Everything about Lana Del Rey is intoxicating. Her voice, her image, her persona, her art, and even the contention and controversy that seems to linger over her. White Dress, the first track off her new album Chemtrails Over The Country Club is a particularly good example of this inebriating effect. First beautiful piano and then vocals, made more impactful by being in falsetto range, draw you into her story instantaneously and makes you feel as if you have been immersed in the album for an eternity already. The rhythm of the chorus vocals is especially intoxicating, and the song further demonstrates her enviable ability to find romance in the seemingly mundane, telling an artist’s story from everyday life events; ‘when I was a waitress wearing a white dress…and you were my man down at a…business conference’. The mentioning of artists such as White Stripes and Kings of Leon is an added bonus which I, along with many others I’m sure, find endearing. In fact, listening through the album properly for a second time, I discovered the opening track is unquestionably my favourite.
The title track follows White Dress, and the romantically nostalgic vibes Del Rey so adeptly conjures up continue as eerie strings set up the abrupt opening line ‘I’m on the run with you my sweet love,’ equipped with an enticing melody and vocals heavily treated with effects. Welcome to a Lana Del Rey album!
The warming introduction to Let Me Love You Like A Woman fits well with the relaxed sentimentality of a love song in which the character proposes moving away with their lover; in this case away from the city, as opposed to trying to get out of a small-town, as we are more used to hearing about in these types of songs. Desultory guitar sets up the next track Wild at Heart, which, as will be guessed by those familiar with Lana Del Rey, encapsulates her as an artist, most notably in the chorus line ‘if you love me, you’ll love me because I’m wild at heart’.
Dark But Just A Game sounds different to the other songs on the album. This difference even emboldens itself with an electronic drum beat that cuts in and out of the track, creating an air of mystery. The guitar sounds fuller and the song itself is groovier but still possesses a restrained level of class Del Rey is known for. On this point, the commentary of the song is an interesting study; it is strange to hear an artist who seems to base her life or at least her persona on the grandeur of fame sing the lines ‘the faces aren’t the same but their stories all end tragically’ and ‘don’t even want what’s mine, much less the fame,’ but this persona may be explained by the brilliant line ‘it’s dark but just a game, so play it like a symphony.’
The intro to Not All Who Wander Are Lost gets more powerful every time it is heard. The soothing acoustic guitar that begins the track remains throughout the song, which will speak to anyone who feels the pull of the open road and what comes with ‘wanderlust’, or who may, thanks to the song’s proclamation, find comfort in accepting their aimless searching.
The album finishes very strongly with a trio of songs that begins with Breaking up Slowly, a collaboration with American country artist Nikki Lane, who offers a nice but subtle contrast to Del Rey’s vocals on the rest of the album, which mostly exploit her high register, but there still manages to be satisfying congruence as the song transitions between singers. Penultimate Dance Til We Die is another viscerally relatable idea for a song, made better not only by lines such as ‘sometimes this ranch feels like my only friend’, but also by knowing it exists as a tribute to the legendary Joan Baez and also pays homage to Joni Mitchell, often cited as the greatest songwriter of all time; ‘I’ve been covering Joni and listening to Joan’. This feeds nicely into the final track of the album, which sees Del Rey collaborating with Zella Day and Weyes Blood on a cover of the beautiful Joni Mitchell song For Free.
As a collection of songs, Chemtrails Over The Country Club is a fantastic album, equipped with enchanting piano, beautiful and dark guitar tones with the high end rolled off and heavily layered and treated vocals; characteristics which have come to be expected from a piece of work by Lana Del Rey, but for me, you don’t have to look further than the first song to discover the standout track of the album.