“My boyfriends back and he’s cooler than ever”
I don’t mean to start this review on the negative, because so much about this album makes it Lana Del Rey’s best, and my favourite second to Born to Die, but something about the above lyric literally makes me wanna die of laughter. It reminds me of being 12 years old, and getting into an argument with someone and using your older siblings as ammunition. “Don’t make me call my older brother”, as if he was gonna come and beat up some kids in his spare time.
It feels like a line someone who would hang at Silver City Yorkdale would say to her fellow chonga, moments after they got into a heated argument over whether or not they should go across to Starbucks in Indigo and get a frappuccino for the movie. “Omg, we gotta head back to the movie, I told you we didn’t have enough time to make it here and back. “yeah but isn’t your boyfriend back from Queens, he could save us seats!”
“no, he’s not saving us seats, but he is back, and he’s cooler than ever”.
But let’s put aside this one lyric, because I could probably write an entire essay on Lana Del Rey’s use, and obsession with the word cool. Let’s instead bathe in what is Lana’s most nostalgic and hopeful record. ( Did I just say bathe???) As usual she brings her breathy, old school croon to the forefront, and provides a gate into a universe that is so distinctively Lana. It’s as if Lana has harnessed Super Mario 64′s ability to send Mario into distinct realms, and has provided us a gateway into the Lana Del Rey universe.
Let’s assume Lana was influenced by Super Mario 64, each song would be a pretty sweet world for Mario to peruse in. Imagine, seeing our favourite plumber in the music video for “Love”….Coney Island 1960’s edition? Yes please…Nintendo make it happen. Lana acts as a liaison between the real world and her fictional world, and she so graciously welcomes you in with grandiose and atmospheric production, as well as incredible lyrical imagery. She’s harnessed her lyrical content, and has grown from her on the nose lyricism that was often criticized, to more personal metaphors, that are rewarding and challenging to uncode. Her story telling is expanding, and with that her sound is becoming more diversified.
Del Rey seems to have grown from a struggling heroin, so caught up in her past and what she knows, into a well seasoned adult, who is just trying to make sure the youth of today learn from her mistakes. She seems motherly, on tracks like “Love”, where she defends the millennial youth, and our anxieties about modern love, while also growing in her confidence as an arranger and producer. The album is far more confident in sound than her past, and sonically it is more expansive, even going as far as using features for the first time in her tenure.
Tracks like “Cherry” and “In my Feelings” feel, and sound like Alt-J produced songs, with the gloomy production and sudden “hey” yelps. Similar to that of “Intro” on This is all Yours. And then “When the World was at War we Kept Dancing”, seems to feature a beat that sounds like “Hotline Bling” by Drake. Influence is clearly coming in from many genres, and so with it comes a very diversified and in depth musical composition.
The album is tough to place into a genre. It still features Lana’s broody dark production, but is highlighted by some amazing organic instrumentation, and electronic touches. Not to mention the star of the show being, her clearly far improved vocals. Gone are the days of music journalists questioning her vocal range and capability, as she puts out no stops on this exhibition. She ranges from a low croon, to a full falsetto, to even sounding like a distressed chihuahua on “In my Feelings”. She swoons, and croons, and everything lands as extremely authentic and honest.
Tracks like “Summer Bummer”, and “Groupie Love”, provide a hip hop style jam, that is sure to activate the neck muscles of the unacquainted Lana fans. “Love”, is a sentiment to old school summer, and it’s impossible not to yelp as you drive home at dusk. Tracks like “Cherry” and “When the World was at War we Kept Dancing”, provide stand out substance on an album that would usually be intimidating in length.
The album rarely stumbles, and when it does, it’s because it’s simply just a little bit too long. When you take a break and come back, the refresher is proof that each song is valuable to the record. Each songs warrants repeat listens, never going as far as being dull. “Tomorrow Never Came” featuring Sean Ono Lennon, is a beautiful ode to The Beatles, and is perhaps the best song Sean has ever made. A wonderful duet between the two is accented by 60’s style Beatles production, and perfect vocal harmonies. If you close your eyes, you literally get transported to a remote cottage at the end of summer, with the sun setting, and when you turn, you simply see Sean in the shape of John making his way to the port. You sit and watch the sunset, as you serenade each other to sleep.
Gone are the days of sad, mopey, depressing Lana (for now), and instead we get a hopeful and honest depiction of her current state of mind. A depiction that is exciting, enticing, and welcoming. Perhaps her most approachable album since Born to Die, I can’t express how much I enjoy the 1 hour 14 minute ride through Lana’s universe.