It’s been over five years since Lorde released Melodrama: a heartbreaking, lonely album that rings like the musical equivalent of a guttural cry. She has since then floated under the radar and out of the public eye.
“You’re gonna watch me disappear into the sun,” the New Zealand pop phenomenon sang on the Melodrama track “Liability” and that line feels even more apt with her newest release, which trades the thumping electronic beats for a wave of watery guitars.
“Solar Power” is surprising for how consistently subdued it is, coasting through its track list like one long summer breeze. “The Path” is a standout opener, addressing her quick rise to fame and dismantling the idolization of celebrities singing, “If you’re looking for a savior, well, that’s not me.”
The title track stands as the strongest single as Lorde details the bliss of nature and kicking back, sporting guest vocals from Phoebe Bridgers and Clairo. The track builds to a beautiful outro of harmonies and horns, and features one of Lorde’s funniest lines claiming, “I’m kind of like a prettier Jesus.”
Lorde’s lyrics have always impressed, and here is no exception as the rich imagery combined with her barebones honesty still digs deep, even when the subject matter feels less urgent. “Got a wishbone drying on the windowsill of my kitchen/Just in case I wake up and realize I’ve chosen wrong,” she sings to open “Stoned at the Nail Salon,” a nonchalant, introspective track of rambling anxieties that’s rough rawness resembles a journal entry more than a doctored pop tune.
“But every perfect summer’s gotta take its flight/I’ll still watch you run through the winter light,” she sings on the gorgeous “Big Star,” a sweet musical eulogy to her dog, Pearl, that capitalizes on the gentle beauty of Lorde’s tickly vocals.
Unfortunately, there are times where the easygoing mood gets lost in a hazy blur, becoming too vague to stick. “Leader of the New Regime” is an awkward lull of an interlude that doesn’t add much as a passing thought of escape in the event of the end of the world. “Mood Ring” also stumbles as a strange bit of satire that’s too cutesy to leave a lasting bite.
Lorde is in a tricky place with this sound; it’s not easy to make a happy record, but her newfound joy isn’t hokey in execution or blind to the realities of her surroundings whether that’s climate change, grappling with one's success, or sleazy guys. “Dominoes” in a past era would have been a scathing attack but now comfortably glides into a funny character snapshot. It’s one example of a record full of songs that feel like they’ve grown up, for better or worse.
As a result, “Solar Power” may not be as profound as Lorde’s past records, but the glistening presentation of the inner peace found from Melodrama’s inner turmoil carries its own infectious hope.