When Lana Del Rey released the second single from her seventh studio album Chemtrails Over the Country Club – the name of both the single and the album, I was underwhelmed…
It didn’t quite hit the same way her previous album Norman F**king Rockwell did for me – that album was an instant favourite. But I had high hopes the album as a whole would redeem the record for me, that the just slightly better than average single would be part of a stellar album.
I was partially proved right.
I think Chemtrails Over the Country Club is a good album and is far from a miss in Del Rey’s discography. However, it doesn’t quite work for me in the way her previous album does. Norman F**king Rockwell boasted beautiful songwriting, glorious production, and stunning vocals that defined Del Rey’s career. Chemtrails… has all of those qualities, there is just something about it that feels less than about it. It is definitely much less varied than the album that came before it. There are major high points, but there are also lows that drag the album down for me.
One low for me is the song Yosemite – an outtake from the singer’s fifth studio album Lust for Life that made its way to her newest release. Lana’s soporific singing is not the issue, and neither is the writing of the song. It’s beautiful. But the guitar that plays under the whole song just puts me on edge. The melody just doesn’t seem to resolve itself, repeating before it feels like it has reached the end of its plucked-out tune.
Another song that I have a lot of thoughts about is the album opener – White Dress. I just can’t decide if I adore or despise it. The song reflects on the easiness of her life before fame, back when she was a waitress. Her crackly vocals during the chorus make it sound like she’s a soprano that just smoked a pack of cigarettes and can’t quite hit her notes. It feels wrong to hear something that feels so rough and yet it works so well for the emotion of the song that I can’t work out if I’m uncomfortable listening to the song or so in awe of Rey’s ability to make something that sounds real. There’s also some really awkward back phrasing in the chorus on the lyrics “down at the Men in Music Business Conference” that I am obsessed with. I have not stopped thinking about it since I first heard it and I can’t work out if it’s because I wish I’d never heard it or because I love it more than anything else on the album.
If I ever work out if White Dress is my least favourite song on the album rather than my favourite, Dance till We Die takes the top spot. The song reinforces the idea that Del Rey is a storyteller, working through songs. It tells the story of all the music icons she knows – a beautiful homage to the legends from before her time. The tempo of the song is steady, and the melody flows along with Rey’s effortless vocals. Then, out of nowhere, a bridge that completely changes the song. The drums kick in and Rey’s smooth and low vocal kicks into that almost-rock timbre that she often displays.
Overall, I don’t dislike the album, far from it. It is a gorgeous album, but it feels so different from her previous masterpiece that I can’t fully invest in it. Had Chemtrails… come before Norman, I think I would have loved it. The new work just doesn’t live up to previous iterations of Rey’s distinct sound.
Once more, I’m hoping her next release redeems things for me.
It seems as though I won’t have too long to wait to find out. Rey had a surprise in store for us not long after release day. Pulling what I affectionately call a Grande or more recently a Swift, Rey announced a second surprise album coming out later this year. Titled Rock Candy Sweet, an Instagram story posted by the singer said the album would continue to challenge thoughts that her career was built on cultural appropriation and glamorising abuse. I have my fingers crossed that it clicks with me a little more.
By Robbie Nichols
Feature Image Credit: Universal Music