"Bet you rue the day you kissed a writer in the dark," Lorde sings to her departing ex in 'Writer in the Dark', a standout track on her second album, Melodrama. "Now she's gonna play and sing and lock you in your heart."
And so she has, with honesty and artistry. But Melodrama isn't just a breakup album. It's rooted in the two years she spent growing up, being a citizen and trying to create it.
Along with its melancholy there are sex, drugs and parties, most notably in 'Perfect Places' ("All the nights spent off our faces / Tryna find these perfect places / What the fuck are perfect places, anyway?"). She loves to dance but she can't party without thinking. Even 'Supercut', a wistful metaphor for the way memories don't so much fade as break down into fragments, is presented as an exultant Arcade Fire-style alt-rock-disco banger.
'Writer in the Dark', like the already-released 'Liability', fills another role: it's really, really different to Pure Heroine. A ballad with piano, strings, reverb and a mad chorus, it sees Lorde venture past her familiar, tough low register and sound like she hasn't sounded before.
Those three songs, along with the dreamy reprise of 'Liability II', represent an extraordinary finish to the album, as if she'd planned it that way. Perhaps she did.
By contrast, 'Homemade Dynamite', written with Tove Lo and her producer-writers and produced by Frank Ocean producer Frank Duke and Beyonce collaborator Kuk Harrell doesn't have the same sense of focus. It feels like an attempt to write an R&B pop tune, Lorde-style. The intensity of her creative relationship with Jack Antonoff, who co-produced and co-wrote every other track on the record, is far more illuminating.
Melodrama is not completely unlike Pure Heroine: there are still big drums and moments of space. The tempo is still generally pretty restrained for a pop record and she still sings her own layered backing vocals. It's also a whole new thing.
As one of the dreaded Middle-Aged Men Who Dig Lorde, I played Pure Heroine a lot. And, having had a couple of days' advance listening, I'm thrilled with Melodrama. There's a real sense of craft in the music, the songs do surprising things and she's a better writer than ever. And not only in song: her Sunday Star Times piece about nearly losing her mind trying to write the difficult second album, has a killer opening line.
She concluded the Star-Times essay with a paragraph about shucking off the burdensome idea that delivering her album was like delivering a baby – after meeting a real baby – and realising it was just a record.
Whatever happened, I realised, would be fine. It was just an album. I would make many more, and with time they'd come to look more like the pictures in my head. I was going to have to come up with a different metaphor.
Happily, coming up with metaphors is something she's demonstrably very good at.
What was needed after the singular, unrepeatable Pure Heroine, was evidence that there was more there, that she had places to go as an artist. I think Melodrama really, really confirms that's the case.
You can listen to or buy Melodrama here.
A word here, too, for Lorde's record company, Universal Music New Zealand. A global launch at this scale is unprecedented for a New Zealand-based company. I was actually keen to do an interview about it for this post, but they have a rule about staying out of the narrative and letting the artist speak for herself, which is admirable.
This is a mixed-media painting called Superboy; it's a 1994 work by Chris Knox. Would you like to own it? Would you feel good about knowing anything you paid went straight to Chris himself? Well ...
The owner is a friend of mine who'd rather not be named. He doesn't have room for the work any more so he's selling it on Trade Me and I'll help him make sure the money gets to Chris himself. Chances to buy something like this are few and far between.
This is also a good time to note that Chris has been gradually selling a large series of paintings completed since his stroke, most of which document his experience. They come up on his Facebook page, mostly for $300 and $400 each.
Mark Ronson – no, really – has produced the new Queens of the Stone Age album and they've come up with a funny video about how weird that is.
Stevie Nicks has a new song, it was recorded for the new Naomi watts film, and it sounds quite a lot like Lana Del Ray (with whom she has collaborated for Del Ray's forthcoming Lust for Life album). It's not bad ...
Over at Audioculture, Andrew Schmidt takes another deep dive into the Christchurch post-punk scene, this time concentrating on the year 1981, when there were bands playing six nights a week at the Gladstone. (It could have been seven, but in the olden days pubs were shut on Sundays.) The yarn includes a note on the origin of the Dance Exponents, a quote from a reiew for Gary Steel's In Touch by a 19 year-old me, and posters like this Robin Neate classic ...
Martyn Pepperell has been posting various of his interviews from this year on his Tumblr, including chats with Connan Mackasin, NAO and Tom Broome, the guy who has built a studio in the bowels of Storage King, by St Lukes mall.
On Music 101 last weekend, Nick Bollinger caught up with the Saturday night headliners at this month's Wellington Jazz Festival (you've missed it), The Comet is Coming. Their new album, Death to the Planet, is pretty cool, and it was an album of the day this week on Bandcamp.
Christchurch's DarkSpace festival has announced a psych-heavy lineup for July 22, including Hex, Teeth and All Seeing Hand.
Friends of the late Daisy Ram have their annual Doggy Style for Daisy show in her memory (all proceeds, as usual, go to Chained Dog Awareness) on Saturday night at the Kengs Arms. The lineup includes Team Dynamite, Eno X Dirty, Jess B and quite a few more.
And, finally, that asshole Gene Simmons is trying to trademark the goat, which he claims to have invented.
Just the one: a nice revisioning of Moby's 'Natural Blues'. Free download.
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