Sorcha Richardson digs deep while stretching wide on her new LP, ‘Smiling Like an Idiot.’ What results is an atmospheric landscape with glistening appeal and stories that are instantly hard to resist.
Stream: ‘Smiling Like an Idiot’ – Sorcha Richardson
Singer/songwriter Sorcha Richardson has just dropped her sophomore LP, Smiling Like An Idiot,
and we are too. Coming off a recent support slot on Mitski’s 2022 summer tour, the album also follows a powerful debut release back in 2019. First Prize Bravery spoke of her experiences as a young adult, greeted by critical acclaim from Nylon, The Irish Times, DIY, and yours truly, amongst others. Returning with her second album, the Dublin-born artist shows no signs of slowing down her ascent within the music world.
Smiling Like An Idiot chronicles a journey of self-exploration, uncertainty, and identity. Synths and acoustic guitars ring constantly throughout the record, keeping a balance between organic and electronic. Richardson does this seamlessly, crooning over the sonic landscape with tales of self-discovery and love. Juggling between a full production sound and acoustic room feel, tracks like “525” add sporadic touches of quiet in the whirlwind of songs like “Purgatory” and “Spotlight Television.”
Television lights the room
It’s glowing like a crescent moon
I told you I would be there soon, it’s late
Time is moving kind of slow
But still the weeds and roses grow
And it’s okay if we don’t know our fate
Crossed the line in 525
But was it just a kiss goodbye?
Dublin city’s shutting down
You’ve got your stuff, you’re leaving town
We lay awake, your fingers laced in mine
– “525,” Sorcha Richardson
This project sees Richardson speaking directly to her audience, with an unapologetic vulnerability that pulls you straight into her world; what we find is a sonic haven that encapsulates listeners with boundless production and captivating melodic progressions. With credits to Alex Casnoff (Sparks, Dawes, Harriet) on production, Richardson demonstrates her own production capabilities on “525” and “Holiday” (with co-production and engineering from David Curley), and “Jackpot” (with shared production credit from James Vincent McMorrow).
Opening on clean guitars and slide riffs, Richardson sings over slow bluesy arpeggios before bursting into bars of shimmering musicalities. This is “Archie,” and on this guitar-driven drum-rooted ballad, the intriguing titular character beckons, “’If you get a way out, call me when you land, I’ve been making posters, trying to start a band, waiting on the weekend, there’s nothing for me here,’ said ‘don’t you be a stranger, don’t you disappear.’”
The conception of Smiling Like an Idiot began in a time the world was forced into solitude.
Richardson began writing “Jackpot,” “Holiday,” “Good Intentions,” and standalone single “Starlight Lounge” in quick succession – kickstarting the creative process for a sophomore project when Richardson, like many others in the industry, wasn’t able to tour. Turning her living room into an at-home studio, Richardson defines the LP’s creation by solitude and many, many Zoom sessions.
“I had all the time in the world to make my second record,” she says.
The genre-bending Smiling Like an Idiot sees influences from everyone from LCD Soundsystem to Carole King as Richardson expresses her focus on capturing mood in the record, without paying much attention to genre. Richardson describes the cathartics and release she obtained through writing these songs; likewise embracing an inner tension, her subsequent songs often being informed by a nervous “undercurrent of anxiety.”
Indeed, the majority of these songs escape the confines of genre – where “Shark Eyes” feels like late night city nights and dejected disco, “Good Intentions” feels like the outer boundaries of indie rock, shoegaze and electropop.
“[The record] mostly tracks one specific relationship,” Richardson says. “It’s about falling in love with a person and a place, and how those two are interlinked.” The stories in this record highlight the intensity of new love, but also the fear that this could so easily be swept away. “I started to think about things that accompany that intense euphoria. The deep anxiety that can sometimes go with it. That feeling you get when you’re on a rollercoaster, ascending – it’s exhilarating and terrifying. I think fear is a very big part of falling in love.”
The album comes to a close on the title track, a picture postcard of cherished memories, old friends and pulling from her very own Dublin nostalgia. For all of Richardson’s poetry, she croons, “I never knew I could be so happy here,” looking to the future and what’s to come. Where Smiling Like an Idiot defies genre boxes and structures of linear creativity, Richardson’s stories give us the permission to indulge in our creative instincts and to embrace our most deepest reflections in self-discovery.
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