Intricate, lush, and definitively Lana Del Rey at her best.
Lana Del Rey’s problem has always been her penchant for rather tame songwriting. While she is a quite capable vocal talent, she is simply not very memorable in execution. While she has by all means struck gold with several singles in the past, previous albums have been a chore to get through. The word ‘filler’ comes to mind. Ultraviolence, Lana Del Rey’s 2014 effort, presents her at her most cohesive. It’s mild-sounding enough (despite its garish name) to appease previous fans, yet it takes enough risks to be a more interesting listen than its predecessors.
From the album’s onset, it’s clear that Ultraviolence is soaked in effects meant to evoke nostalgia. Enough reverb is applied to enrich the mix while smartly refusing to traverse the realm of cheesiness, because each song has the melodic backbone to stand on its own merit. It doesn’t do much to hinder Lana’s voice either. Unlike Born to Die, the more electronica-oriented effects have been removed in favor of a more organic sound, with bluesy guitars and strings. All the while, Lana is crooning dreamily over each track, showing frequent spurts of the vocal acrobatics she refused to flaunt on earlier albums. While some choruses can get repetitive, the calmly confident demeanor in which they are delivered lends beautifully to the experience, almost challenging us to listen closer; she successfully avoids the ‘in-one-ear-out-the-other’ kind of vacuous delivery she has been known for. The dream pop influence is evident, and while one criticism is that the album can seem to drag on for too many minutes, they are certainly elegant and soulful minutes.
Ultraviolence is an album that reaches cinematic heights, a brooding gem that demonstrates Lana Del Rey’s ability to take criticism and use it to improve her act. It’s art and she treats it like such; it’s hard to listen to “Shades of Cool” or “Money Power Glory” without thinking about the word, and as she sings about love, loss, or success, it’s hard to listen without feeling something alongside her. Ultraviolence is improved on all fronts, and is down to be one of the strongest showings in mainstream pop music all year.