LORDE: Solar Power (EMI)
Verdict: Still shining brightly
JAKE BUGG: Saturday Night, Sunday Morning (RCA)
Verdict: The weekend starts here
Barely a week has gone by this year without an absorbing new pop album from a young female singer-songwriter.
The past four months alone have seen highly original records from Olivia Rodrigo, 18; Billie Eilish, 19; Griff, 20; and Clairo, 22. The year opened with Arlo Parks, then 20, setting the tone with her debut LP Collapsed In Sunbeams.
Now Lorde is rejoining the party. At 24, the singer, born Ella Yelich-O’Connor, is an old hand, but it was her first single, Royals, and debut album Pure Heroine — both released when she was just 16, in 2013 — that opened the door for Eilish, Rodrigo and the rest of today’s restless bedroom pop talents.
At 24, Lorde (pictured above), born Ella Yelich-O’Connor, is an old hand, but it was her first single, Royals, and debut album Pure Heroine that opened the door for Eilish, Rodrigo and the rest of today’s restless bedroom pop talents
Time magazine might have hailed her as one of the world’s most influential teenagers in 2013, but Solar Power — an album four years in the making — is all about retreating from the whirlwind of early fame
Those expecting the New Zealander to embrace the ‘voice of a generation’ tag are going to be disappointed by her third album, though. Time magazine might have hailed her as one of the world’s most influential teenagers in 2013, but Solar Power — an album four years in the making — is all about retreating from the whirlwind of early fame.
‘If you’re looking for a saviour, well that’s not me,’ she sings on The Path, before vowing to ignore any phone calls from her record label and radio stations. The title track goes further, with the singer promising to ‘throw my cellular device in the water’.
Another song, California, finds her railing against LA’s celebrity circus, a scene that she witnessed first-hand when she won two Grammy Awards in 2014.
If that sounds suspiciously like the whinings of a spoilt star, think again. With a title inspired by a trip to Antarctica, Solar Power is a celebration of the natural world and a testament to the benefits of growing up on your own terms.
Lorde appears as a musical guest on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on July 15 this year
Chip off the old rock
Olivia, 17, sings tender piano ballad My Father’s Daughter on the soundtrack to Sean Penn’s new film Flag Day
The teenage daughters of America’s hard-rocking grunge icons are clearly chips off the old block.
First Dave Grohl’s eldest Violet, 15, joined her dad for a crunching cover of punk band X’s Nausea. Now Olivia Vedder, eldest of Pearl Jam singer Eddie’s two children, is following suit.
Olivia, 17, sings tender piano ballad My Father’s Daughter on the soundtrack to Sean Penn’s new film Flag Day, the story of American counterfeiter John Vogel.
Her assured performance on a song penned by Eddie and Irish actor Glen Hansard suggests a pop career is on the cards.
Another collaboration sees Elton John, Dua Lipa and Australian electronic trio Pnau team up on the pulsating Cold Heart, a single that blends four vintage Elton tracks for the clubs.
Dua handles the chorus to 1972’s Rocket Man, while Where’s The Shoorah?, Kiss The Bride and Sacrifice also feature.
And Chvrches turn to American horror film director and composer John Carpenter for a bracing re-mix of recent single Good Girls.
Carpenter ramps up the track’s electronic rhythms and accentuates the guitar solo.
The Glasgow trio have reworked one of Carpenter’s solo tracks, Turning The Bones, in return. A new Chvrches album, Screen Violence, arrives next week.
With piano and acoustic guitars to the fore, its folky psychedelia could also be a suitably hazy soundtrack to what’s left of summer.
Like much of today’s best female pop (by Taylor Swift, Lana Del Rey and St. Vincent) the album is co-produced by Bleachers singer Jack Antonoff. Apart from a drum machine on one track, and a sprinkling of Mellotron, the instrumentation forgoes the electronics of old; with the backing vocals of Marlon Williams, James Milne, Phoebe Bridgers and Clairo adding The Mamas & The Papas-style harmonies.
A desire for dreamy escape looms large. Powered by Bob Dylan’s drummer Matt Chamberlain, The Path imagines Lorde as a ‘teen millionaire’ cast away on a windswept island.
On Fallen Fruit — ‘we will walk together, psychedelic garlands in our hair’ — she harks back to San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district and 1967’s summer of love.
Her introspection is tempered with knowing humour. ‘I’m kinda like a prettier Jesus,’ she teases on the title track, before indulging in some Taylor Swift-style spoken asides on Secrets From A Girl (Who’s Seen It All).
The latter, a letter to her younger self, includes a cameo from Swedish singer Robyn. On board the fictional Strange Airlines, Robyn plays the role of a surreal flight attendant: ‘Your emotional baggage can be picked up at carousel number two,’ she deadpans.
Lorde’s distaste for the trappings of stardom is clear. She sings of ‘dutifully falling apart for the princess of Norway’ on The Man With The Axe and mocks her own fondness for high fashion and showbiz gossip on the droll Leader Of A New Regime, where she dreams of getting away from it all . . . as long as she can take ‘a trunkful’ of Simone Rocha and Phoebe Philo designer outfits and some celebrity magazines with her. There’s a twist, too, on Big Star, a piano piece that sounds, on first hearing, as if she’s singing about falling in love with someone famous. On closer listening, it turns out to be a touching tribute to her dog, Pearl, who died while she was making this album.
With its rhythms understated, Solar Power sometimes feels withdrawn (unlike the album cover, which has the singer skipping on a beach with her bottom on show).
There’s nothing here as immediate as Royals or 2017’s Green Light. In that respect, it’s a classic lockdown album. But the overriding mood is upbeat.
The title track evokes the brightness of George Michael’s Freedom! ’90, and Oceanic Feeling extols the virtues of outdoor living and quality time spent with friends and family in Auckland.
Solar Power is a grower — and an object lesson in letting a supremely talented star bide her time.
Jake Bugg also got his first taste of fame at a tender age. The mop-topped Nottingham singer was 18 when his self-titled debut LP, packed with rockabilly-based tunes, topped the charts in 2012. But his career stalled and matters weren’t helped when he turned to ill-fitting dance and hip-hop influences on 2016’s On My One.
Now 27, he’s back on track on fifth album Saturday Night, Sunday Morning, its title a nod to the gritty 1958 novel by Nottingham author Alan Sillitoe that was turned into a big-screen kitchen-sink drama starring Albert Finney. Not that there’s much grit on show here: this is a glossier Bugg with state-of-the-art pop adornments.
Jake Bugg performs during Standon Calling 2021 on July 25 this year in Standon. The mop-topped Nottingham singer was 18 when his self-titled debut LP, packed with rockabilly-based tunes, topped the charts in 2012
The singer entertains the crowd during Trent Rockets v Southern Braves at Trent Bridge, Nottingham, on July 24 this year
Rather than writing alone, he’s now more collaborative, working with hit-makers. The change of gear works well on Kiss Like The Sun and gospel-tinged All I Need. Elsewhere, his song writing struggles to cut through the album’s slick production.
But Bugg shines on the slower tracks. He sings in a higher register than usual on the melodramatic piano-and-strings Downtown, and is backed by co-writer Andrew Watt’s George Harrison-like guitar on ballad Scene.
Both albums are out today. Jake Bugg starts a tour at Newcastle City Hall on March 14, 2022 (ticketmaster.co.uk). Lorde starts her tour at the O2 Academy, Leeds, on May 25, 2022 (gigsandtours.com).