As a title, Solar Power nods at Lorde's environmental concerns yet also neatly sums up the vibe of her third album. Leaving the sullen introspection of her teens behind, Lorde now basks in the sun, soaking up the rays and exuding good vibes. This doesn't mean Solar Power is an album riddled with uptempo bops and hooks, however. Lorde keeps things subdued and stoned, stretching out her tunes and burying her vocals underneath approximations of folk and chill-out pop. Every so often, songs threaten to emerge from the haze -- a lyric catches hold, melodies start to gain shape -- then they drift back into the mist where they swirl until they dissipate. Such formlessness feels deliberate; it's as if Lorde is consciously avoiding the path that would lead to a satisfying conclusion because she's more interested in the journey than the destination. Wandering can generate its own rewards provided you're in the mood to get lost. That sentiment applies to Solar Power. If you're riding and vibing with Lorde, this bright shapelessness is superb mood music. If you're not riding her wave, Solar Power can seem elusive, even cloying, as it circles and sways with a smile.
© Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo