Album Review: Lorde – Pure Heroine

Lorde’s debut LP proves she’s not an impatient teen trying to grow up faster — she’s just waiting on the rest of us to catch up

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Lorde is no one-hit wonder. Following the incredible success of “Royals” — the single she released in March that questions the irrelevant opulence predominant in hip-hop and pop music — the young Kiwi became the first female solo artist in 17 years to top Billboard’s Alternative Songs Chart. Pure Heroine, Lorde’s full-length studio debut, suggests that this is a comfortable place for her — not the limelight, but the studio — that it’s where she belongs. She’s a natural without reveling in or squandering her talents. Throughout the 10 tracks on Pure Heroine, Lorde consistently maintains a level of reserve that outstrips the industry’s poptarts, neither pandering nor condescending and forging honesty through a provocative mix of satire, sincerity, and thundering bass.

The young musician has made headlines for her modesty in an industry overrun with obscene vanity, choosing to keep her identity a mystery before releasing few press photos even after the hype developed. Her premier EP, The Love Club, debuted quietly at the end of last year, with producer Joel Little helping Lorde pull together three tracks in their first week working together. It streamed for free, she’s said, because she wrote it with her peers in mind — most of whom aren’t old enough to apply for a credit card. Ella Yelich-O’Connor, the girl behind the stage name, is only 16 years old. But her music is remarkable without relying on age as a modifier. She makes it easy on fans and hard on haters. Pure Heroine, like its creator, gracefully defies definition.

“Royals” appears on the track list, as do the previously released “Tennis Courts” and new single “Team,” which opens with only her soft, powerful voice. Playing with the ends of her words, she alludes to the biting yet bitterless harmonies that she will surely come to be known for. Her voice funnels out, entrancing the listener through deep echoes before fading into attractively simple stepping bass layered with controlled crowd clapping. Here, her fascination with aristocracy surfaces, the metaphoric images of a royal music industry as a captivating foil for her sensibility.

The haunting “Glory and Gore” creeps through society’s halls, taking on its preoccupation with brutality, complete with slow bouncing beats dipping out after every chorus before rallying for another attack: “Glory and gore go hand in hand, / That’s why we’re making headlines. / You could try and take us, / But victory’s contagious.”

In the sardonic “White Teeth Teens,” she takes down cliques, conjuring images of teenagers as blood-hungry wolves on the hunt. Pure Heroine closes on the reflective “A World Alone,” the track alternating between swirling movement and Lorde’s chant-like, bell-clear vocals.

Intricately and beautifully complete, Lorde’s Pure Heroine comes from somewhere above — not holier than thou, but soothing in the way that a sermon is meant to be. Though addressing countless distresses, the album’s awareness and existence alone promises change. Lorde and Little expertly mix intelligent lyrics (just take a listen to the album’s opening and closing lines) with catchy, unpredictable beats. What we can predict is that Lorde’s reign has thankfully only just begun.

Pure Herione is out now, via Universal Music.

This article originally appeared on Raw Denim. October 1, 2013.