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Lorde, ‘Pure Heroine’ – Album Review

Lorde
Lava / Republic

Lorde revels in not being prom queen. She prefers being the outcast and embracing her fringe status. Ironically, that’s what makes her such a hot commodity in music right now. She’s the cool, artsy chick that the popular girls secretly wish they could get to know.

It would be easy for haters to call the New Zealand singer, who is all of 16, a “one note,” since her debut album ‘Pure Heroine’ is terrifically consistent. But everything that comes out of her mouth is poignant — both her vocals and her words. There’s a richness there that’s authentic. You can’t help but let it envelope you. She’s the kind of singer that will be associated with the likes of Florence Welch and Adele due to the level of artistry in her work.

The album is a stellar debut for the Kiwi singer, and she has a formula and she sticks to it. We’ll look forward to how she breaks out on the follow up! But she has set the table for a sonic feast with ‘Pure Heroine.

1. ‘Tennis Court’
Lorde’s got a unique voice. It’s not dramatic nor is it pure power, but it is distinct. She’s got a style and a sound that is wise beyond her 16 years. This track sets the stage for her voice, and it rises above simple classificiations like EDM-lite and or alt EDM thanks to the backbeats. Nothing needs to get in the way of her voice.

2. ’400 Lux’
Lorde’s breathy and sexy, but not in the kittenish way, like Britney or Selena. She just has that hushed, middle-of-the-throat delivery. ’400 Lux’ has a slow burning groove. It’s the most sultry song on the record, thanks to her spoken word part. We’re left to wonder, “Is she really 16?”

3. ‘Royals’
What can we say? This song put Lorde on the map and is indicative of her insane talent and she’s not even 18. Eschewing the oversharing world of selfless and luxe items and product placement, she and her friends take the train and live on the wrong side of the tracks, happily so. The angelic, cherubic choir vocals, the finger snaps and the magnetic pull of her voice, make Adele a kindred spirit.

4. ‘Ribs’
The escalating tension of the music is balanced by the evenness of Lorde’ voice in ‘Ribs.’ The track reminds us of Porthishead and the late ’90s trip-hop scene. This is the type of song that Lana Del Rey dreams about writing. The increasing speed and tension of the song finds us asking the same question again — how did a 16-year-old make an album like this? She haunts our dreams with this song, and she captures the notion of wanting to laugh til your ribs get sore.

5. ‘Buzzcut Season’
Sweetly and adorably creepy, her voice is like a salve or an oncoming rush of waves in this travk. It is that which soothes and has an effect. There are lite keys and beats that support the weight of her words and her voice, rather than competing with it.

6. ‘Team’
‘Team’ is another track about being proud of where you are from and of who you are. It’s a percussive track about having your friends’ back. Finally, she proves she’s a teenager with her subject matter. Even so, the voice is still that of an old soul. The upbeat tempo begs you to tap your toes and smile when you listen.

7. ‘Glory and Gore’
By this point, Lorde has established her sound and style. Her voice leads every song, amid baby EDM beats and trip-hop nuances. However, her love for rap rears its head here. Not because she raps, since she doesn’t. But it has a boastful lament “We’re the gladiators / Everyone a rager,” which feels like a bit of a nod to the urban genre. But it’s still done in the Lorde way. We can imagine Kanye West loving this song and sampling it.

8. ‘Still Sane’
Here, we have an epic sonic journey that should be featured in a prominent scene in an animated movie. Lorde demonstrates a vocal vulnerability in the bridge of this song. “All work and no play never made me lose it” sounds like a nursery rhyme, yet it’s anything but.

9. ‘White Teeth Teens’
It’s like a marching band tune and it’s the most punchy song on the record. It’s also got an undercurrent of sass. The distorted choir vocals will transport you somewhere else, but we don’t know where. The closing layered harmony makes us look at Lorde like the Radiohead of pop. She is breaking with tradition and so she can make her own. Did we mention that we’re still thinking Lorde is trolling us and she’s really not 16?

10. ‘A World Alone’
Lorde closes the album in the same way she entered it — with trip-hop accoutrements and her pure silk voice, which enrobes your ears. Her “oooooh” is as soothing as a wave crashing against the shore. When she sings “The Internet raised us,” we’re left thinking, “Yeah, it raised millennials, but it didn’t raise Lorde.”

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