London alt group Sorry—Asha Lorenz (vocals), Louis O’Bryen (vocals, guitar), Lincoln Barett (drums), Campbell Baum (bass), and Marco Pini (synths)—is difficult to pin down, and that’s what makes them so special.
Sorry first came onto my radar when their showbiz-focused single, “Starstruck,” was ingrained in my mind via Lorenz’s signature “Eugh!” that rolls around with each chorus. It quickly became a track I could listen to on repeat for hours, and I would still do so (unapologetically) today. It was obvious: I was under their trance from the very beginning.
In meshing toe-tapping lo-fi pop riffs and brash electronics with hypnotic melodies, Sorry has been on the fast-track toward a major breakthrough since their formal introduction in 2014. Though their debut record, 925 (via Domino), has been a long-time coming, it’s no question that listeners with the band on their radar have been foaming at the mouth to get their hands on it. With the record’s release on March 27, it was as if the earth’s tectonic plates were forced to realign according to Sorry’s will (as they should be). At least for me, it’s an instant classic.
Throughout this release, the band’s enticing energy persists, culminating in a master-class of equal parts danceable earworm and luscious ballad. In a word or two, it’s one of the first debut records that I’ve personally been excited about in a while, largely influenced by the band’s daring and seemingly careless attitude. They seem not to care whether or not what they’re doing will be commercially accepted; it’s all about passion. They’re not pinned down by genre or standard musical conventions, which makes them all the more spellbinding.
This record’s strong-suit lies in its instrumental experimentation—despite Sorry’s typical vox-bass-guitar-drums structure, the band hasn’t rested on their laurels, introducing elements of strings and brass, lo-fi electronics, and more. From “Ode to Boy’s” inclusion of a harmonic choir to “Perfect’s” upbeat pop-song structure (despite depicting a conversation between the narrator and “the devil”), what Sorry lacks in musical uniformity they make up for in creative prowess and versatility. The tracklist, in that sense, bounces back and forth between bass-booming club hit to somber ballad, and yet, everything meshes together seamlessly.
From the very first track, “Right Round the Clock,” it’s clear that 925 isn’t any ordinary record. Introducing saucy brass and keys, sneakily reminiscent of the Pink Panther theme, “Right Round the Clock” portrays a certain sensuality (present, too, with the album’s subtly seductive cover). On this track, Lorenz’s sultry vocals creep around the corner, later joined by O’Bryen’s deep lull, helping her describe this mysterious figure with “those ‘fuck me’ eyes.”
With the line, “The dreams in which we’re famous are the best I’ve ever had,” Sorry takes a spin on Tears for Fears’ ’80s hit, “Mad World,” fantasizing, instead, about success, as opposed to the former’s longing for death. Maybe it’s my bias in favor of the band speaking, but with such a brilliant single and holistic record considered, it would be hard to believe if Sorry’s name couldn’t be seen in bright lights in the near future.
The following track, “In Unison,” begins with spine-chilling orchestral elements and whispered vocals. As the line “One day we’re here, one day we die,” concludes, Lorenz is joined by intensely brash strings and shoulder-rolling drums (note: on the second time this verse comes around, a flatline can be heard). This track introduces Sorry’s morbidly embittered attitude; the band is unafraid to be bluntly realistic, even if that means their words come across like a slap in the face. They’re brutal and, at the same time, emotionally raw.
“Snakes didn’t even scare me quite like you did,” Lorenz contests on single, “Snakes,” introducing a softer side to that sense of realism. This track contains a distinctly regretful melancholy. It’s haunting, from Lorenz’s intimate confession to the instrumental malaise via simple chords and drawling strings. A lot of 925 relays this same sort of reflective tone, looking back on the trials and tribulations of relationships, the standards of life and love. In this case, things didn’t end well, but even so, Lorenz finds herself wanting to “tell [them] that [she] thinks about [them] very much” when she gets a little drunk.
“Rosie” is another key example of this record’s vulnerability. Whether “Rosie” is an actual person or possibly some other crutch, it’s clear that the relationship between she and the narrator is strained. “Rosie, Rosie you have nothing in your rose garden / for me,” Lorenz sighs.
Similarly, with “As the Sun Sets,” Lorenz’s vocals are much more subdued, backed by a stripped, almost jovial instrumentation (much contrasting the sorrowful lyrical material). Lorenz finds herself pacing back and forth, struggling to cope with the loss of a lover and the reality of that loss: “And I cry crystalized tears / and I want to be blind / So I stare up to the sky / and flood myself in the light,” she croons and you can’t help but feel a tug on your heartstrings and an eerie sense of relatability.
Setting a stark contrast, “Wolf,” the following track, is bass-heavy and dark: “as the sun set” with the former, now, the full moon has risen and the wolves are out to play. Backed with howls and drenched in lo-fi, “Wolf” has the ability to make your hairs stand on end (whether from fear or intrigue, who knows?)
Toward the end of the record’s enchanting tracklist comes “More,” one of the band’s most infectious singles. Drenched with lust and backtracked by aggressive drums and screaming guitar, it was easy to tell that this track would be an album highlight as soon as it was released as a single earlier this year. As the track ends after its nearly 2-minute run-time, listeners are left wanting more, and more, and more (myself included).
Soon after, the record’s final act is an updated version of “Lies,” rung in with head-rolling electronic elements and sleazy bass riffs, turning the track into a sinister lo-fi ballad. “Heaven’s waiting / That’s what I’ve been saying,” Lorenz claims, backed by a chilling guitar solo as the track fades to black.
As 925 comes to a close, you’re left feeling as though you’ve gone through the ringer, an emotional rollercoaster that ended as quickly as it started. That’s the thing with Sorry: you can’t help but become totally entrenched in the web they’re weaving—they tell the tales of a purgatory wherein fever dreams and hellish nightmares intertwine, and it’s impossible not to fall under their spell. That compelling energy about them makes my job as a reviewer incredibly difficult: how can you describe something so close to “Perfect” adequately?
Noting the current global pandemic in our midst, having a record like Sorry’s 925 to invest in whilst social-distancing is a dream come true. Though it might be a second until we can catch these hits performed in a live setting (due to the holds placed on social gatherings of more than 10 persons at the moment), it’s certain that this album is to prompt countless one-person dance parties stateside and abroad. So, what are you waiting for?