Pure Heroine (Universal)
Whether you like Lorde or not, due to her rapid success here and in the United States this year, this is the most anticipated New Zealand album of 2013.
The reason is whether Pure Heroine, her debut album, can match, or better, the quality of the five-track The Love Club EP that catapulted Ella Yelich-O’Connor so quickly to international attention.
When I reviewed The Love Club in April – and we rarely review EPs – it was simply out of curiosity as to why a new artist, with almost zero promotion, had charted so highly.
On first listen I didn’t even know she was a Kiwi – and Yelich-O’Connor sings largely in an American accent.
But here’s the thing, while quickly learning that Yelich-O’Connor was from Auckland and was 16, it didn’t alter my view of the songs – which included the hit single Royals.
I listen to a lot of pop, most of it not aimed at my age. I listen to a lot of left-field pop – and The Love Club was five sharp, refreshing and smart pop songs.
This was the reason Lorde was embraced so quickly. It was, at least initially, on the power of song.
Yelich-O’Connor and co-writer Joel Little, whose contribution to Lorde’s success can’t be understated, are brave in not simply inserting the five Love Club tracks onto Pure Heroine and padding it out with five more.
The only survivor is Royals, which makes sense. It may not just be a commercial decision. No other song on Pure Heroine has the same hit single punch of Royals.
The closest to reach it is Tennis Court, with Ribs a close second.
Both equal to what had been achieved on her EP. But then to measure Pure Heroine as a collection of potential singles is to fail to grasp it as an album.
Within the confines of the album – and Yelich-O’Connor nicely plays lyrical tricks that links opener Tennis Court to closer, the melancholic A World Alone – each song works.
It’s still within the same sound framework as similar artists, including Grimes and Lana Del Rey, so no radical departure.
It takes several plays for some of the songs, regardless of obvious hooks, to get under the skin. But eventually they open up, including Buzzcut Season and Team.
The result is an album that throws up no surprises to Lorde if you’ve devoured The Love Club EP.
But it also shows that the EP was no fluke. Yelich-O’Connor and Little had an album’s worth of new songs that have made a strong debut.
It’s not outstanding. It breaks no new ground in music. But if measuring Pure Heroine as a pop album – regardless of whether or not it and Lorde will be forgotten about in five years – right here, right now, it’s pure gold.
- © Fairfax NZ News