Del Rey takes a victory lap


For most of my time as a casual Lana Del Rey listener, I’d come to associate her with a distinct sound: carefully presented and cinematic that was equal parts grandiose, melancholy and melodramatic. Around two years ago , del Rey truly entered my radar.
The first reason lies in her 2019 album, where producer Jack Antinoff helped her shape ethereal folk and piano ballads into deeply resonating tracks. While traces of larger-than-life portraits from previous albums remained, this collection relied on smaller, more poignant moments.
The second reason was a string of highly-publicized social media blunders; yet I couldn’t help but wonder if these were cracks in a persona or parts of the whole, or even a subtle commentary on the state of Americana, a theme central to her body of work.
Del Rey’s latest album, “Chemtrails Over the Country Club,” in many ways answers this question as it develops her image. Musically, it continues on the same trajectory as her last album, being another collaboration with Antinoff, but while the predecessor paid homage to tragic stories in rock ‘n’ roll as a part of a broader lament about what Americana has become, her latest album reads as a gentle tribute to the genre as Del Rey remembers it.
For instance, the first—and so far my favorite—track “White Dress” features Del Rey breathlessly straying to the edge of her head voice over soft piano as she reminiscences about her pre-fame days as a waitress, when her actions weren’t so carefully scrutinized. “Yosemite” is another personal favorite; Del Rey’s falsetto once again takes center stage accompanied by alternating warm guitar motifs and choruses almost glowing with nostalgic wist.
Other standout tracks include “Tulsa Jesus Freak” and “Dance Till We Die,” but none bring the album quite as full circle to “White Dress” as the last track, a cover of Joni Mitchell’s “For Free.” Del Rey is joined by Zella Day and Weyes Blood as they retell Mitchell’s pondering narrative of a street musician playing her songs for free, while they greatly profit off their own performances.
While “Chemtrails over the Country Club” doesn’t quite measure up to the thematic and musical powerhouse that her “Rockwell” was, at this point Del Rey has nothing to prove. The interesting undercurrents and high musical quality of her latest work are enough to keep me satisfied between each of Del Rey’s shenanigans.