First Spin... Lana Del Rey's Ultraviolence
When Lana Del Rey strutted out of the shadows in the latter months of 2011 with a string of breathtaking, supremely catchy and yet weirdly unsettling tracks, she instantly became a star. To add to the brilliance of her gorgeous second album Born To Die, there was a lot of talk about the singer’s odd back story, with reports including that she’d fallen victim to teenage alcoholism (confirmed) and undergone lots of cosmetic surgery (denied), all of which fuelled interest in the singer and took her rapidly from darlings of the blogs to tabloid fodder.
A couple of years on from all that, she’s back with a new album Ultraviolence, recorded across 2013 and produced by The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach. It’s released on Monday (June 16th), we’ve heard it and we present a detailed track by track guide to the record, a first spin…
A cold, distant and jarring opening. This is a real shot across the bows, with stilted beats and serene pianos building to an almighty crescendo, this is almost Fiona Apple esque in its histrionics, ending up with wailing pianos and crashing drums. This is a very different opening to the gentle stirring ‘Born To Die’.
Best Lyric: ‘Get a little bit of bourbon in ya. Get a little bit suburban and go crazy…’
This made it’s way onto the web last week and is another smouldering delight. Del Rey has also walked the tightrope between cutesy and danger in her lyrics so well, and this is another stellar example of that. Soundtracked by a gentle piano, coated in reverb and a brooding drum sound, this is a yorn about a love gone wrong, specifically with a man named Jim.
Co-written by Rick Nowels, who also helped her write the luscious ‘Young And Beautiful’, this is up there with the best moments from ‘Born To Die’.
Best Lyric: 'Crying tears of gold, like lemonade'
'Shades Of Cool'
Another tune released ahead of the album, this is a little more uptempo, with its chiming guitar chords and cooing lyrics. Strongly reminiscent of ‘Million Dollar Man’ from Del Rey’s previous record, this is ultra-cool, standoffish and has packs an incredible vocal harmony. It ends with a piercing and oddly heavy guitar solo, she always keeps you guessing..
Best Lyric: ‘I can't fix him, can't make him better. And I can't do nothing about this strange weather.’
This one kicks off with a strumming guitar and Del Rey’s distorted vocal, before building into a driving pop song. It’s not as bombastic or gripping as the earlier cuts, but has a kind of refined elegance, it’s breezy and ethereal. Co-written by Del Rey’s rumoured boyfriend Barrie O’Neal, singer in Scottish band Kassidy and is surprisingly loved up, imagining them as a young couple back in the 1970s.
Best Lyric: ‘I've got feathers in my hair, I get down to Beat poetry, and my jazz collection’s rad’
Dripping with swagger and groove, this is a real highlight on the album, driven by a swooning bass line and a clipped drum sound, this is pure cool. Standoffish yet cooing, cold yet very sensual, this is what Del Rey does better than anyone else. Especially those ‘Ooohs’, god those ‘Ooohs’...
Best Lyric: ‘I can see my baby swingin', his Parliament's on fire and his hands are up’
This track is pure 80s lounge jazz, like Sade if she’d smoked a lot more cigarettes and spent time in some grimier bars. Ideally played at 3am, just as the bar’s about to close, this is feels like a drunken cry of a track, but somehow completely in control.
Best Lyric: ‘Being a bad bitch on the side, might not appeal to fools like you’
'Pretty When You Cry'
Another lilting ballad, starting out with just a plucked guitar and vocals, before drifting into a lament in the style of ‘Summetime Sadness’. Del Rey’s vocals are full of sadness and regret, it's a stirring listen.
Best Lyric: ‘All those special times I spent with you, my love, they don't mean shit compared to all your drugs'
'Money Power Glory'
This is a badass track, all sultry bass and juddering drum parts. A lot of the album is tinged with regret and quite mournful, but this is a statement of defiance, especially when Lana leans in and sings ‘You should run boy, run…’, this is a female fatale pursuing a wealthy mark, full of cunning and slyness, all soundtracked by a wailing guitar solo. It’s incredible.
Best Lyric: ‘You talk lots about God. Freedom comes from the call, but that's not what this bitch wants’
'Fucked My Way Up To The Top'
As the title suggests, this is another stiletto heel through the heart in song form. Lyrically this is vicious and spiky, pure bravado and bragaddio, it’s quite similar to ‘This Is What Makes Us Girls’, which was a real highpoint of ‘Born To Die’. It’s built round a powerful bassline, which propels Del Rey’s vocals and gives them even more subtle menace.
Best Lyric: ‘I'm a dragon, you're a whore, don't even know what you're good for’
After two statements of defiance, we’re back to lovelorn laments, with just Lana and a piano begging a lost lover to come back. Eventually all the stops are pulled out and this turns into a huge ballad, powered by a big string quartet, it sounds a lot like a big Disney Ballad, which is no bad thing from time to time.
Best Lyric: ‘Blue hydrangea, cold cash divine, cashmere, cologne and hot sunshine'
'The Other Woman'
This album’s sign-off is a weird, Peggy Lee style dittie, sounding a lot like the kind of track you’d imagine coming from a gramophone in a late 1950s TV show. It’s a strange song, all about the life of a mistress of a married man, with Del Rey mixing the glamour and the excitement of an exotic affair with the sadness that follows. It’s an odd choice to finish the album, but’s it’s very compelling.
Best Lyric: ‘The other woman will always cry herself to sleep, the other woman will never have his love to keep’
Lana Del Rey's new album Ultraviolence is out now and can be previewed by clicking on the icon on the right hand side of the page.