Like many long-time Lana Del Rey fans, I was first captivated by the moody songstress in 2012 after the release of her smash-hit debut, “Born to Die.” So, it came as no surprise when I found myself blasting her latest release, “Chemtrails Over The Country Club,” in my kitchen this past Friday. As I was placing my latest baking endeavor in the oven, my dad entered just as Lana was hitting a particularly anguished note. He immediately turned to me and asked, “Who is that singing?” Upon hearing my reply, he simply said, “She sounds pretty somber.”
And in truth, my dad’s four-word review holds merit. Del Rey is known and renowned for her mournful ballads and “Chemtrails” only adds several more to her discography. However, at its core, Del Rey’s seventh studio album is one of deep introspection and centers around a hazy trip down memory lane. From the piercing high notes of “White Dress” to the grandiose production of “Wild At Heart,” Del Rey not only draws heavily on the theme of escapism, but also her tonal arsenal previously established in albums like “Lust for Life” and “Honeymoon.”
Del Rey provided our first taste of this new musical era with singles “Let Me Love You Like a Woman” and “Chemtrails Over The Country Club.” The former is a wistful ballad reminiscent of a song that might appear on one of Del Rey’s earlier albums. Although complete with her signature smoky vocals and a backing of cinematic instrumentals, the song is incredibly safe for the songstress, especially in the shadow of its daring predecessor “NFR!.” The album’s titular song adds significantly more panache, as Del Rey juxtaposes her longing for freedom against the various problems that plague her. Against stunning harmonies and intoxicating percussion, she sings, “I’m not unhinged or unhappy, I’m just wild.”
Del Rey sets the tone for “Chemtrails” with “White Dress,” a jarring but captivating exploration of the heights of the singer’s vocal range and just how many syllables she can cram into one chorus. “White Dress,” is a song that can be easily overlooked at first. However, it is also one that you’ll find yourself warming to after several listens for its sheer audaciousness and lyrical storytelling.
“Chemtrails” follows up “White Dress” with some of the album’s best songs, including “Tulsa Jesus Freak,” “Wild at Heart,” and “Dark But Just a Game.” Backed by the dynamic instrumentals of powerhouse producer Jack Antonoff, Del Rey chronicles a twisted love affair, the pitfalls of fame, and how she longs for escape against the backdrop of the American midwest.
“Chemtrails” then takes a notable dip in tempo to accommodate the likes of “Not All Who Wander Are Lost,” “Yosemite,” “Breaking Up Slowly,” and “Dance Till We Die.” As its Hobby Lobby-Esque title might suggest, the focus of “Not All Who Wander Are Lost” seems repetitive after six previous odes to Del Rey’s carefree spirit and newfound wanderlust. However, its stunning hushed vocals and subtle guitar backing nearly make this fact inconsequential. “Yosemite” then carries on “Not All Who Wander’s” undercurrent of guitar in a lulling ballad about the longevity of Del Rey’s career.
Del Rey then retreats into the album’s final act with Nikki Lane opening up “Breaking Up Slowly,” a psychedelic interlude for “Dance Till We Die,” and a final cover of Joni Mitchell’s “For Free” with Zella Day and Weyes Blood. From a hazy heartbreak ballad to reimagining a classic, Del Rey’s versatility and nostalgic overtones are best encapsulated in “Chemtrails’” final three tracks.
Although “Chemtrails Over The Country Club” does not outshine the impossible standard of its predecessor, “NFR!”, it remains a stunning and thematically driven album. “Chemtrails Over The Country Club” promises a captivating listening experience full of escapism and nostalgia. I only advise you don’t get too attached, as Del Rey has already announced that she will be releasing another album, “Rock Candy Sweet,” on Jun. 1 of this year.
You can listen to “Chemtrails Over The Country Club” here.