Lana Del Rey – Lust For Life Review


Six years ago, twelve-year-old me sat on her bed listening to Now That’s What I Call Music 80 on her pink CD player, and heard Video Games by Lana del Rey for the first time. At first she didn’t understand why anyone would choose to listen to this over the recycled pop of Maroon 5 or The Saturdays etc, but even at that young and innocent age, it was difficult not to be enticed by its haunting beauty. Still now I’m enamoured by the way del Rey managed to fashion a hugely hard-hitting track alongside such a strong sense of vulnerability, with eerie vocals presented against a mere piano and glistening of strings. Six years later, Lana del Rey is four albums down, with her latest release – Lust for Life – being considered her most up-beat, pop-inspired album. But if this is what we’re labelling as pop these days, it certainly doesn’t match the stuff I was listening to at twelve.

What I admire so much about del Rey’s music is that she doesn’t just write songs, she writes stories. Each track is an invitation into a universe of happy-go-lucky consumerism, the glamour of Hollywood, dystopian America, a careless relationship, and so on and so on. The first glimpse of Lust for Life we received came in the form of single Love, which has a glimmer of 1950s to it, via echoing bass, climatic percussion and delicious harmonies. And despite its slowness, it has a youthful effervescence that only Lana could capture. It transports us to somewhere happy, somewhere care-free. Superficially del Rey’s decelerated numbers sound depleted, depressing, but there’s usually something innocently hopeful that underpins each track. This is true of titular track Lust for Life too, alongside The Weeknd. There’s a sense of grandeur in the lyricism – ‘climbing the H of the Hollywood sign’ is the kind of brilliantly young and reckless imagery del Rey often paints, mingling ideas of movie-like relationships and pop culture to curate mature, dreamy additions to her tracklist.

Though her songs often depict the typical topics of love and relationships, del Rey has a political side too. When The World Was At War We Kept Dancing deliberates President Trump’s first months in office and probes at his choices, yet remains somewhat optimistic in the way it urges us to keep dancing. Coachella – Woodstock In My Mind illustrates the euphoria of the eponymous festival, with an underlying guilt being felt as she enjoyed herself at a time of world tension. Instrumentally, there isn’t much diversity about the LP, but del Rey’s talent lies in the way she can put across different messages and different worlds through her evocative, lingering songs.

The circulating ‘pop vibe’ idea that has spread about this album could be down to the artists that feature. As well as The Weeknd, A$AP Rocky makes an appearance on both Summer Bummer (with Playboi Carti) and Groupie Love. Neither are the album’s greatest achievements, but the former is undeniably catchy in its bubbling bassline and shuffling percussion, though the best part of the track is the echoic vocals towards the end that recall Lana’s original style. Diverting from the pop resurgences, Sean Ono Lennon gives his vocals to Tomorrow Never Came, a Beatles tribute. It is slightly similar to the legendary band’s style, with shaky guitar and Ono Lennon’s voice deriving some likeness to his father’s. It’s one of the barest tracks on the album, one that exposes the powerful vulnerability that I fell in love with on Video Games. Lastly comes a collaboration with Stevie Nicks on Beautiful People Beautiful Problems. Their voices marry gorgeously, and the symbolism of two female, musical powerhouses of different eras joining forces gives extra magnificence to this already-wonderful track.

It may not compare wholly to the basic beauty of Born to Die, but the sheer distinctness and poignancy of everything Lana del Rey does will never not be impressive. She is the kind of female icon that needs a wider following – one that is known for her amazing and irrefutable talent over anything else. Props to her.

Lana del Rey – Lust for Life: 8/10

Eleanor Chivers

 

Mura Masa – Mura Masa Review 


Alex Crossan is a 20 year old producer from Guernsey and goes by the name of Mura Masa. His self titled debut studio album has been a few years coming and in that time he’s went far from the typical tales of bedroom recordings. His suggested talent is matched by the calibre his collaborators for his debut album that include Damon Albarn, A$AP Rocky and Christine and the Queens to name just a few. He has a lot of backing already and a lot of time to promote his sound with singles and EP’s that included collaborations with Charli XCX. With that in mind, the expectation is high. The key for an artist like Alex is of course finding the right artists to complement his sound and he’s effectively giving parts of his album away and entrusting it to someone else. That should be taken into account too before passing too much judgement. 

‘Second 2 None’ features Christine and the Queens. Christine or Heloise Letissier when she’s off stage, had shown last year how adaptable and slick her work was in a variety of musical environments and Alex provides another with this track. This track features faux kettle drums, trap drops and distorted beats. This is fused with a broken string sample and from there Christine shines. The heavy, and at times simple arrangement allows her to take command of the song with her imposing accented vocal which fits into the intricate harmonies Alex’s production creates. He even uses her vocals as an added layer of instrumentation in the form of vocal sample. The track is subdued and restrained, yet still retains prominent hooks and a Pop infectiousness. The album concludes with ‘Blu’ featuring Damon Albarn. Alex’s distorted and auto-tuned vocals whirr and twitch as Albarn’s equally warped vocals join in harmony. Damon’s vocals gradually lose their electronic effects as the verse goes on however. The two constantly shifting vocals are manipulated to compliment each other at all times and the soft churning electronica nudges the song along. ‘1 Night’ is the minimalist dance track that features Charli XCX and again he utilises her vocals as an instrumental tool on top of typical Pop beats that sit well with Charli’s bold Pop vocals. What is impressive about this song is the lack of parts to it and an attention to small details and changes that most Pop songs do not have. 

There is more to this album than just well produced Pop music though; ‘Nothing Else!’ featuring soul singer Jamie Lidell is a slick and rhythmic affair with which he manipulates bass lines and guitars to generate a late Eighties style with prominent modern features. ‘Helpline’ features Tom Tripp and his lyrics are fitted around a driving and unrelenting rhythm driven by bass lines and percussion. The percussion is gradually muffled at the end of each verse to signal the synth driven chorus. This track shows the versatility of Alex in that his tracks are more than moody and well produced affairs. ‘Firefly’ features vocals from the talented NAO and here he created an AlunaGeorge type track in how it openly embraces its Dance features. Meanwhile ‘Love$ick’ featuring A$AP Rocky is a cool yet inctricate track that tailors its soundscapes for Rap sections and it again shows his versatility with different artists and genres. No matter who it is, he seems to generate hooks out of them one way or another. His method could be seen as a little repetive at times as those faux kettle drums get rolled out once or twice too often, but for a debut album sound that can be forgiven. It is a solid start and from here, he can only go on to refine and redefine his sound and if he does this right, he could be our next great producer. 

Mura Masa – Mura Masa = 8/10

Owen Riddle

Single Review – Lana Del Rey – Summer Bummer feat. A$AP Rocky and Playboi Carti

New Single ‘Summer Bummer’, a title that feels like the crude rhyming of a five-year-old, is absolutely everything we’ve come to expect from Lana Del Rey. Residing firmly in her unchanging pouting murmurings ‘Summer Bummer’ whispers into life, building from faint piano keys to wisps of Lana’s trade mark, if grumpy cat could sing, style. As always, Del Rey’s theme of summer is a clouded love story. Opening line; ‘It’s never too late to be who you wanna be’ quickly unfurls towards a story of drug temptation and an unhealthy pool-side relationship. Though I’m personally unsure of exactly what went wrong during the long hot summers of Lana’s past, every year she creates a new shaded offering of dead romance and jilted lovers. Things momentarily snap into a harsher life, through Del Rey’s haze of heat exhaustion, as A$AP Rocky applies his lyrical expertise to the track, attempting to define the story of hedonistic failings. Despite some pretty gloomy themes however, as always with Del Rey’s summer singles, ‘Summer Bummer’ does end up feeling like the kind of track that fits within this time of year, particularly on those uncomfortable drowsy days. 

Hayley Miller

Single Review – Mura Masa – Second To None feat. Christine and the Queens

Alex Crossan is a 20 year old producer from Guernsey and goes by the name of Mura Masa. His self titled debut studio album is out on July 14th. His suggested talent is matched by the calibre his collaborators for his latest album that include Damon Albarn, A$AP Rocky and for his latest track ‘Second To None’ with Christine and the Queens. Christine or Heloise Letissier when she’s off stage, had shown last year how adaptable and slick her work was in a variety of musical environments and Alex provides another with this track. This track features faux kettle drums, trap drops and distorted beats. This is fused with a broken string sample and from there Christine shines. The heavy, and at times simple arrangement allows her to take command of the song with her imposing accented vocal which fits into the intricate harmonies Alex’s production creates. He even uses her vocals as an added layer of instrumentation in the form of vocal sample. The track is subdued and restrained, yet still retains prominent hooks and a Pop infectiousness. All eyes on his debut album.

Owen Riddle