Lana Del Rey, "Chemtrails Over The Country Club" (Interscope Records and Polydor Records)
Decay and decadence coexist in the world created by Lana Del Rey in "Chemtrails Over The Country Club."
At first listen, her intimate follow-up to critically-acclaimed "Norman (Expletive) Rockwell" may seem less urgent. Rather than deconstructing the American myth, Del Rey shifts her gaze inward. But in the quiet, she disassembles a different pain, one felt in the unforgiving glow of the limelight.
Whispering opener "White Dress" immediately sets "Chemtrails Over The Country Club" apart from "Norman (Expletive) Rockwell," her breathiness almost jarring.
She works with the same producer, Jack Antonoff, whose credits are also seen on Taylor Swift's 2020 albums "evermore" and "folklore." There are echoes of Swift's production on Del Rey's new album with songs like the gentle "Yosemite" leaning in the folk direction.
Del Rey has perfected the art of creating album capsules. Each record emanates its own aesthetic with songs cross-referencing one another within the album. Del Rey gives cohesion to albums in a way that is unmatched by most other artists.
In "Dance Till We Die," she sings of Joni Mitchell covers before launching into her own cover of Mitchell's "For Free." "Yosemite," too, seems to call to her closing cover. "We did it for fun/ We did it for free," she croons. "We did it for the right reasons."
Paralleling the juxtaposition in the title, Del Rey's seventh album explores the yin and yang of fame, fortune and creativity. On the surface are glittering images: jewels in a country club pool and bars that stay open "just for us." Ringing underneath is a melancholy emptiness perforated by isolation and desire.
Album-standout "Dark But Just A Game" encapsulates these feelings. Del Rey paints a picture of someone who sees those who have fallen before her. "Their stories all end tragically," she sings, bringing to mind artists like Judy Garland and Amy Winehouse. "The best ones lost their minds."
Other songs create the same illustration. "The cameras have flashes, they cause the car crashes," Del Rey sings in the Americana-tinged "Wild At Heart," referencing the catastrophic death of Princess Diana.
"Chemtrails Over The Country Club" has all Del Rey's staples — angelic layered vocals, bridges that bring a second dimension to tracks and tongue-in-cheek lyrics.
Del Rey may not have reached the perfection of "Norman (Expletive) Rockwell," but in "Chemtrails Over The Country Club," she's offered something different: vulnerability.