Gordi's 'Our Two Skins' Is an Unvarnished Document of Personal Discovery
Gordi's Our Two Skins chronicles difficulties and revelations against a backdrop of electronic-inspired folk.
Our Two Skins
26 June 2020
Our Two Skins, the latest album from Sophie Payten – professionally known as Gordi – begins with a bit of catharsis. "Aeroplane Bathroom" was written on a flight from her native Australia to Europe. She had a lot on our mind, recently completing her medical doctorate studies, ending a long-term relationship, and leaving a country that was embroiled in a same-sex marriage referendum. Accompanied primarily by piano, Gordi sings: "Do you see yourself unraveling / Do you know that these bones were always mine?" Later, she makes it even simpler: "I can't get my shit together in this aeroplane bathroom / I'm wondering why I haven't seen myself before."
Our Two Skins is about discovery, finding one's true self, and making peace with it. But while "Aeroplane Bathroom" employs a stark, sparse arrangement, much of the album has more of an indie-pop feel. "Folktronica" is a term that's tossed around a lot when describing Gordi's music, but it fits here. Recorded in Gordi's remote Australian hometown of Canowindra, she's joined by Chris Messina and Zach Hanson, whose combined resumes include Bon Iver, Bruce Hornsby, Tallest Man, Big Red Machine and Waxahatchee. A curious combination of tenderness, edge, and pop smarts are infused into Our Two Skins, Gordi's first full-length album since 2017's Reservoir.
But whatever hooks make their way into the album, they never dull the edge of the lyrics. Against a gentle, chugging rhythm, Gordi sings with mighty eloquence of an irresistible love on "Extraordinary Life". "It's like you're in my chest, it's like you're in my lungs," she sings. "Took something ordinary, sent it for a run / The way I need you now is more than to survive / I want to give you an extraordinary life." But Our Two Skins is also about the sadness and uncertainty of distance, as on the soulful closing ballad "Free Association". Her imagery is both novelistic and relatable: "I was in Detroit and on the phone / As I stood by the ice machine / We lost the connection / And the dread began to ripple through me."
The album also addresses the bonds of family. Gordi's grandmother, obviously an enormous influence in her life, is the inspiration behind two of the album's songs. The guitar-driven, mid-tempo "Sandwiches" is one: "When I think of you a movie-reel of moments plays / We'll be in the car or after mass on Saturdays." Also, there's the quiet, electronic-tinged "Volcanic", which she wrote while grappling with the decision of telling the ailing, strict Catholic matriarch about her sexuality. The whole album is something of a tribute to her late grandmother. "Her whole life was in Canowindra, and that's why I wanted to make the record there," Gordi explains in the album's press materials. "We made it in a house that's a hundred meters from her house."
The soft, tender moments on Our Two Skins are tempered with plenty of pop earworms, particularly on "Unready", which contains plenty of smart production touches and surprising amounts of warmth and depth. Gordi's voice is also a treasure – managing to combine the youthful honesty of Marika Hackman with the world-weary wisdom of Tanita Tikaram.
"The way you touch me / The way you love me / I have never known," Gordi sings in the profoundly emotional ballad, "Radiator". These are simple lines that you could find in any number of pop songs. But Gordi sings them with a devastating level of tenderness and depth. Our Two Skins is an album full of emotions – sadness, happiness, hope, love, loss – and all of it deeply felt and straight from the heart.