on September 30, 2013
Two things first: the majority of songs on this album don't come anywhere close to the radio friendliness of "Royals" and this album is most certainly a grower instead of an immediate sugar rush. Best advice--find these songs on YouTube or elsewhere and really listen before you decide whether or not buying the entire album is for you. You will be disappointed if you're expecting 10 songs similar to "Royals", but if you keep an open mind then I think you can really experience something special.
Much has been made of New Zealand's 16 year old Ella Yelich-O'Connor's skyrocket ascension into the top of the charts--but when it comes right down to it--all I'm concerned about is whether she delivers. And I think she does--not in the way I was expecting, but in a way that makes me incredibly excited about her future and solidifies her as more than a one trick pony in my book. Lyrically Ella is both wise beyond her years as well as still a teenager, constantly walking a tricky balance of keen life observations mixed with insecurity and idealism.
This album is extremely cohesive both thematically and musically, relying on minimal electronic pulses and a bass line that that grounds the entire album but never takes the forefront. This enables Ella to basically do whatever she feels like with the melody and use her own voice in layers and loops to become another instrument. Ella stays comfortably in her hypnotic lower register for the most part and paired with the stark and aloof beats makes this album sound different from every mainstream young pop starlet.
But unfortunately, it means a few songs towards the middle all sound similar by lacking either a buildup or any special sound to really differentiate them. The album is essentially front and back loaded though with "Tennis Court", "Royals", "White Teeth Teens", and "A World Alone" being the must have tracks. The middle contains some growers like "Team", but the rest will have you pressing the skip button unless you just so happen to really connect to the lyrics.
That said, Ella's fearlessness in creating an album that is just so out there is commendable and pays off when she gets everything lined up perfectly. The fact that she was discovered when she was 12 by a major label actually makes me appreciate even more just how hard she must have had to fight to write her own songs (which she does) and craft an album that is all her. Her best moments scream volumes of what she's capable of in the future, and I know that I'll be along for the ride.
Ella doesn't sound that similar to any of these artists but I bet if you enjoy artists like Charli XCX, London Grammar, BANKS, Earl Sweatshirt (in attitude), Fiona Apple, Ruby Frost, or even Bipolar Sunshine that you'll at least enjoy the standout tracks here. Think lovechild between Lana Del Rey and Kanye.
on February 11, 2014
First of all, don't buy the "all the songs sound the same" reviews. Unless you just think all synthesizer based songs sound the same. It seems to me that they did in fact try to make each song have its own feeling. She has said that for her it's all about the lyrics and using her voice as an instrument since she doesn't play any instruments on her recordings.
I got "Ribs" as the free iTunes song of the week. I thought "this is pretty interesting". So I checked out the rest of her songs and I found that I liked all of them! Double shock, she's only 16 and she wrote the lyrics! And she seems like a great kid. A little integrity won't hurt the music business.
I have been looking for new music to like for quite a while and not finding much. This is the trouble with growing up listening to the likes of The Rolling Stones, the Beatles, Joni Mitchell, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin, Hendrix, etc..
When I listen to Lorde, I hear a lot of layers of meaning in the lyrics. I also think the music complements the lyrics very well. Although I know teens probably hear different things in the songs, I hear sarcasm, satire, social conscience, teen angst, fear, determination and a lot of honesty. She claims she can "stay good", that she won't fall into the traps that have plagued rising stars for a long time. She has made promises to us in her music and I feel like she really means to keep them. Time will tell.
I also think Royals is not the best song (for me) on the album (and EP). Buzz-cut Season, Bravado, Team, Tennis Court and Glory and Gore are excellent. Listen to them a few times. Listen to Buzz-cut Season a little loud with your eyes closed.
Watch the Tennis Court video on You Tube. Some find it creepy but I call it striking, captivating, brilliant and artistic. I wouldn't be surprised if she does some acting in the future.
She even dresses great. The black getup she wore on Letterman was great. And she has so many different looks. Love all that hair!
Might as well chime on the boyfriend. Leave the kid alone! She has a boyfriend who understands artistic drive and isn't in the same business, that's a good thing. If she's happy, great.
Finally, I don't buy the claim she is a hypocrite. She plainly states that she likes buying things but also says "I know they'll never own me".There is nothing wrong with wanting to make money.
If Lorde is a manufactured snow job, it's an excellent and enjoyable one. If she can put out another album half as good as this, I'll buy it. It will be interesting to see how her music evolves.
I wish her good luck on her journey.
Edit, April 17, 2014,
After listening to this and the Love Club EP over 100 times, I like it even more. The music works perfectly to accentuate the lyrics and the layering of Lorde's harmonies and nuances of her voice in different cuts really makes the music perfect.
P.S., check out London Grammar for songs where the singers voice is the driving force behind music.
on October 1, 2013
The short answer is...buy the album.
Yes, the song Royals hit #1 on the charts and Lorde is the first solo female to top the alternative song's chart in 17 years. But let's focus on the rest of the album... Most critics are giving it strong reviews, and Billboard ranked it 94/100. Why? She writes intelligent lyrics, has a good voice, and has music that has a presence. More importantly, she is authentic.
Casual listeners will like the song Team, which will be her next top hit. It is a great song with lyrics like. "I'm kinda over getting told to throw my hands up in the air... ...I'm kinda older when I reveled without a care..." that will play in your head long after the song ends. The songs Tennis Court, Ribs and White Teeth Teens will also likely be in heavy rotation.
I agree that some songs will take a few listens. The three I have on repeat now are Glory and Gore, 400 Lux and A World Alone, but give them a few listens and they may become your favorites. For me, this is my favorite album of the year so far.
As an aside, I was fortunate to see her Seattle concert last weekend. It was an amazing show. She came out in "stage mode," serious and slightly mysterious. However, she was greeted with such an enthusiastic crowd reaction, and these were true fans that were singing along with every song, that then she revealed her surprise, slight embarrassment and delight. She was genuine. It was a great moment to see. And I look forward to many more albums from her!
People who liked this may also like.... My Pandora Lorde station played songs from Lights and Purity Ring that you may want to check out.
on October 11, 2013
As other reviewer's have noted, Pure Heroine presents a fairly solid album from what many would expect to be a one hit wonder. However, what seems to be missing from the effusive praise of other reviews is a note on two particular items:
1. While stylistic comparisons to Beth Orton and similar artists are appropriate on a variety of fronts, such comparisons fail to address the fact that the music on nearly every track is so similar as result in most of the tracks seeming to blend together. Other than "royals" most of the tracks fail to distinguish them by varying tremendously in style or tempo. There is a lot of slow, pounding base, which isn't a bad thing, but that should be a starting point rather than an ending point.
2. As someone who is officially NOT a teenager (someone who actually buys CDs and spent much of my teen years in actual, bonafide record stores), I don't relate at all to some sixteen year old who talks about her stress over aging not just on one song, but on four. Seriously. While some immaturity is to be expected by an artist so young (e.g. No one understands me, etc.) Lorde plays the themes of aging, responsibility, and lack of socio-economic privilege to a point where they appear either to be obsessions for her, or, more worisomely, manufactured. In any case the themes are so heavily pushed I several places as I think many people who are older than twenty may find it distracting, and frankly, just too overwrought to take seriously.
on January 9, 2014
A delightfully simple record, Lorde's debut album Pure Heroine is driven solely by her voice, a beat, and light synth tones. Lorde's album comes straight from the heart; her songs explore various themes and aspects of small-town adolescence that are relatable to many young people. Her perspective is genuine and realistic, which portrays her like a long-time friend one is beckoned to listen to and not a celebrity looking for some dough.
“Royals” and “Buzzcut Season” exhibit a youthful spirit by promoting friendship and one’s imagination. Lorde advocates that fame shouldn’t influence one’s sense of enjoyment and one can live out their fantasies even if they’re just make-believe. “Ribs” and “White Teeth Teens” explore newfound adolescent feelings of solitude, lust, fear, and self-reflection, revealing Lorde’s cautious yet hopeful nature. “Team” sounds melancholy as Lorde croons about living in an unknown town, depression, and ruined dreams as she’s getting tired of being told to “put [her] hands up in the air, so there.” However, the song captures the essence of friendship and always having someone’s back during good and bad times, establishing the aforementioned team. “Still Sane” demonstrates Lorde’s persistence and optimism; she encounters “bruises” when she slips up, but she doesn’t give in and reminds listeners that, “only bad people live to see their likeness set in stone” because one’s work never truly stops.
There’s a risk that a simple album like this can end up with being that all the songs sound the same. This is untrue for Pure Heroine. Lorde establishes different foci for each song while maintaining the bigger picture of youth and dreams. The production on this album is flawless; the beat and synth on each track supplement Lorde’s honest vocals without overshadowing them, allowing each song’s message to be delivered to listeners with a meaningful impact.
Lorde is off to a grand start with Pure Heroine. The album promotes the innocence of adolescence and suburbia, touching upon friendship, popularity, dreams, an abundance of emotions, and commitment. Her messages aren’t muddied by overdone production; an easy beat and soft synth chords enhance Lorde’s lyrics and allow listeners to openly absorb the heart of the album. What really makes this album stand out is how approachable it is. Most young people can easily connect with the relevant music presented in Pure Heroine. Like them Lorde is a product of a suburban no-name community, which allows her to create realistic music that is honest and relevant. Lorde evokes wisdom, dedication, and heart, characteristics that make Pure Heroine an approachable and powerful compilation of well-conveyed early life realizations.
on October 3, 2013
I remember being sixteen. I remember turning off the lights in my room, turning on the Cranberries, and drowning in aching sweetness. There was so much truth to the music, to the voice, to the darkness - if I could only swim through it deeply enough, I would experience everything.
It is clear that Lorde has done this as well. Her voice is haunting and evocative; it takes you by the hand and brings you soaring and swooping to places you may not remember, but you have certainly visited before. Beautiful places, rife with mystery, where you can lose yourself for hours.
I listened to the album for the first time in the car, driving in the rain as the world transformed to a perfect blue. When I got home Buzzcut Season was playing.
I parked in the driveway, lost myself in the rain, and shut my eyes to the song that plays.
on April 30, 2014
I'm kicking myself right now for waiting so long to get this album. The reason why I didn't is because I wasn't a fan of "Royals", but I heard "Team" not too long ago and I was in love. So I became curious how the rest of her songs were since the album itself is doing so well. I am beyond ecstatic to now own a copy of this album. It is incredible. The remaining songs may be not be "radio friendly" like "Royals" or "Team", but is that such a bad thing? Especially considering the type of trash that is flooding the air waves today. Each song is unique, poetic and genius. I bought the album two days ago and it has been on repeat at work and in my car ever since. I can not get enough of "Pure Heroine". Lorde is definitely an original treasure.
on February 22, 2014
Pop music generally isn't my genre... Dancin' in da club, put your #$& in the air, we gettin' so drunk tonight, etc. etc. etc. Great for working out or dancing to, but terrible in most other contexts. At least, to me. I love pop for what it IS (a good beat and some catchy, but silly, lyrics), but I don't think anyone would call it thoughtful, interesting music.
This album, though, does feel thought-out. It feels like it has been crafted to create an real experience for the listener. Each song has its own mood and flavor, evoking everything from loneliness and fear of the unknown to youthful defiance. I don't usually buy pop music since I'm sick of the songs within a month, but this one is going to remain in my "Most Played" list for a while.
on April 22, 2014
It's nice to know that as time goes by the best may be yet to come.
Lorde steels herself on Pure Heroine against praise or blame on both the opening and final songs on the album. On the first song, she starts out, "Don't you think it's boring how people talk?". On the last song, after repeating the phrase "people are talking" over and over, she closes, with, "Let them talk."
If you liked "Royals" and want to hear some more equally exciting music, do get the album. Every song is as good, if not better. I bought this record because I heard it playing on a public address system, and was first captivated by the opening song's electronic ambiance, plunging synthesizer chords, and cryptic chorus, "Baby be the class clown, I'll be the beauty queen in tears, it's a new art form, showing how little we care, yeah." I thought, wow that is really great, and then was amazed that the next song was just as good, as was the next and the next one, right up to the close. The consistency bowled me over. There's no doubt that co-writer,-producer Joel Little and Lorde had an intense but fun time making it, and they mean it to be an engaging record on every track, from start to finish.
"Royals," which to some extent succeeds, I think, in puncturing a few highly deserving-to-be-deflated popular music trends, may be the most upbeat song on the disc. ("400 Lux has a fabulous rocking beat, but not without a bleak edge to it). This might account for the opinion of other reviewers here that the other songs are weaker. I found many of the other songs stronger in musical terms; but in emotional terms they are relatively serious, moody, introspective. In "Royals," Lorde turns towards popular culture and mocks it; satire is fun, so "Royals" is more engaging than the rest of the songs. These, by turns, are introspective, quirky, melancholy, bittersweet, juvenile, and self-absorbed-- and so, in terms of accessibility, not as listener-friendly. They offer rewards and invite you to go below the surface, though. It's not exactly clear what 400 Lux is about, something to do with going out and driving around in the car, it seems, which is a timeless rock and roll theme. But maybe there's more. I read an interpretation at songmeanings.com about a connection in the images with heroin-usage that was fairly convincing and put a few things in the song in perspective. "World Alone" goes from decrying bullying in the internet age to reminding the bullies and us all that "one day we'll all be still."
One complaint I've read in a few reviews is that being a wee teenager Lorde's lyrics are tediously overladen with grousing about getting old. From the evidence in these songs, though, that's a broad topic. The loss may sometimes the hardest at the age she wrote these songs, as she puts into words on the song "Ribs." There is more left behind around that age than we'll ever leave behind again. Most of the mockers are simply old people I think, which proves the point. It's called self-awareness.
Another complaint I've noted is that the songs all sound the same. This gripe, I understand to some extent. There is a similarity in instrumentation and production throughout, which can seem monotonous. However, in musical terms of rhythm, harmony, & melody, and lyric wise, Pure Heroine is an adventure throughout. Plenty of different musical designs are explored and taken on, and some of the results are impressive feats of musical conception and execution. I think it may be they didn't have too much to work with production-wise and made the best of what they had. "Royals" wasn't backed by a lot of money; rather, it went to the top on its own merits. I'm looking forward to seeing what they can do next, now they have a lot more production options.
I think the vocals on this record are some of the greatest ever put on a pop record. I was struck, on my first hearing of "Royals" on the radio that the quality of the vocals was unprecedented. Lorde has a disciplined, agile, and, often quite pretty, voice, the power of which she plays out generally in carefully crafted backgroud parts. Although she sings in a sultry, baby-talking low range most of the time on lead vocals, her voice is stellar from highest to lowest notes. In some songs, if you didn't know all the voices were all Lorde, you'd think that she had assembled the most astoundingly talented backup singers of all time ("Still Sane," for example).
I don't want to be totally all-raving about the Pure Heroine (even though I think this is one of the greatest records ever made). It has some weaknesses. There's a tendency on Pure Heroine to not take the effort to fashion an ending to the songs. Most of them come to an abrupt stop, or sound like they got exhausted and passed out. Happening on one song, this might be a novelty. Happening on about all of the songs, it tends to be a dull signature and conveys a lack of imagination. (She neatly sidesteps this with a beautiful faux-ending on "400 Lux".) Also, the musical stylings, as noted above, are not very broad. Her co-songwriter, I read, moved Lorde along paths he has long admired, those that were pioneered by Prince and maybe another couple of soul crossover artists in the 80's. (The ghost of "Little Red Corvette" lurks here and there.) I really loved that music, so I'm not complaining. I'm hoping that later Lorde will surprise us with something in a totally different sound setting, retaining rhythm, vocals, & melody just as sympathetic and compelling as they are here. The playing though is superb. The album sleeve credits Joel Little, Lorde's co-writer and producer on all instruments. He gives their songs the care they deserve. Bass, drums, percussion, keyboards. It's quite a feat. There is an interplay between the music and the vocals throughout, with the former attentive to the latter, sometimes on percussion especially.
The vocals sound to me like a high point in any time. If pop singing gets any better than this, I'll love to hear it. The melodies she sings can be quite catchy and winning, with a frankness and gentleness that is really moving. She's setting a new standard for what pop singing can attain. At times, it sounds like some of the singing is peaking up to the upper layers of pop vocal arrangement towards symphonic choral work.
There's so much to like about this record if you are into this sort of thing. God bless the child.
on February 27, 2014
Why did I review this album? I was impressed with Royals, so I took a chance on the album
Did I like it? Yes
Will I listen to it again? Yes because her voice and style fascinate me. The beats are also very relaxing.
The album as a whole was a bit self-righteous. Part of the reason Royals was one of my favorite songs last year was its level of charm and wit. It was making fun of the formulaicness of mainstream music (which I agree with of course). It was almost like a middle finger to mainstream music (and a satire except it’s not written its sung) and I loved it, But as you keep listening to the rest of the album she continually feels the need to tell you how much she hates mainstream music and it started to ware on me a bit. The funny thing is I agree with her, but there's something to be said about subtlety. The reason why I enjoy conscious rappers such as Kendrick Lamar, Lupe Fiasco,J. Cole, and others is that they make their own music but they don’t try to say that they're better than you because they refuse to follow the norm. While Lorde never says I’m better than you, she makes light of mainstream music so much she essentially is saying it.
I did like this album. She has opinions about music, shares them, and doesn't apologize for it. I can respect that. Also, most artist wouldn't dare make music about the trivialities of her life, but she does and that gives the album a lot of charm. It’s a refreshing change from typical albums and a fitting considering her disdain for mainstream music.
I am attracted to and amazed by people that can do things that I can’t, and as I understand, she wrote the whole album herself which is an amazing feat.
Also, her voice fascinates me because I can't quite place where it belongs. It has elements of almost all the genres, but doesn't quite fit into any of them. Somewhat like an Adele or Amy Winehouse.
Because her voice is so unique at the very least she'll be interesting to listen to and as she grows her writing will improve and she'll probably learn a thing or two about subtlety,
A first album is supposed to introduce the artist to the audience. Through that, the audience should learn about the artist’s style. The album should leave the listener with a feeling that the artist has potential for growth in future works. This album met those requirements, so I thought it was a valiant first effort and will listen to her future work.
3. Still Sane
Overall Rating: 73 with a recommendation to listen then decide
A track by track review of is available at Rhythm & Reviews