Some hardships are forged within the belly of fate. Others are self-induced, meticulously branded and sold as lifestyle. Lana Del Rey’s third album Ultraviolence falls into the latter category. Having already divulged her life as this sort of up-and-down roller coaster of Greek tragedies, her public image is rooted in the mold of your classic damsel in distress. Her album is a retrospective of her experiences through the reflection of a broken mirror – each song a piece of shattered glass. This is her attempt to put it all back together, one sharp edge at a time.
All the familiar ingredients are present to help make that happen – the dramatic arrangements (a majority of which are handled by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys), the cryptic lyrics, and the sullen mood that seem to saturate everything in sight. It’s just as potent as when we first heard her lament on her self-titled debut. The larger question for new fans and old fans alike is whether or not you want to commit wholeheartedly to her bellyaching. There’s no in between with her. She’s just an all-or-nothing type gal, with a pretty voice trying to reconcile this funny thing called the American Dream.
A ghost roaming the halls of paradise lost, condemned to its own earthly indulgences for – by the sounds of it – eternity. The acoustic plucks resonate like they were born in a cathedral adding just the right amount of metaphysical crazy to help soundtrack a conversation between this world and the next:
The audible equivalent to getting punched in the sternum and then being gently placed to the ground. It’s a frosty swirl of love and hate sprinkled with toppings that include dramatic piano riffs, an angelic chorus, and silky strings. Domestic abuse by a cult leader never sounded so appetizing:
One giant brush stroke with about a dozen or so shades of blue streaking across the canvas. It address the gut-wrenching dilemma of not being able to reach the one you love even if it’s with scathing intent. The riffing that anchors the song is a seething encounter and hurts in just the right way:
Brooklyn is full of them – over zealous neophytes with a penchant for everything but a master of none. It’s possible she’s describing her own life because this is what it sounds like when privilege inherits rock and roll. The loveliness of the production sealing all the oddities into place:
While the song could very well be about a lover the prevailing thought is that it’s about her infatuation with the west coast. It could theoretically be both as the sweeping orchestral arrangements and tempo shifts create an abstraction that makes the lyrics mysterious and vague. A pure lover’s rock:
If you hadn’t already guessed Lana Del Rey is a bit of a Debbie Downer, a meek girl trapped in a superstar’s body. Teardropped with a bit of bar room blues and Velvet Underground, she breaks down what it’s like to be the other girl. A little ratchet, but beautiful and dark like a violent rain cloud:
Really laying it on thick, and depending on the type of person you are it could either be another slice of magical prose or a reason to slap your head in frustration over the monotony. The cinematic pulse is still the heartbeat, which is part of what makes it a little overbearing and melodramatic:
Religious motifs pepper themselves all throughout, which gives her writing an otherworldly, near-ominous feel. She’s dedicating a whole chapter to the trappings of the three headed hydra, the same one that’s been the downfall of almost every major civilization. It’s typical Del Ray: charmingly tragic:
What would an album like this be without a good swipe, calling out an artist for their less than savory marketing strategy. Who she’s talking about is not as important as the theme, which is that it’s a seedy world we live in. The biggest concern is the sonic element which stays relatively conservative:
Through hushed tones and melancholy melodies she tells us something that we already know: that she’s incredibly talented but as shallow as all hell. Her death grip on youth and beauty can only spell a disastrous aging process, and while it works here it does little for longevity: [LISTEN]
Nancy Sinatra, June Carter, Janis Joplin all come together in this ode to the mistress. Her voice quivers with just the right amount of hurt and makes the pain of being a victim somewhat sweet like being awake but in the heart of darkness. It unwinds slowly pulling at the memories of lost love: