happening before our eyes, but the Cali charm of this album and Lorde’s genuineness as a person saved it for me. “Oceanic Feeling” is expansive and detailed enough to really bring the whole thing home right at the end. Percussion is on point, the cicadas are making noise and the choruses soar like a crane. This album is pretty good, and that is the official Anti stance (Editor's Note: The official Anti stance is that this album is mediocre.)