Album Review | Sorcha Richardson Has Every Right To Be Smiling Like An Idiot
After penning and recording the follow up to 2019’s First Prize Bravery during lockdown after lockdown while watching the live music industry struggle and all but disappear, Sorcha Richardson has every right to be happy, hopeful and in love on Smiling Like An Idiot.
Her second record opens with ‘Archie’, the story of the possibilities teenage friendship represents. With her soft, resonant voice and steady, rhythmic delivery, Richardson lulls the audience into a trance. This coming-of-age tale follows a friendship from the highest highs (waiting for a Britney song to come on at a party to dance together), to the lowest lows (she moves away, and when he calls, all he can do is ask about the various tragedies happening in her new home and the break-up of his band).
“I won’t hate you if you don’t/But if you ever make that call/I’ll meet you on the dancefloor” concludes Richardson, and it is the image of this dancefloor that carries the listener through to the sliding doors and synths of ‘Shark Eyes’.
With that, we are in Sorcha’s world.
Richardson’s universe is a cinematic place, full of neon lights and churches, cathedrals and graveyards. It is a blend of Dublin, LA, Manchester and New York. Comparing it to the latent concept of a particular brand of shiny indie film wouldn’t do it justice – give it more feeling, more melody and Smiling Like an Idiot might almost be what you get.
The atmosphere builds from that very first song, and ‘525’ is the dip. Stripped back to Richardson’s voice and an acoustic guitar, there is nowhere left to hide. It is between this song and ‘Good Intentions’ that the tone of Smiling Like an Idiot shifts from denial and hopelessness to undeniable hope.
‘Good Intentions’ is a finger-click; a wake-up call, to bring the listener out of the trance they have been lulled into by the steady, pulsing beats of earlier songs. The singer is ready to let herself feel the jolt. She can no longer pretend. And so she doesn’t.
In the past, Richardson has been compared to the likes of Julien Baker and Phoebe Bridgers – which is undoubtedly high praise – but with Smiling Like An Idiot, it can’t be said that the singer is anyone but herself. Whether it be a slow, acoustic melody like ‘525’, or an upbeat burst of synth like ‘Shark Eyes’, her versatility and style is most definitely her own. Building on the sound of First Prize Bravery, Richardson pays homage to her debut in the lyrics, but Smiling Like An Idiot is a tighter and more cohesive body of work. Sorcha is in her element now.
As the album comes to a close, the sweetness of love, both romantic and platonic, is woven through the title track. On ‘Smiling Like an Idiot’, Richardson is euphoric and full of optimism. The future belongs to her and her friends. Within the context of this stunning sophomore album, it’s not hard to see why.