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Lana Del Rey takes a road trip down memory lane

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On her sixth major album, Chemtrails Over the Country Club, Lana Del Rey wants to get away from it all.

After her great Californian epic of 2019, Norman _____ Rockwell !, maybe she just wants a change of scenery: I’m ready to leave LA and I want you to come, she announces on the new first albums single wanderlustful, Let me love you like a woman. The names of other Chemtrails songs stop during an American road trip, from Yosemite to Lincoln to Tulsa. But on some of the more moving moments on records, Del Rey seems to desire an even greater spiritual sense of oblivion: I’m in the wind, I’m in the water, the son of nobodys, the daughter of nobodys, she. sings over the haunting title song, sounding perfectly detached. During the opening number of the albums, White dress, she twirls on the upper edge of her vocal register, her aerial falsetto evaporating into the space around her like a fleeting, soon unreadable piece of writing from the sky.

White Dress, one of the most amazing albums, is a melancholy piano-pitched poem that evokes the emotional intensity of Cat Power and reimagines a simpler time when the narrator was a 19-year-old night waitress in all of them. places. at Norman Rockwells America Orlando, Florida. But she felt happy, capable: when I was a waitress, wearing a white dress, look how I do it, look how I got this. The tempo is in no rush, and the song records some of its most moving revelations, it makes me feel like maybe I was better for its unsettling final moments.

From the moment she emerged with the song of the semi-anachronistic torch Video games in 2011, Del Rey always called herself an old soul. Like much of his music, Chemtrails often bends backwards to capture an elusive and irremediable prelapse state. (As she said on one of her best songs, the unofficial 2019 anthem The Greatest, no one warns you until the fall.) Sometimes the past she glorifies is mass cultural (the Tulsa The muted and subtly automatically tuned Jesus Freak mine a Manson- family aesthetic similar to Quentin Tarantinos Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), but just as often on this record he’s very personal, yearning for wasted time while making music. was a carefree hobby and not a job for Del Reys. Throughout, Chemtrails finds her pondering the value of her art, wondering if it’s too late to return to the garden.

Fame is the recurring boogeyman albums, most explicitly on Dark but Just a Game, on languid guitar, which Del Rey says derives its name from what his producer Jack Antonoff told him as they pondered over. the tragic fate of so many stars. . (Chemtrails reunites Del Rey with Antonoff, who co-produced Norman with her and once again gives her floating voice the appropriate amount of elbow room.) Cameras have flashes, they cause car crashes, she sings on the Wild to Heart another highlight. On two other occasions, she refers to Candle in the Wind, that mass elegy that Elton John barely needed to rework to fit the fate of Marilyn Monroe and Princess Diana.

As easy as it can be to forget, however, the particular blue slab on the country club is hardly the whole sky. This finite perspective makes Chemtrails a more minor offering than Norman _____ Rockwell !, who took big swings and often logged in, capturing something that had been hard to articulate about his larger sense of unease. Perhaps to avoid repeating itself, Chemtrails finds Del Rey backing off, seeking a more insular glimpse.

When all his virtues work in rich melodies in tandem, surprises of composition, only-Lana-he would say turns phrase, the music of Del Reys casts a captivating spell. But in the moments when his tempos and timbres get a little repetitive, as they did on his sleepy 2015 album Honeymoon and do for a multi-song streak in the middle of that album, his limitations become obvious. Not All Who Wander Are Lost builds a chorus around the wisdom of bumper stickers, while vague lyrics like Let me love you like a woman, Let me hold you like a baby lacks the specificity of its best. songs.

At best, Del Reys’ hyper-referential music convincingly recreates the peculiar sense of encountering art in a postmodern era, when the past is so littered with valuable cultural artifacts that anything new is reminiscent of, at least one little, something old. But as she dances on that fine line between evoking and meaning, Del Rey sometimes risks subtracting her depth to things other artists have said more vividly before.

Such is the bet to finish an album with a cover of Joni Mitchell but here it is a risk that Del Rey succeeds. In a beautiful, respectful and harmonious rendition of For Free, she is joined by musicians Zella Day and Natalie Mering (who records as Weyes Blood), and in the lines of Mitchells finds echoes with many questions she arose on the parent. the value of art and the distortions of fame. The song comes from Mitchells 1970 LP Ladies of the Canyon, but if Chemtrails has a cognate spirit in Mitchells’ discography, her 1972s album For the Roses, her own Los Angeles album, which Mitchell composed in the solitude of her home in stone on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia.

At the end of Chemtrails, however, Del Rey found solace not in loneliness but in solidarity, especially with other women. The album picks up momentum on its latest trio of songs, which are suddenly populated by other female voices and names. (In addition to Day and Mering on For Free, Del Rey is joined by country artist Nikki Lane on a song written by Lane, Breaking Up Slowly.) The cathartic Dancing Til We Die finds her taking a step in Louisiana late at night with an imaginary clique of its musical heroes, some of whom (Stevie Nicks, Joan Baez) Del Rey has already toured or collaborated with. God, it feels good not to be alone, she exhales, shortly before the faint, lonely sound of a horn drifts through the mix, like it’s coming from another bar down the street. Momentarily, he leaves his mark in the blue, then just as quickly it’s gone.

Lana del rey
Chemtrails on the Country Club
(Interscope)

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