Lorde is back with her first album since 2017’s Melodrama and Solar Power has been hailed as “a tonic for dark days”.
The New Zealand-born singer, 24, made her long-awaited return in June with the release of the album’s sunny single that gives the record its title.
In a newsletter to fans earlier this year, she said the album is “a celebration of the natural world, an attempt at immortalising the deep, transcendent feelings I have when I’m outdoors”.
Lorde added: “In times of heartache, grief, deep love, or confusion, I look to the natural world for answers. I’ve learnt to breathe out, and tune in. This is what came through.”
The Guardian praised the record’s understated beauty, writing: “Few have attempted to bid farewell to mainstream pop stardom as prettily as Lorde does on her third album.
“It opens with a guitar picking a gentle, woozy-sounding figure. A flute glides beatifically by and Lorde offers a grim depiction of life as a teenager superstar – complete with ‘nightmares from the camera flash’ – before apparently saying goodbye to all that: ‘alone on a windswept island’, she ‘won’t take the call if it’s the label or radio’. ‘If you’re looking for a saviour,’ she adds, ‘that’s not me’, which would sound a little self-aggrandising had the world of online fandom not become so overheated that whenever a female pop star posts anything on social media, the responses are clogged up by stans calling them ‘mum’, ‘queen’ and ‘goddess’.”
Pitchfork said: “Once, a Lorde album was a monument years in the making, but here she asks us to be satisfied with everyday beauty, unassuming arrangements of guitar, keys, percussion, and voice.
“Produced once again with the ubiquitous Jack Antonoff, Solar Power sounds more interesting when it bottles the jasmine air of Laurel Canyon folk, less interesting when it emulates that sound’s descendants in early-2000s soft rock (Sheryl Crow, Jewel) without any of the hooks or energy of radio pop.”
Esquire described the record as “a tonic for dark days”, with critic Olivia Ovenden writing: “Solar Power is an album that feels grounded in the earth, both in the landscapes she sings about and the naturalistic sound of the record, void of the synths and auto-tune which crept into Melodrama.
“But if that album was one kind of performance – with her ‘cherry black lipstick’, that is now ‘gathering dust in a drawer’, as she sings on ‘Oceanic Feeling’ – then Solar Power is another guise for another dawn.
“A moment of standing in the sunshine as the shade retreats, even if the darkness won’t be gone for long.”
NME said the album increases in power with each listen, adding: “The 24-year-old laments how quickly her last decade has slipped by, and the gorgeous ‘Stoned At The Nail Salon’ sees her meditate on growing up.
“‘All the beautiful girls, they will fade like the roses,’ Lorde notes, later adding: ‘All the music you loved at 16, you’ll grow out of.’
“Solar Power, though, doesn’t feel like a record that will suffer that same fate – this is an album that grows in quiet stature with every listen, new nuggets of wisdom making their way to the surface, peeking through its beautiful instrumentation that weaves a stunning, leafy tapestry.
“Few artists strike gold on every record they create but, for the third time in a row, Lorde has done it again, crafting yet another world-beater.”
However the Evening Standard said the record gave the impression Lorde has stopped trying.
The review said: “Solar Power sounds like an opting out from wider pop culture altogether.
“It’s a musical resignation letter, advising her fans to look elsewhere for a saviour in the first song. On the title track, she’s thrown her phone in the ocean, and by the third song, California, she’s rejecting the LA life in favour of sunbathing in her home town.
“It’s an admirable stance, and wouldn’t we all love to pack in our jobs and escape to the beach, but it’s less fun for the listener to spend time with songs that seem to take pride in their lack of ambition.
“Even the big single sounds slight, and too many others are satisfied with some acoustic strums and noodled electric guitar notes. It’s pretty, but feels flimsy and will likely shrink her audience considerably. She won’t be sad – it sounds like that’s the plan.”