Album Review: Lorde – Solar Power

Posted: by The Editor

Eastern ideology, climate change anxiety, and reminiscing about the earliest days of fame permeate the new Lorde album, Solar Power. Hitting the breaks and taking a sharp left, this new album leaves a lot to be desired, revolving around the idea that Lorde is not the sun itself but a devotee of its solar power. A distinct change from the dark electronic and Kate Bush-inspired sounds — we find ourselves in the middle of a sun-soaked romp through the Tasman Sea. Inspired by a trip to Antarctica, Lorde laments about the future of the climate in her folk-inspired arrangements. The lead single, “Solar Power,” is a narrative based on the battle to beat seasonal depression. Backed by acoustic guitars, the track maintains an aughts coffee shop nostalgia, like her now contemporaries Jack Johnson and Norah Jones. The track keeps an ethereal sound cascades down over the listener like an inviting waterfall. Still, much like the film “The Beach” (2000), it quickly evolves into a terrifying examination of the human condition through cult-like participation. 

Produced by Jack Antonoff, the record is another in a series of recent records that serve as pillars to prop up his latest obsession with cottagecore folk music. However, Solar Power is less a champion of folk music and more of a musical imitation of “Eat Pray Love”. The album certainly has moments where it shines, but it isn’t as self-aware as it claims to be. 

The track “Mood Ring” is the ultimate culprit here. While it’s written as satire, poking fun at those who selfishly turn to Eastern tradition to heal their wounds yet refuse to understand the damage they’re causing, it’s a complicated track as the satire blurs to the point of sounding sincere. The attempt at a send up of wellness culture falls flat.

Altogether, the lyrics are a half articulated theme and variation that doesn’t get the message across and features a plug-and-play style folk sound that features the quintessential acoustic guitar and tribal-inspired drums. The shift from electronic instruments to organic is disappointing, as it feels as though the arrangements have been recycled from other pieces of Antonoff’s work. Lorde going acoustic is jarring enough on its own. While she harmonizes with herself, the lack of interesting vocal arrangements keeps the album chained to a minimalist lull that begs for release. The happy-go-lucky pseudo psychedelia feels misplaced beside her whispered rasp and creates more dissonance than is necessary. 

Altogether, the work is an unfortunate piece of saccharine. The elements for the great folk-inspired record are there, but it falls dangerously short under the misguided direction of faux profound lyricism and new takes on old habits. The Laurel Canyon-inspired album stands as a late summer setlist, but I’m not confident how Solar Power will weather the rest of the year. 

Disappointing / Average / Good / Great / Phenomenal

Konstantina Buhalis | @tinatlking

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