London’s Sorry have returned with their second record, Anywhere But Here. Their first album, 2020’s 925, didn’t entirely work for me. It incorporated a lot of unusual ideas into what was a laid-back pop-rock template, and that was very interesting. Ultimately, though, many of the songs on the record left me a little cold. On the other hand, Anywhere But Here still has plenty of unusual ideas, but Sorry’s songwriting has improved to a point where the new tracks are very likable.
The opener, “Let the Lights On”, effectively sets the stage. It begins with a short series of discordant guitar noises before a rock-solid rhythm section groove from bassist Campbell Baum and drummer Lincoln Barrett joins. Background voices can be heard talking before Asha Lorenz starts singing very melodically. “I love you / I wanna tell you I love ’cause I love you,” she says, as the background voices shout along with the second and third “I love you’s”. All throughout this opening verse, the guitar continues to skronk along dissonantly, giving the song a pleasing rough edge. It’s not until the chorus hits that the guitar joins the actual key of the song, playing a countermelody to Lorenz’s vocals.
The chorus is also where new official member Marco Pini, listed on the band’s bio as playing “electronics”, makes his presence known. Synth drums pop up, blooping along as an accent sound. Once the second verse gets going, Pini is there, playing synth chords. He is also there on the outro, playing a simple piano melody. The song finishes with a single, low piano note, to scattered applause from (presumably) the same folks doing the background chatter at the beginning.
“Let the Lights On” is a strong beginning. It’s exuberant and exciting and still a little weird. The best moments throughout Anywhere But Here have a similar effect. The loping “Willow Tree” certainly works in this way. Lorenz and Louis O’Bryen do co-lead vocals here. Lorenz is high and singing, while O’Bryen is low and speak-singing. It’s an odd contrast that pairs very well with the guitar parts that sound just a bit out of tune. Pini’s electronic sounds flutter in and out while the drums bump along, and the bass occasionally leaves the pocket to echo the guitars. The song hits a bridge, with the vocalists whispering, “Will she love me / Will she / Either way it’s gonna stop,” which is a striking enough change. Out of nowhere, though, a soft trumpet shows up, doubled by a guitar, into a genuinely jazzy little breakdown. It’s a surprising and delightful moment in an already-charming song.
“Step” goes from hook to hook, opening with a catchy guitar and bass duet before Lorenz quietly repeats, “I had to take a step.” Then it’s distorted guitar locking in with a tom-heavy drumbeat. The chorus shifts again to a sparse and chunky beat with Lorenz singing out, “I built a song / For me and you to live in.” When the verse returns, Pini adds an accordion part and some subtle horns, which stick around through the rest of the track. These are precisely the sort of earworms that Sorry struggled to produce on their first record, and it’s an excellent example of what they’re doing differently this time.
“Baltimore”, which begins with a piano and bass duet, has an effectively melancholy mood. Lorenz numbly intones, “I hit my head on a rock in Baltimore / I lost my child at that sea.” An equally melancholy guitar plays arpeggios to accompany the vocals. Short stabs of distorted guitar pop up briefly in this section before taking over at the 1:05 mark and completely changing the song’s feel to a dark rocker. A brief return to the melancholy opening follows, but the rest of the track is hard-hitting and intense.
These are Anywhere But Here‘s most striking songs, but the entire record is rock solid. “Tell Me”, which features one of O’Bryen’s few lead vocals on the album, builds from just a guy and his guitar in the intro to a full-on guitar freakout like Radiohead‘s “Just” by the end. “There’s So Many People That Want to Be Loved” somehow finds the intersection between Kimya Dawson‘s conversational tone, an Americana track, and bouncing Britpop. “Hem of the Fray” is driven by an excellent watery bass tone from Baum and has a menacing feel. “Quit While You’re Ahead” uses acoustic guitar and buzzing synths to evoke the turn-of-the-century feeling of a Badly Drawn Boy track.
Stylistically, Anywhere But Here is not a significant shift from Sorry’s debut album. The tweaks they have made are very successful, though. They sound like a full band now, not just an extension of Lorenz and O’Bryen’s ideas. Barrett, Baum, and Pini each add character to the songs and have standout moments. Lorenz and O’Bryen have also found a way to incorporate catchy melodies into their tracks. The result is a batch of songs that feel like they’re poking at rock and pop conventions without being a full-on piss-take against rock music. This approach means Anywhere But Here is more rewarding the more it’s listened to.