Lorde - Pure Heroine track-by-track review

  • 26/09/2013

There was some Twitter angst earlier this week, when MTV.com put up the first stream of Lorde's debut album, Pure Heroine. The stream could only be heard in the United States. Poor old New Zealand was left out. Well – it's all going to be okay, because Lorde's album is out here today… and the US has to wait til Monday.

However, you get the distinct feeling Lorde doesn’t really care too much about Twitter angst – or anyone's angst in general. When she knocked Miley Cyrus off the charts, Lorde responded by re-tweeting what she'd been sent by Cyrus fans, including charmers like, "Your eyes are too far apart" & "Kill yourself you crusty old hag".

Thing is, this old hag knows how this game works: she grew up on the internet. Heck, the first way we got to know about Lorde was through her tumblr, as she posted thoughts, lyrics, pictures and videos that interested her. It was the first piece of what this girl was about, way before her photos appeared in the newspaper or on the front of Billboard magazine.

At the moment the New Zealander – Ella Yelich O'Connor – is buried in the insane world that is the United States. She’s been on Later… with Jools Holland, as Kanye West watched from the side of stage. She's just played two sold out shows in Los Angeles, and I imagine she'll be popping up on all sorts of American TV this week. Meanwhile, down under, her album's dropped. She tweeted, "Scary feels". Scary indeed. But she doesn't need to be scared. The album she created with Joel Little holds up to the hype. I don't know what more we'd want from her debut.

Tennis Court: We've all heard this one. It's as catchy as hell, that little "bleep" creeping into your brain before the chorus drops, that deep-throated "YEAH" spawning an amazing YouTube parody with Chewbacca. The lyrics, "Pretty soon I'll be getting on my first plane" were completely honest when they were written.

400 Lux: A dreamy morphing synth line begins one of the best songs on the album, a story about what sounds like true friendship. "We’re never done with killing time / Can I kill it with you?" At times, she doesn't sing but talks – because she’s a storyteller. "I can tell that you’re tired – but you keep the car on while you're waiting out front."

Royals: This is the one song off the Love Club EP that made it onto her debut album. While it's been thrashed to death, it's the song that launched her all over the planet and it would be ridiculous if it weren't here.

Ribs: Another album standout, as a throbbing beat takes you away from the joy of 'Royals' into the urgency of life's timeline travelling, perhaps, a bit too fast. "It drives you crazy getting old," she sings, as vocals start layering up on top of each other with urgency. It feels urgent: she's created more of a mark than most of us. But she's got more to say. 

Buzzcut Season: This one is quiet, but feels like it could be another big, big song. Lorde muses about the ridiculousness of modern life, where we're constantly vicariously watching others lives – the good and the bad. "Explosions on TV / and all the girls with heads inside a dream."

Team: This song rolls around in a lazy haze – it feels like a looking back on a really, really good summer with friends. Not in a Jack Johnson way. In a good way.

Glory and Gore: "And the cry goes out…" she sings, before, well, crying out. The synths are strong, coming in pulses as she weaves a story about gladiators. But it's really about relationships, dying, and all that stuff that makes life so bloody ridiculous. "Glory and gore go hand in hand," she sings.

Still Sane: "I’m little but I'm coming for you." We're down to the last 3 tracks, and if you've stayed for the ride, these are the best. They're perhaps a little less catchy than 'Royals' and 'Tennis Court' – slow builders that are rewarded by multiple listens.  

White Teeth Teens: This is an absolute delight. It takes you on a journey as a drum-roll beat takes you between verses, its structure fluctuating and changing – also a reminder that this album should be listened to on headphones, where you can hear both channels and what they're doing.

A World Alone: The album closes with a lonely guitar refrain, that's soon added to with an "Oooooh" of vocals and the throbbing beat that permeates the entire record. It's the best song here. It's upbeat enough, but if there's one song that grabs at your heartstrings, it's this one. It feels somehow bigger than the rest, as layers build and build. "World alone / We're alone / All the double-edged people and schemes / they make a mess / then go home and get clean."

As the album comes to and end, that guitar refrain comes through again loud and clear: "We’re a train wreck waiting to happen." I don’t know how it's happened to a 16-year-old, but Lorde gets it. She not only looks around and understands what is going on, but she can communicate what she's seeing, and that's why her writing is so good.

Any of these songs could be singles, but Pure Heroine is not about singles – it's a cohesive album of songs that need to be listened to from beginning to end. Sonically it's a delight – and much like a Nine Inch Nails record, it's best listened to on a solid pair of headphones so you can listen to the layers pour into your ears. They're good layers: producer Joel Little knows his stuff.

And thanks to lyrics that are both autobiographical and poetic, this album isn't going to age. While Yelich-O'Connor is no doubt well-versed in pop culture and popular music, she's made the lyrical content utterly unique - tied to nothing but herself and her experience.

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source: newshub archive