Artist: Lana Del Rey
Tracks: 11 (+6 Bonus)
Release Date: 13th June 2014
When we feel sad, the body sends a rush of serotonin to the brain in a desperate measure to counteract the sadness. The feeling of sadness per se, is affirmation of existence, we feel the tangible emotion as equally as we do happiness and that, is how we know we’re alive, that intense over-sensitivity is proof that we’re not dead yet.
Ultraviolence is the catalyst to this process, and Lana Del Rey proves to us that we’re still kicking. It was apparent with her début album Lana Del Rey in 2010 and her sophomore effort Born to Die in 2012 that she is a woman capable of stirring up deep and terrible emotions in humanity and in this strange way, is capable of making us feel good, and content listening to the tracks. When we take a look at Ultraviolence, which was mostly produced by The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, we can take my past statement into consideration.
I have few favourite tracks from the record, one of which being Brooklyn Baby. Now, the fourth track from the album is one of the most reminiscent of the previous album Born to Die in the sense that it glorifies the 21st Century, that is to say, many artists will seek the glory of a past time when things may or may not have been better, but the language Lana uses is undoubtedly contemporary and acts as an effort to remind the listener that maybe 2014 still has something fresh to offer us. I also feel that in many ways Born to Die is very glamorous and seems to have been written for the 1920′s show-girl with an unhealthy propensity for benzodiazepine. Brooklyn Baby offers many of the same ideology: “I’ve got feathers in my hair, I get down to Beat poetry, and my jazz collection’s rare…” Here we see my point, Jazz Age language and yet later in the song, hints to more modern conventions in terms of music and reflection. In short, she seems to have taken the same foundations of Born to Die but presented them in a more blues-like genre. The song itself as is catchy as always, plenty of vocal hooks and almost poetic choruses. This is matched with familiar gentleness with guitar chords and loosely layered song-writing.
The opening track Cruel World is another mesmerizing example of the dreariness to the record, and in this instance, I talk of its dreariness in a positive aspect. It opens elegantly, sounding distant, through a tin can, with Auerbach’s influence on the guitar, bad-tempered hard plucks of the strings, Lana singing as always with intense melody making it very easy to sing a long with. She jumps between pitches masterfully and in great control of her voice and makes it clear she is aware of her range. Overall it’s a very slow song, not dissimilar to Born to Die but as I’ve said previously, it’s a more melancholic rework of songs we could have heard before. Disappointingly, as her previous album had so much presence on the track from ambience and walls of sound it made it hard to ignore, whereas these tracks could slip by without noticing.
‘Ultraviolence’ Alternate Cover
West Coast is one of the first and only tracks from Ultraviolence that I feel offers something new to Lana’s song-writing and delivery. It opens with unmistakable groove, pulsating and dirty, inhuman and captivating, almost funk and blues mixed together with dashes of urgency and desperation, it’s one of the fastest tracks on the record, and when placed along Brooklyn Baby and Sad Girl it’s speed offers a real juxtaposition, offering a feeling of real excitement. The vocals are delivered quickly, almost as if Lana is singing a rap, or a hip-hop song, yet in Del Rey style they’re delivered as Sinatra would, but with her own slur and accent. The pre-chorus builds the tension in the song, more than others. A complaint you could have with Lana is that despite her lyricism and song construction, there’s not usually a cause to get the blood rate rising. This is why I feel West Coast is one of those stand-out songs of the record, it really makes you feel something other than the desperation and isolation that normally comes with a Lana Del Rey record.
Although there is no song on the album that comes close in terms of speed and enthralling delivery, the only other song that comes close to being on par with West Coast, is perhaps Sad Girl. It’s a track that opens and within the first thirty seconds, you can already hear at least three styles of music. It sounds very Oriental in its opening, like the pipe soundtrack to a Shaolin monk workout, very airy and conjures up images of Chinese mountainsides, which progresses to moody electric guitar, something much like what you could expect Clapton to write on one of his darker nights. Then comes Lana’s eerie voice, this time without the accent, without slurs or lazy elocution, but very clean vocals, like a more angelic Barbara Streisand or less powerful Nina Simone. The vocal melody is almost parallel with the instrumentation and offers pleasant listening for the last waltz on a ball room.
Overall, Ultraviolence is definitely an album to have on your list of albums to listen to in the next five minutes. It’s packed with beautiful melodies, barbed instrumentalism, and in some respects displays Lana’s lighter-side and far more technical side, and diehards won’t have anything worry about, there will be plenty of one-liners to put on your Tumblr. Alternatively, if you’re looking for something to pick your mood up, or something that’s easy-listening, Lana Del Rey’s newest album is not the one for you.
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