Lana Del Rey – Ultraviolence Review

Lana Del Rey returns with her hotly anticipated third studio effort and with a new approach. Ultraviolence is produced by The Black Key’s Dan Auberach which is a smart move as he’s successfully produced a few groups now as well as co producing The Black Keys albums. Perhaps the main gain is that it is just one producer and not the multitude she had for Born To Die. It was an album that fell down as some songs were produced far better than others and this is a problem she won’t have this time around and it will only be a good thing for her and the flow of her third LP. The last piece of the puzzle is Lana herself. ‘Born To Die’ was brazen, bold and provocative but hammering the point home or offering up an alternative could work for her either way, but the latter always holds that risk of failure.

West Coast is the first single off Ultraviolence and the progression is evident from the off. The sleek, streamlined sound is given life by the oscillating sounds and the refined melodic riffs feeding off it. It generates a fluid sound that changes shape for the chorus and just as easily slip backs into the verses. On top of this, it is intertwined with what is Lana’s more tuneful and haunting vocal that is spread finely to filter back into the sounds while the main body of her vocal sweeps over verse and chorus and the songs dynamic structure showcases just what she can do as a vocalist. A charged and pulsating track. ‘Shades of Cool’ still has that wonderfully distant and subdued feel of the previous single, but unlike the undulating pulse of ‘West Coast’; this track is a delicately formed ballad with the traditional thin instrumental arrangement with strings, the gentle pluck of the guitar and the brush of the snare drum. This song is made by Lana’s vocal. It trembles and rises to higher tones with comfortable effortlessness and is more of a fragile, floating swoon as opposed to the more driven and direct vocal of the previous track. The big guitar solo breaks the entrancement a little, but it just as gracefully falls back into place. If this track has taught us anything, it’s that Lana is becoming a far more versatile vocalist than even ‘West Coast’ had suggested and this has perhaps been unlocked by Auerbach and his production.

‘Ultraviolence’ operates more on the stylish and graceful grandeur of ‘Shades of Cool’ but with darker and shadowy undertones and corners of the production and the lyrics. Lana’s relaxed and throaty sound resonates against the echo of the stuck piano as she shifts to the sweeping and chiming vocal that floats through it’s own echo and the carefully placed strings. All of this is loosely tied together by a simple strike of the drum. The parts of the song are so intricate and basic, yet they are maximised to their fullest extent and potential to form a soothing and tragic sounding piece of pop music. Though it was something she had many a stab at back in 2012; it is here that she has found a way to convey it’s feel with sincerity and fragility that makes it much more believable. ‘Brooklyn Baby’ again sees a shift in vocal and style packaged through the strung out and distant production. The soft, undulating riff is glazed over with the space around it and then Lana’s swooning soar over it all. So then falls back to the close and intimate vocal on the verses where the echo pitches back and forth across the whole space of the song. The lyrics here are more sentimental and the subdued and slightly obscured feel of the track almost realises a hark back from the past. ‘Cruel World’ opens the album and offers up similar twist and turns to ‘Brooklyn Baby’ with the subtle rise and falls of sound. The vocals again rise and fall with it. The eerie and wiry vocal at the close of the verses and the low slung slur of the chorus. ‘Old Money’ has Lana’s more solid vocal set around the piano and string ballad instrumental which ever so timidly fluctuates as it dares to increase it’s volume. The slung out and gentle rock of ‘Pretty When You Cry’ features a bold, yet simple riff as it twangs and twinges before the drums lay themselves down upon it. It does go and indulge in a few too many ripping leads riffs at the end of some tracks and this is no exception. There are also a few occasion where it can get a little repetitive despite the album’s effortless flow and beauty of arrangement and production and perhaps the sort of feel of ‘West Coast’ and it’s ideas weren’t exploited as much as they could’ve been. Nevertheless, this is a sizable improvement on Born To Die and Ultraviolence has showcased her development as a vocalist with much more versatility and dynamism.

Lana Del Rey – Ultraviolence = 8/10

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