Lorde’s sophomore effort is a surprising triumph and an instant favorite

The new Lorde record is a surprising dose of satisfaction cloaked in misleading party garb.

I was among those totally sucked into the Lorde orbit when she first hit the scene a few years back. “Royals” was catchy, sure, but the full record was miles better than one catchy single, packed with minimalist music, subversive lyrics of the kind only a teen could write – and while that sounds like a subtle insult, it’s not – and anti-pop pop. I loved it.

But man, I had misgivings about the new record. The first single, “Green Light,” lived and died on a big dance thump and a heard-it-done-it fast piano riff. Wasn’t helped by a video of Lorde dancing on a fancy car in a short skirt. Huh? Didn’t seem like the artist that first caught my ear. Felt like maybe she was going pure dance floor pop … which is fine, but is not why I listen to her.

First listen to the record has a lot of those moments, too, along with references to “partying” that felt all wrong. Hmmm…

Except I didn’t listen close enough. And when it clicked, it clicked. And suddenly, I realized I’m on my fourth or fifth listen today alone and ready for another. Coming on the heels of my obsession with the new Slowdive record – holy shit, for them to do something so good after a 20-year hiatus is ABSURD – it’s surprising to be caught by something again so soon.

She sings catchy little bits that sound like silly pop but that lyrically are hilariously dark and subversive. She turns images of champagne parties into glimpses into empty misery. She lifts small bits from Queen. The term “supercut” becomes shorthand for the way we mislead ourselves about relationships. She’s got one song with a chorus with a Tori Amos influence so strong you might be able to pass it off as an outtake. It’s bits and pieces of new mixed in with the minimal music, layered vocals and slow-then-rapid-then-slow-again delivery that she does so well, at once new and familiar.

A sample lyric: “I am a toy that people enjoy until all of the tricks don’t work anymore, and then they are bored of me.”

That first single (which opens the album) ends up being pretty misleading. So does some of the pop sheen on the record. In a weird way, the record sounds like something it’s not. It’s a triumphant sophomore effort from an artist who by all rights should have fallen flat on her face, given she came out of nowhere with a debut at just 16.

If you liked the first record, you’ll like this. Don’t hesitate. Just get it.

If you’re not sure, here’s a sample song (with a weird mini-song coda at the end, complete with a ‘60s Phil Spector-inspired melody and evil lyrics you miss the first time around because you think it’s just some pop nonsense):

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