Ultraviolenceby Lana Del Rey
So 'Video Games' has been and gone and Ms Lana Del Rey returns with her follow-up to her successful Born to Die album. It's with this latest work that she will have to prove to the world that she isn't a one hit wonder either in terms of the single, or indeed, the album it came from and that she's here to stay, for this album at least.
There's a sense of bold intent with the opening track 'Cruel World'; it embodies the brooding, deeply stylised approach to making music that has become Del Rey's artistic signature. It's song noir, foreboding and ever so twisted. All set against almost military-precise drums sending the singer out to battle. It's beautifully theatrical in every way.
'Ultraviolence' continues the journey into this montage of the underworld, with an urban gothica. Del Rey for the most part sticks to the lower scales, but allowing her vocals to soar languidly supported by the most fragile of strings.
It's a return to her torch song catalogue with 'Shades of Cool'. Again, in the chorus, Del Rey's voice reaches angelic heights, mixed with her lower, devilish side, making for a mischievous concoction. At times it sounds like she's hardly even trying to sing, such is her laid back style. Towards its finale, there's a big 007 blow-out, showing that Del Rey could knock out a Bond theme tune in her sleep if she were asked.
There's a softer, girlier start to 'Brooklyn Baby', but it too soon adopts that όber-cool Del Ray format, that oozes sex appeal. It's the kind of song that would suit a small jazz bar for the kind of intimacy that would be lost in a stadium gig.
The single 'West Coast' is curiously reminiscent of fellow 'kooky' singer Tori Amos. The beat is throbbing throughout, with Del Rey supplying a pouty vocal. Is it an affectation or is it natural? Quite frankly, who cares. Either way, it clearly works.
There's an instant blues tinge to the next track, suitably titled 'Sad Girl'. It's drenched in atmosphere, and like every track on here, is the perfect vocal vehicle for Del Rey to shine.
Just when you thought that the pace of the album couldn't get any slower, Del Rey brings it down another notch with 'Pretty when you Cry'. It's nicely produced, but possibly too much on the over-indulgent side, which is a criticism that could be levelled at the entire album.
'Money Power Glory' is an intriguing anti-love song, as Del Ray sings it as it is. Deliciously subversive.
The next track could quite easily be the natural sequel to the last if the title is anything to go by - 'Fucked my way up to the top'. Del Rey isn't shy about using the odd bit of colourful language, as she proves here. Of course it just makes her more urban and gritty. Still a potty mouth though. Unfortunately the title is the only thing that stands out about this particular track.
For those a certain age, the opening of 'Old Money' may sound eerily similar to a segment called 'Our Tune' that was made popular by Simon Bates on his Radio 1 show in the eighties. He would tell some saddish tale of love lost, over a musical bed of the love theme from Romeo and Juliet, before going on to play some rubbish by Whitney Houston. Thankfully, Bates doesn't appear on this song. Neither does Houston, come to think of it. But it is a sad love song, so it's quite fitting that there's a whiff of Romeo and Juliet about it.
And the curtain closes with 'The Other Woman'. You could swear that this song was over seventy years old. Again, the song suits Del Rey down to the ground, but it doesn't feel as cohesive as the majority of the other tracks here.
You have to admire Del Rey for not pandering to current trends. This isn't an overtly commercial album; it's actually a rather personal and insular record that presents Del Rey as more of an artiste than an artist.
Yes, it borders on the pretentious, but many artists - like Gaga - have developed an entire career out of being just that, and there's always room for one more.
The 28 year old feels comfortable with her vocal niche; this album in particular is a wholly mature experience that delivers cinematic soundscapes from days of old, which slightly goes against the grain of her current commercial success, but when you're as cool as she is, no one really cares. It's also comforting that certainly her younger audience, who may well be spellbinded by her cool, are also being subjected to a musical style they may not have come across before.
It still sounds very David Lynch-esque, despite the fact that the singer hadn't even heard of the director, but after all the comparisons, she claims to have seen his work now and admits to being a fan and that's no bad thing.
If you discard the poppy female singers around and believe us we do on a daily basis Del Rey is one of the rare ones, who appears to be making grown up records for a grown up audience. And that should be commended in itself.
The upshot is, on this evidence, Del Rey certainly has the talent for a lengthy career; whether she has the temperament or the patience for it is another thing entirely.