I recently finished Kim Gordon’s memoir detailing her time in Sonic Youth along with the intimate details of her breakup with husband (and fellow Sonic Youth member), Thurston Moore. I mostly enjoyed the book, but I had to laugh – she spent a few sentences bashing Lana Del Rey. It was puzzling to me, as Sonic Youth have championed the music of The Carpenters for over 30 years now. Take away the tragedy of Karen Carpenter, and you are left with brilliant pop music. The time spent bashing Lana Del Rey reeked of indie elitism which both amused and got under my skin a bit. Hell, Sonic Youth covered Madonna! In this day and age, who cares? Anyone can listen to anything at anytime. Music should be an all-inclusive family – no cool kid games. At least, that’s my outlook. As far as Lana Del Rey? I think she is brilliant, and her latest record is her strongest yet.
Honeymoon arrives a mere 18 months or so after Ultraviolence. Although the album is touted as sounding quite a bit different from her last record and more in line with her earlier work, I think it is in line with what we’ve previously heard. The difference is that I’m not skipping tracks on this record – there are no concessions to the radio or pop music here. The vibe is 60’s noir, James Bond type music. Cinematic strings swirl, the vocals are dramatic, the lyrics obsessed with boys, sex, violence, and death. Is it genuine? Is it fake? Music this good has to come from somewhere within. Lana Del Rey has delivered a tour de force – an album that only grows in stature with repeated listens.
Honeymoon opens the record with Scott Walker-ish strings, setting up the vibe for the first lines “We both know / that it’s not fashionable to love me”. A plea to a lover in a damaged relationship, or perhaps letting the hipster listeners know that she knows that they love her. Sultry, layered vocals roped this listener in. Music To Watch Boys To kind of had me cringing with its title, but thankfully it is another winner. It’s becoming obvious that Miss Del Rey is in full torch song mode on this record, laying down the best vocal tracks of her brief career thus far. Honestly, this song kind of reminds me of Portishead or at least the record Beth Gibbons made with Rustin Man way back in 2002. The quasi rap breakdown is simply genius “Live to love you / And I love to love you / And I live to love you, boy / Nothing gold can stay”. Ponyboy knows exactly what she is talking about. High By The Beach is the obvious choice for 1st single, it features the most pop vibe of any other song on the record. The chanted title with the hypnotic beat is simply perfect. A lyrical kiss off to another doomed lover “Boy look at you, looking at me / I know you don’t understand / You could be a bad motherfucker / But that don’t make you a man”. Religion has the best beat on the album along with the by now standard doomed love lyrics. But it doesn’t get old, its perfect. Lana’s religion is sex, and she coos, whispers, sings, and bares her soul to tell us all about it. “Cause you’re my religion / You’re how I’m living / When all my friends say I should take some space / Well I can’t envision, that for a minute / When I’m down on my knees, you’re how I pray / Hallelujah, I need your love”. Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood closes the record on a high note. The best Nina Simone cover ever? I think so. Fittingly, the cover features a 60’s organ refrain throughout while Lana pleads with us “But I’m just a soul whose intentions are good / Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood”. Are you listening, Kim?
I can’t state this more plainly – this is the best album Lana Del Rey has released to date. Don’t worry about whether it is cool or not, I blast this in my soccer mom car proudly. Isn’t doing whatever you want what punk was supposed to be about? Kim Gordon, in bashing her, called her “a female Chris Isaak”. I love Chris Isaak, so that’s an amazing compliment and I can’t think of a better way to give this album my highest marks.
Verdict: A Female Chris Isaak
For Fans of: Sonic Youth, Portishead, Radiohead, The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Chris Isaak
- Music To Watch Boys To
- Terrence Loves You
- God Knows I Tried
- High By The Beach
- Art Deco
- Burnt Norton (Interlude)
- The Blackest Day
- Swan Song
- Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood