Lana Del Rey is the indie girl with the somewhat contrapuntal voice that everybody wants to love, her 2012 album- Born To Die, was pretty well received by critics and also had a significant degree of success to go with it. Two years later, she releases her follow up- Ultraviolence. It hasn’t really had the same buzz about it compared with Born To Die, and Lana failed to have any real success with her singles, (West Coast was the best performer clocking in at 21 here in the UK and 17 in the US) although the album itself still managed to top the charts in both countries. The singles were pretty good, but I still wanted to rest of the LP to be better, or at least better when listened to as a completed project.
One of the most appealing things about Ultraviolence to me is Dan Auerbach’s involvement- The Black Keys frontman is the executive producer of the album and his production style is prominent across the LP. Ultraviolence kicks off with Cruel World; a song that’s milked and elongated to the point of despair and I was literally thankful it was all over, clocking in at over six minutes Lana moans her head off and her voice starts to sound like it’s breaking- resulting in an odd country vibe to the track. Things begin to improve following this horror of an opener with the title-track, the production is subtle despite a heavy overproduced feel, which you might find hard to understand until you listen to it. You feel like the song is dramatic and near-cliche but when you listen more carefully, you’ll notice the drum claps aren’t as loud or heavy as first anticipated, and the background strings are actually more prominent and noticeable.
Every now and again you get vibes of a different kind from Ultraviolence, ones you maybe weren’t expecting- certain elements echo Frank Ocean’s Nostalgia, Ultra with its dark composition contrasting with more chipper content. Sad Girl is the more straightforward example of my thinking, Lana conveys dismay and discontent with her position as the man-in-question’s ‘bonnie on the side’, but further in the song she echoes ‘Watch what you say to me, careful who you’re talking to’, which to me seems like she craves and adores the power she almost-surprisingly realises she has.
Ultraviolence is a layered and notably complex album, Lana Del Rey seems to be more at ease with her talents and maybe more trusting of them. She’s prepared to put more on the line and having someone with established talents in the form of Auerbach has maybe lifted a degree of pressure from her shoulders. She still continues to be a tad hit-and-miss on the composition of her projects with a few terrible filler tracks still managing to nestle their way within her albums. Lana Del Rey is on the right lines with Ultraviolence and it’s another huge step in the right direction, it’s better than Born To Die, but the ‘good album’ label is still not easy to award.
Verdict – WWV