Lana Del Rey is one polarizing artist. She has a rabid fanbase, but she also has rabid haters. Well, love her or hate her, she’s back with album #3, Ultraviolence. Lana enlists producer of the moment, Dan Auerbach from The Black Keys, to help her out for the new effort. Auberbach is having a busy 2014 producing both his own rock duo’s album Turn Blue and Ray LaMontagne‘s stellar Supernova.
Auberbach’s presence is felt right away on the opening track “Cruel World”, which brings a psychedelic rock touch to Lana’s sombreness. Yet unlike Ray LaMontagne’s album where Auerbach aggressively rejuvenated Ray’s sound, he mostly lets Lana do her typical thing, and that’s both a good and bad thing.
The title track proves to be one of the most memorable tracks with Lana’s voice layered for powerful effect as she sings about a painful relationship. “Brooklyn Baby” has Lana having more fun…well, about as much fun as Lana lets herself have. You can’t quite figure out if the lyrics are mocking or praising hipsters, and that’s the cleverness of it. “West Coast” adjusts its rhythm midway (something The Black Keys love to do), which keeps things lively (the radio mix has more of a Keys feel with its California groove).
“Shades Of Cool” is less effective with an opening guitar riff that sounds like a rejected James Bond theme. “Sad Girl” and “Money Power Glory” are too muddled to have any impact, while “Pretty When I Cry” comes off as pretentious and the production of “Fucked My Way To The Top” sounds too much like the tracks we’ve already heard previous to it.
Things pick up at the end with the beautiful “Old Money”, a track that leaves behind the psychedelic rock sound for a piano accompaniment with a touch of strings. It’s her best love song since “Young And Beautiful”. The lyrics for the brief closer “The Other Woman” are a fascinating analysis of a mistress’ life.
While Lana’s simple sound can become repetitive, her uniqueness cannot be denied. She managed to become a unique voice in mainstream music and that deserves to be applauded. Ultraviolence isn’t a home run, but it features several strong moments from an artist whose talent cannot be denied.