Wed. May 22nd, 2024

Renowned For Sound

For the latest music reviews and interviews

Album Review: Lana Del Rey – Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd

3 min read
Renowned For Sounds Ryan Sinclair gives his verdict on the new album from music icon Lana Del Rey.....

In the eleven years since she broke onto the scene with Born To Die, the identity of Lana Del Rey has often been the subject of curiosity and criticism. Her early music was steeped with imagery of nostalgic Americana, prompting questions of whether this was authentic to her true personality or simply a persona. In recent years Del Rey has pushed back at accusations that she’s playing a character, which is particularly evident in the confessional tone of her previous album Blue Bannisters. Her latest album, Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd, builds upon this and is one of her most personal records to date. Backed by lush, piano-based arrangements with the occasional foray into trap-based production, Del Rey explores intimate topics with a sense of mystical wonderment.

The opening track, The Grants, sets the tone for the rest of the album with Del Rey describing how she’ll take her memories of her loved ones with her to the afterlife, from her “sister’s first-born child” to her “grandmother’s last smile”. Family is a recurring theme throughout the album. On Grandfather Please Stand on the Shoulders of My Father While He’s Deep-Sea Fishing, which samples a delicate piano melody from contemporary classical musician RIOPY, she calls upon the spirit of her grandfather to offer guidance from one generation to the next. Often her musings on family take a melancholic turn, as on display in Fingertips where she lets her stream-of-consciousness run free over dreamlike strings. As she describes painful family memories such as the death of her uncle in 2016, she contemplates if she’s fit for motherhood: “Will I have one of mine? Can I handle it even if I do?”

While the majority of the album is composed of soft piano ballads, it is occasionally interspersed with dark synth textures and rhythmic trap beats which are utilised to various degrees of success. Peppers is a lighthearted and catchy track sampling rapper Tommy Genesis, which will perhaps appeal to fans who miss the sound of Ultraviolence but ultimately feels out of place in the context of the album. On the closing track, Taco Truck x VB, Del Rey reimagines her 2018 single Venice Bitch with gritty trap instrumentation. It’s a fitting end to an album which is so self-referential and frequently pulls from Del Rey’s past. 

Ocean Blvd is not a perfect album. Several tracks feel too wordy and unrestrained, such as the six-minute Kintsugi. The inclusion of a lengthy sermon by problematic celebrity pastor Judah Smith feels superfluous at best. However, this is an album that embraces imperfection. The album opens with a mistake, a recording of a rehearsal in which one backing singer is correcting the other. In the title track she mentions a Harry Nilsson song in which “his voice breaks at 2:05”, fixating on the raw emotion of this moment. This lyric embodies the intent of Ocean Blvd, which is to present her unfiltered thoughts to the world in their naturally messy state, soundtracked by instrumentation which matches the intimacy of the lyrics. The result is arguably Lana Del Rey’s most entrancing album to date, an essential puzzle piece when it comes to understanding one of the most enigmatic artists of the 21st century.