Tuesday, May 2, 2017

McQ's #66 Album Of 2015 - HONEYMOON - Lana Del Rey

For most artists, by the time they reach their fourth full-length release, they are ready to break free, at least to a degree, from the formula that got them their start.

Not Lana Del Rey.

If anything, Honeymoon finds the enigmatic, of-this-era-but-not, ennui-drench pop chanteuse doubling down on, nea stripping down to, the most elemental trademarks of her music - the seductive but bored vocals, the otherworldly orchestral instrumentations, the often kiddie-pool shallow lyrics that nonetheless convey a sense of conniving femme fatale menace - and the end result is an album that highlights both the best and worst of Del Rey's music.

Wonderfully produced and tremendously atmospheric, the album is also way overlong and in many instances tediously monochromatic, even by Del Rey's narrow-niche standards. Because of the unrelenting mellow consistency of Honeymoon, I much prefer her previous effort, the Dan Auerbach produced Ultraviolence, which at least found a way to sneak in some instrumental blues and jazz electricity into Del Rey's trademark style. But that said, I do also feel that Honeymoon is still a more accomplished/mature effort than her first two releases.

Another interesting revelation for me, by album four it is abundantly clear that Del Rey possesses a voice tailor-made for delivering compellingly whispery, dramatic verses but that same voice is not a strong vehicle for delivering memorable choruses.  I can't think of one song on this album where the chorus passage is more enticing than the verse leading up to it or the coda that follows. Not one.

But my most interesting take-away from Honeymoon is how slim her margin for error is when trying to deliver music of this specific style.

Tiny qualitative differences in the strength of melody lines, instrumentation, or sense of drama end up having huge qualitative impacts on the overall success of these songs, leading to an album that exudes a potent hit and miss vibe even though the performance/songwriting differences between the "hits" and "misses" are in a more reductive sense almost negligible.

As for those songs that worked the best for me, in addition to cherry picker recs Music To Watch Boys To, Terrence Loves You, God Knows I Tried, and Religion, I also liked The Blackest Day, the reworking of the Animals/Nina Simone track Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood, and the short spoken interlude Burnt Norton, which has a cool, Twin Peaks-y feel to it.

On the flip-side, I can't stand the chorus to High By The Beach, it's just so nothing there, and several other lesser tracks leave me similarly bored.

So very mixed review here.  I do love some of the atmospherics and there are really nice versus build-ups or post chorus passages throughout, but this an album where less would have definitely been more.  We'd probably be talking at different recommend status for Honeymoon had it been pared down to nine or ten tracks.

Status: Mild Recommend

Cherry Picker's Best Bets: Music To Watch Boys To, Terrence Loves You, God Knows I Tried, Religion.

Track Listing:
1. Honeymoon - 6
2. Music To Watch Boys To - 8
3. Terrence Loves You - 8
4. God Knows I Tried - 8
5. High By The Beach - 4
6. Freak - 6
7. Art Deco - 7
8. Burnt Norton - 7
9. Religion - 8
10. Salvatore - 6
11. The Blackest Day - 8
12. 24 - 6
13. Swan Song - 6
14. Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood - 7
Intangibles - Average To Slightly Low

Here are the official videos for one of my favorite tracks on the album, Music To Watch Boys To, and my least favorite track on the album, lead single High By The Beach.

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