A review of Lana's seventh studio album Chemtrails Over the Country Club and why I feel it's her best album yet.
Lana Del Rey released her seventh studio album Chemtrails Over the Country Club on 19 March, the follow up to 2019's brilliant Norman F***ing Rockwell. Like her previous one, it was a record I simply couldn't get enough of it!
It's funny, years went by where I was largely ignorant of Lana's (real name Elizabeth Grant) work. Then in 2019, I heard her cover of 'Doin' Time'. With its smooth, trip-hip style and references to 'the LBC' (Long Beach), the late-night vibes were absolutely addictive.
After loving her early singles 'Born To Die', 'Video Games' and 'Summertime Sadness', 'Doin' TIme' was a new entry point back into Lana's career six years after her debut. I was soon a big fan of 2019's Norman F***ing Rockwell, quickly coming to appreciate her classy, cinematic style.
Lana has built a profile for her themes of 50s nostalgia, romantic longing and California escapism. She portrays a sense of glamour like no one and her new album proves exactly why that's the case, produced in the best style yet.
The best tracks on the album
'White Dress' is a stunning opener. Supported by a gentle piano ballad, it sees Lana nostalgic for a time when she was working as a waitress in Orlando, listening to jazz, Kings Of Leon, and "White Stripes when they were white-hot, listening to rock all day long".
It was a simpler time where she "felt free 'cause I was only nineteen", the "white dress" representing purity before fame took over her life. Her voice is also on point here too. The whispery, croaked vocals really make the hairs rise. It's hard to imagine a more impactful introduction!
The title track and lead single 'Chemtrails Over the Country Club' is another stunning effort, a laid-back melody that just gets stuck in your head. It's a minimalist track with the usual escapism and romantic longing we've come to expect from her.
Despite her upstate New York upbringing, California - and L.A. in particular - are regular reference points for Lana. Surprisingly, in 'Let Me Love You Like A Woman' she asks her lover to leave Los Angeles with her for a new life anywhere else. Lana declares to her partner, "I come from a small town, how 'bout you?, I only mention it 'cause I'm ready to leave LA, And I want you to come, Eighty miles north or south will do, I don't care where as long as you're with me". It's easily an album highlight and you find yourself hanging on her every word!
While she's trying to escape L.A. in the former, the following track, 'Wild At Heart' has her resisting the City of Angeles star lifestyle. In the chorus, she references the 1996 death of Princess Diana and sings "the cameras have flashes, they cause the car crashes, but I'm not a star, if you love me, you'll love me, 'cause I'm wild, wild at heart".
Whilst some may disagree, Lana, despite all her success, is not your conventional pop star and it's clear she wants to detach herself as far as she can from being one. This album does its best to strip away the star appeal and the over the top-ness in favour of something more subtle and heartwarming.
The folky 'Not All Who Wander Are Lost' has Lana at her high pitched best, again mixing up her vocal style to stunning effect. 'Yosemite' follows suit with a real autumn folk feel, Lana displaying her contentedness with her current lover. She tells her partner, "honey, you made me feel I'm invincible, it's just like I wanted, no more candle in the wind, It's not like I'm invisible, like I was before, no more burning at both ends".
Most albums that feature a similar downtempo style can suffer a lull by this midpoint in the album, but thankfully Lana keeps us engaged. These two are stunning tracks.
'Breaking Up Slowly' may be the shortest on the record, but it's by no means the least dramatic. Lana shares vocal duties with country singer Nikki Lane for a tale of a reluctant break-up, coming to the conclusion that, despite the pain involved, it's the best course of action.
Over a melancholic folk backdrop, the two singers declare in the chorus, "'cause breaking up slowly is a hard thing to do, I love you only and it's making me blue, so don't send me flowers like you always do, it's hard to be lonely but it's the right thing to do". You really feel the suffering in the decision through the power of the two singers performances.
The penultimate track 'Dance Till We Die' is more upbeat in cheery in nature than the former. In it, Lana pays homage to her heroes Joan Baez and Stevie Nicks, performers who were once idols and are now friends. In the first line of the song, Lana sings "I'm coverin' Joni", before doing exactly that in the final track 'For Free', a cover of Joni Mitchell's 1970 song.
What's funny about the final track is, despite being blown away by Lana up to this point, it's singers Zella Day and Weyes Blood who steal the show on this cover. Albeit, it wasn't my favourite song on the record, but it ends the record with a piano ballad showing a familiar class and style we've come to expect throughout.
Why it's my favourite of hers yet
Chemtrails Over The Country Club is a more stripped-down album than Norman F***ing Rockwell with more Americana and folk tendencies. It's perhaps less dramatic than previous efforts, but the power of her hooks, nostalgic imagery and stunning voice creates a sublime album from start to finish. It's one you'll quickly fall in love with.
Lana doesn't overcomplicate things over the 45 minutes and that is part of the appeal. Having read many of the reviews, some critics and fans believe this new album to still be in the shadow of her 2019 release Norman F***ing Rockwell. I'll go against the grain and say it was a far more enjoyable and cohesive record. The more subtle folk/Americana backdrop just feels more genuine than anything else she's done before. It instantly struck a chord more so than any of her other records.
Another reason is the length. At 45 minutes, you leave the album wanting more, blown away time and again by the sublime brilliance on offer. Chemtrails Over The Country Club is 22 minutes shorter than Norman F***ing Rockwell and the importance of this can't be understated. For me, timing and flow are so important to the focus of an album and for that reason, the new one just edges it over the former.
In her five-star review, The Independent's Helen Brown described the new album as "damn-near impossible to resist" and it's hard to argue. Whilst her other albums could feel like a slog at points, upon completion of closer 'For Free', I was simply counting down the hours until I could listen to the record again!
Ten years into her career, Lana just keeps getting better. The New York singer evokes a certain uniqueness to her nostalgic style, an absolute class act in a league of her own in the pop world. Chemtrails Over The Country Club furthers that claim even more and is likely to bring in many who'd previously been resistant.
Yes, there's been controversy involving Lana in the past and her authenticity questioned, but this is her more genuine effort yet. It's also proof of a singer at the top of their game and only getting better.
With the next album Rock Candy Sweet already announced for release in June, let's hope she can continue that consistency. She's already given us one of the best albums of 2021.