This Friday, August 20th, Lorde has rejoined the music world after a four year hiatus. Lorde’s debut with “Tennis Court” in the early Soundcloud days changed the music world as we knew it. The stark difference in her sound in her projects, Pure Heroine and Melodrama, compared to the norm of the time was a refreshing and cool wash into the music industry.
And four years later, Lorde releases her next full-length album, Solar Power. This album, too, is a change, but from her norm. While staying true to a signature she’s made her own, she has shown the world an even more vulnerable side to her sound. With lyrics so raw and personal she has always pushed that envelope, but these lyrics touch on the more abstract as well, and rather than getting lost in the heavy dance beats, we are met with acoustics and a nearly acapella nature, showcasing her artistry at its finest while honoring the vulnerability of it all.
The whole album sounds like the ice cold ocean in late summer. Each listen is more enriching than the last as your plunged in. The first one is a shock to the system as you’re suddenly immersed. The second listen on goes on smoother from then, easing the being into a state of calm and ease.
Read our review of each track. I fear we’ve only touched the surface of what lies within each word of the album. Lorde is known for making each sound and lyric have intention, and we feel Solar Power is no exception to that rule.
And we take the plunge into Lorde’s new full-length with “The Path,” where the beginning thrusts us into the depths of the ocean and we are welcomed into the soundscape of feeling at peace under water. The smoothness of the acoustics combine with Lorde’s psychedelically-induced vocals as she holds her arms open wide and invites her audience to experience and swim along with her in her memory and mind. A soft drum beat coats us into a soothing and warm as it lights the beacon and she sings, “I just hope the sun will show us the path.” The melancholy in her words as she shares her yearning for light and warmth and hope.
Following the introduction is “Solar Power.” As Lorde’s first single in the new era of her sound, she bathes us in the warm yellows and beach tones of the world created for us. “I hate the winter,” she sings in the introduction, providing us a clear visual in her enunciations with its bite and cold and bitterness. She continues through the track in offering a ghost of a beat through purely the sound of the acoustic guitar and the flow of her words. Drums only come into play far later in the track, but it’s as if they’d been there all along. You can sense their presence before they are there.
Next, “California” creates a showcase of Lorde in a new light. Her rich and concrete images created from just a few words blends in with an even more melodic version of her work. We hear a mix of her signature heavy-lipped work and the twist and turn of higher register harmonies with a dream of summery and sultry electronic sound, much fitting for a late summer evening on the California coast.
Another single released prior to the album, “Stoned at the Nail Salon” is much reminiscent of “Ribs” and “Melodrama,” almost a look back into her past album eras. It’s nostalgia-rich sound blend into the lyrics and pull you into a memory of hers that feels like your own. And it’s what connects you to her work most, where you’re pulled into a full story as if you’re watching a movie of sound unfold before your eyes.
The cool psychedelic tones hit its peak in “Fallen Fruit” a blend of genres of all kinds. At moments its acoustic, then emotionally-heavy soft rock, but in its undertones lie the soul of a building psychedelic nature. Its sound influences touch on the Beatles, if I dare to compare. From start to end, the song’s progression continues to build upon itself in an acoustic masterpiece that not only highlight’s Lorde’s vocals at its peak, but shares her instrumentalism and pure artistry skills. To say this track touches on melancholia would not begin to explain it, for though melancholy has its place, it twists all the heavy feelings into a solid sense of memory and longing for much more than staying in the dark and lingering there. The track allows for the sorrowful feeling but doesn’t let it stay for too long before progressing it into a bloom of much more than sadness.
“Secrets from A Girl,” is a heartfelt love letter to the younger self. Its upbeat 90s pop tones pull in a sense of nostalgia as Lorde sings about the times she was eager to grow older, all while blending in memories of youth and spending nights out going crazy. The hurt and grief she felt then when she was younger was nothing compared to the pain felt later on when experience came into play, and she expresses the silliness of being young and wishing you were older, because let’s admit, it’s often far simpler to just be a kid and not have a worry in the world.
Quietly playing in the background, an electric guitar is plucked as Lorde’s “The Man With the Axe” begins. Being the most stripped-back track of the album, you’re enticed into experiencing the track’s lyrics in its fullest. Lorde sings about the attainment of all the material things she’s dreamed of, her goals and aspirations sought out; and still in her twenties, she has to wonder what’s next, if there is anything next. “Maybe I will always be this way,” she sings. The song then trails off on its own until its end.
Just two minutes in length, “Dominoes” shares the feelings post-breakup, when the past partner has moved on to the next phase in their life. Throughout the track, Lorde sings different versions of the lyrics of “It must feel pretty nice to start again.” At times, you hint the jealousy, the bitterness that’s felt in feeling stuck in the same spot while they’ve moved on, but as the track progresses, you get the sense that she, too, is moving forward.
Next, “Big Star” is charged to the brim with its peak of late summer; the light has to end sometime, followed by the night under the stars that rage quietly. The warmth will end and will follow the cold bite of winter. Life has its changes and through all of the good there are phases in life that will face challenge and dark. Whether we choose to shine in the dark or not is up to us.
“Leader of a New Regime” creates a hopeful tone talking of a new utopia of love and peace. Many have preached of their own versions of the “perfect world,” to the point where it takes on a whole another level of ambition to pull it off. Lorde’s track is just a minute and thirty seconds in length but in it lies a whole weight of melancholy and longing for a new beginning in the middle of darkness. It’s a grip and a struggle to breathe but in it lies a hope that a new lead will fill in the shoes in ways that will benefit all.
Creating a fresh take on self-care and positivity, “Mood Ring,” is equally as spiritual as it is uplifting. Blending in patterns of acoustics with a variety of beautiful vocal harmonies send chills through the spine as Lorde admits that there is a touch of satire laced throughout the track. In a new age where pop culture is popularizing self-care, crystals, burning sage, and gathering together with the ladies to do sun salutations, the track itself could either inspire or come off shallow, depending on the perspective. And I think that’s the point Lorde is trying to make, as well.
Lorde has presented Solar Power as an opportunity to dethaw, a beach soundtrack that reflects her “unending search for the divine” (1), and this track provides the prime example for this, all while touching on pop culture’s version of centering oneself on mental health and spiritual awareness. Upon first glance, it’s a heartwarming track. Dig a little deeper, and maybe Lorde has something to say about how the world is digesting the definition of what self care is versus what it truly should be about, which is individualized based on personal experience. It could be gathering the girls for meditations or digging into all things new age for some; and for many, it’s much more work than popular culture deems it to be on the surface.
Creating a series of flashbacks from tracks throughout this album, “Oceanic Feeling” makes for the perfect conclusion. Alluding to the meanings behind “Fallen Fruit,” where her worries for climate change and its impacts blend in with her thankfulness for the earth providing for her. She reflects on the frightening adolescent years yet again as she did in “Secrets from a Girl,” and manifesting a future where she can find happiness, as touched upon in “Mood Ring.” Then during the last minute of this track, and the album, the song takes a shift into a form of is its own. As the cicadas sing in the background, it plays much like a mantra as she questions her own sense of enlightenment and the directions she has taken throughout her life. Then the song ends, just as she questions herself, decides to breathe, and move forth.
Solar Power is littered with intentional phrases and lyrics in Lorde’s journey through the spiritual. It questions all things through life, man’s impact on the earth, and how her own voice has shifted the waves of change. Her perspective offers a unique take in the world as we know it today. After four years away from the music industry, she’s brought forth a project we’ve only tapped the surface of, and will willingly continue to peel away the layers, slowly, and proudly.
Listen to Lorde’s full-length album, Solar Power, now; available on all streaming platforms: