Album Of The Week

Album Of The Week: Sorry 925

Sorry took a different path. In their early days, they didn’t make themselves known by releasing a couple standalone singles, nor did they put out an EP, per se. Instead, they threw two homemade mixtapes online, stringing together their demos, sharp choruses and rough sketch ideas alike. They’re a rock band whose initial work took a form more typical to another genre. More importantly, they’re a rock band who reflected a specific generation: less definitive statements and more a portrait of young and invigorated artists figuring it out in real-time.

Things would get more traditional for Sorry. They were actually already signed to Domino when they uploaded the mixtapes, and they soon began refining those sketches in the studio and releasing them as singles. And now, two and a half years after that first mixtape, they’re finally unveiling an actual album. If the mechanism is more conventional, the content remains faithful to Sorry’s distinctive ethos. Their official debut, 925, bears all the characteristics of hungry, wandering minds not tied to pre-established structures.

It took a long time for 925 to materialize. Versions of some if its songs date back to the mixtapes, meaning tracks like “Snakes” and “Lies” were released in some form almost three years ago. They began its rollout, in a sense, all the way back in November of 2018 upon the release of “Starstruck,” which kicked off a series of 925 singles released over the subsequent year-and-a-half. It’s a fitting arc for an album that is carefully, intricately put together but at the same time is constantly mutating, as if the songs are wrestling themselves into being. In a way, we’ve been watching Sorry make this album for years. In a way, we’ve been watching them become themselves out in the open.

In approach and nature, 925 could only come from kids raised on the internet: run-on sentences, half-thoughts, a tendency to take a bit of everything and throw it together in unexpected and idiosyncratic ways. On some level, Sorry have more in common with rising Gen Z pop dispositions; spiritually, they are more akin to Billie Eilish than, say, the new array of buzzy guitar bands from their own London and from the neighboring Dublin. But 925 is not the sort of chaotic genre-atheism of something like 100 Gecs. Sorry are still a rock band, it’s just that they make a rock music that doesn’t follow contemporary context or logic. Theirs is an artier strain that is broken down and rebuilt over and over, constantly bristling against the confines of the form.

There is another key aspect to what makes Sorry the way they are. The genesis of the band was with Asha Lorenz and Louis O’Bryen, who have since been joined by drummer Lincoln Barrett and bassist Campbell Baum but remain the core duo leading the group. Lorenz and O’Bryen met when they were children, and are lifelong friends who began playing music together as teenagers. They have their own insular language, built over years with lives intertwined and transforming together.

It’s not like the band has two singers who take turns, or duet occasionally. Lorenz takes the lead most often, but she and O’Bryen murmur beneath and talk over each other; they finish each other’s thoughts and they cut each other off. 925 could be a complete mess, with songs constantly switching moods and shape. Instead, the symbiosis between Lorenz and O’Bryen holds the whole thing together, resulting in the sound of two restless people moving in their own respective directions but always in a kind of tandem.

925 is 43 minutes and 13 tracks long, but it often feels like it sprawls out well beyond that. The album blurs by as different songs flit between discrete passages and new melodies, but it simultaneously feels like a head fog Lorenz and O’Byren are inviting you to come settle into with them. Initially, it almost doesn’t register as 13 individual tracks, but a continued outgrowth of that mixtape format, songs not so much functioning as multi-part sagas but moving unpredictably through ideas that might not seem like they were supposed to go together at first.

The whole aesthetic feels distinctly contemporary, born from all those dizzying words and concepts flashing across our screens and into our heads. The result, however, doesn’t exactly sound overstuffed and overstimulated so much as relatably world-weary. 925 resembles haggard late-night conversations more often than not, all languid guitars and bleary-eyed sax blurts and melancholic melodies and precisely ramshackle arrangements that sometimes lean towards being willfully ugly. But the way the band has woven all of it together makes 925 a transfixing debut. Even several listens in, you often don’t know where each song is going to go next.

Take “Right Round The Clock,” the album’s immaculately off-kilter opener. A limping barroom piano-and-sax intro sets up a story about directionless nights over gurgling electronics, and then each time the chorus comes back around the song locks into this unshakable, seasick groove, like anything tentative or uneasy in Sorry’s music has now been weaponized. And that’s before you get to the part where they suddenly interpolate the Tears For Fears classic “Mad World” — Lorenz and O’Bryen instead singing “The dreams in which we’re famous are the best I’ve ever had” — and O’Bryen leads a new left turn section into a final, even more emphatic reading of the chorus. It is, in some ways, one of the more traditional songs on 925, yet at the same time it packs so much information, so many tangents, into four minutes that there’s no way it should be as infectious and punchy as it is.

It perfectly sets the stage for the rest of 925, the album swaying then heaving between amorphous anxiety clouds like “In Unison” or the strung-out “Rock ‘N’ Roll Star” and more contained moments like the corroded Britpop of “Starstruck” and “Perfect.” From the woozy, half-drunk swoon of the chorus in “Heather” and the lovelorn “Rosie” to the fittingly twilit “As The Sun Sets,” they even allow themselves to be genuinely pretty on occasion. All along the way, what might at first seem like Sorry throwing a bunch of random shit at the wall coheres thanks to their innate pop sensibility, with little specific moments — the “Ugh!” punctuations of “Starstruck,” the end-times sigh of the chorus in “As The Sun Sets,” all manner of percussive O’Bryen background interjections from “In Unison” to “Perfect” — providing anchors-by-way-of-inescapable-hooks within the psychological-overload haze of the album.

If the frayed, meandering instrumentation didn’t make it clear, the end result of Sorry’s minds firing off in every direction is typically a depressed, burnt-out comedown. Many of the lyrics deal with broken relationships, whether chasing the wrong people (and wrong perceptions) in “Right Round The Clock” or the titular animal not scaring Lorenz as much as a former flame in “Snakes.” One of the most evocative sequences comes in “As The Sun Sets,” where passing an ex prompts Lorenz to imagine “As the sun sets I really want to run into it”; when she concludes the song with the Louis Armstrong-nodding refrain “Then I think to myself/ What a wonderful world/ What a hell of a day/ What a beautiful girl,” it sounds like a gorgeous depiction of defeat rather than any slice of sincere hope.

Sorry are working through a lot on 925, and they don’t always go about it in ways that seem like they’ll improve the situation. With all this strife and distance between people, the songs most often find their characters in listless, self-destructive situations. The dead-end dalliance in “Rock ‘N’ Roll Star” and its disgustingly guttural sax squawks choke like a mockery of old-time-y rock music. The throbbing “More” relishes the words “more” and “drugs” over and over, as if acknowledging that there’s a yawning emptiness at the core of 925 that can’t be filled, no matter how many illicit substances or one-night stands, no matter how many withered sonic fragments the band can tie up as one. Altogether it’s a portrait of being young and not having much of a clue how things are ever going to level out: “When will you get around to doing what you’re supposed to?” Lorenz demands on “In Unison,” O’Bryen chirping “Soon!” unconvincingly in the background.

And yet, it does come together in the end. 925 is a testament to that. The album doesn’t offer many answers; at the same time the music is overflowing with ideas, it sounds dirtied and wan. Sorry corral the feeling of the days on which your mind feels the most drained by the sheer amount of everything happening outside, everything happening in your head, everything happening on your phone. Their music somehow speaks it back to you in a language that makes sense. In depicting life moving ahead but out of focus, and in capturing moments and lines and scenes that stand out in the whole swampy mess of it, Sorry emerged with one of the most fully-realized debuts in recent memory. They had to take their time with it: This is the sound of rifling through debris, and the strange new things you can build with what’s worth saving.

925 is out 3/27 via Domino. Pre-order it here.

Other albums of note out this week:
• Pearl Jam’s often pretty, slightly adventurous Gigaton.
• Waxahatchee’s demanding, yet joyous and ultimately rejuvenating Saint Cloud.
• Nicolás Jaar’s Cenizas, which we’ll address shortly.
• Dua Lipa’s sparkling sophomore effort Future Nostalgia, moved up from next week.
• Half Waif’s characteristically gorgeous, emotive The Caretaker.
• Deeper’s post-punk exorcism Auto-Pain.
• Little Dragon’s reliable, welcoming New Me, Same Us.
• Margaret Glaspy’s collection of love songs, Devotion.
• FACS’ claustrophobically intense new album Void Moments.
• Nap Eyes’ rangey, roadworn Snapshot Of A Beginner.
• The Orb’s 17th album, Abolition Of The Royal Familia.
• Sufjan Stevens’ instrumental New Age team-up with his stepfather (and Carrie & Lowell namesake) Lowell Brams, Aporia.
• Brian Fallon’s latest solo collection, Local Honey.
• Cable Ties’ sophomore outing Far Enough.
• Orion Sun’s debut album Hold Space For Me.
• Jessie Reyez’ official debut album Before Love Came To Kill Us.
• San Fermin’s The Cormorant I & II.
• Vanessa Carlton’s first album in five years, Love Is An Art.
• 5 Seconds Of Summer’s Calm.
• PartyNextDoor’s just-announced Partymobile.
• Dirty Projectors’ also just-announced EP, Windows Open.

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