These are what they call hard feelings
I’ll admit that I had some trepidation as the years rolled on after Lorde’s wonderful debut, Pure Heroine, and that second album just kept getting pushed back. But I needn’t have worried. No sophomore slump here. In fact, Lorde has topped her debut with an effort that is at once more intimate and more expansive. The song writing here is even sharper than on her debut, the soundscapes even stranger and more immersive. And it’s a more varied album as well in terms of the sounds she & co-writer/producer Jack Antonoff conjure up. This is an album to be blasted on your best speakers and an album to be listened to on your best headphones. There are moments that are as purely epic & transcendent as any anthems this side of Springsteen, as on the dazzlingly written, absolutely brilliant Supercut. But there are also moments of incredibly quiet introspection, like the piano-based, haunted Liability. But, honestly, there’s not a song on this album that isn’t as near-perfect as songs get. Lorde’s vocal performance is even better here than on her debut, more wide-ranging and intriguing to match the way the songs and production are. On the verse of Writer in the Dark, she sounds like nothing so much as David Bowie and it’s delivery and melody working together. The double track Hard Feelings/Loveless is deliriously strange, particularly in the closing minute or two in which she takes her voice to places it’s never been before. This album is a true masterpiece, transporting, immersive and surrounding in all the right ways. The beautiful songwriting and beautiful production go hand in hand to support Lorde’s brilliant vocal performance and the result is one of the very finest albums of the year, if not of the past few. Everything coalesces on that final song, Perfect Places, which is wrapped in sparkling diamonds of sound, when Lorde sings a line to remind you of something you have probably forgotten. “I’m nineteen,” she says and the mind boggles again at the depth of brilliance from this incredibly young woman. The good thing is that this hopefully means we have decades of Lorde’s music ahead of us. Personally I can’t wait. Because she gets her age right, of course, but she’s also right in the second half of that jaw-dropping line: “And I’m on fire.” 4 stars.
tl;dr – breathtaking second album ups the ante on Lorde’s brilliant debut; amazing songwriting, brilliant vocal performance and beautiful production create an awe-inspiring masterpiece. 4 stars.