‘Chemtrails over the Country Club’ is a lovely effort from Lana Del Rey

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Lana Del Rey is an American icon. Her blend of Americana with contemporary popular culture has made her a modern day poet. Songs such as “Summertime Sadness” and “The Greatest” are testaments to Del Rey’s songwriting prowess.  

On her latest record “Chemtrails Over The Country Club,” Del Rey continues her themes of romance and American life albeit, away from her usually melancholic style.  

The lead single “Chemtrails Over The Country Club” is not only the best song on the album, it also summarizes the sonic direction Del Rey is following in her career. The soft piano and light drums is reminiscent of a lullaby ballad and Del Rey’s gentle falsetto furthers the warm crisp nature of the song. Her songwriting is also witty with lines like “Baby what’s your sign/ my moon is in Leo, my Cancer is sun” displaying Del Rey’s cultural knowledge of modern dating culture and it’s obsession with Zodiac symbology.  

Her other single “White Dress” is an airy piano ballad that reminds me of “Black Beauty” with her whispery vocals. Del Rey’s use of alliteration is best seen in the lines “When I was a waitress wearing a white dress/ Look how I do this, look how I got this/ I was a waitress working the night shift.” As the opening track to the album, listeners are able to hear Del Rey reflect on her past as a waitress and what life was like prior to being a superstar. 

Further into the album, the song “Yosemite” talks about Lana and her experiences with past relationships. The lead acoustic guitar sounds like it could play around a campfire which is fitting given Del Rey’s story-like presence on the song. The line “You make me feel like I’m invincible/ no more candle in the wind,” seems to be a call back to her song “Mariners Apartment Complex.”  

What is interesting about “Yosemite” is that it was originally supposed to be on Del Rey’s 2017 album, “Lust For Life,” but was considered ‘too happy’ of a song to be on the album at the time according to Del Rey an interview conducted by Zane Lowe in 2017. 

Listening to “Chemtrails Over The Country Club” reminds me of a mixture between Del Rey’s previous record “Norman Fucking Rockwell” and her 2014 record “Ultraviolence” with elements incorporated from her 2017 album “Lust for Life.” The focus on an americana sound is felt throughout the album with no sight of trap drums or booming bass that was found on previous Del Rey songs.  

While I understand the quieter and folkier direction Del Rey was aiming for, it does not ignite the same emotional spark for me that was found on “Norman Fucking Rockwell” or “Ultraviolence.” There is less of a critical bite on American culture that was found on her previous record and the overall sound feels homogeneous compared to previous albums. I also appreciate Del Rey taking influence from her previous albums, but without the nostalgic mysticism that made albums like “Ultraviolence” or “Born to Die” special, it feels as if  Del Rey is ignoring what made her famous.  

Not all is lost on “Chemtrails Over The Country Club.” Del Rey is the most optimistic she’s been throughout her career on this album and desire for simplicity is felt throughout the record. 

Her cover of Joni Mitchelle’s “For Free” with Weyes Blood and Zella Day is a solid closing song. Blood and Day are the only featured vocalists on the album and they complement Del Rey’s vocals like lilac inside a candle. Stylistically, Day’s vocals remind me of Del Rey earlier in her career while Blood’s voice is reminiscent of Joan Baez, a singer songwriter who is one of Del Rey’s inspirations. 

Seeing Del Rey transform her career from a budding pop star into an established icon has been a sight to see. She has been able to magnify the issues plaguing the American psyche while intertwining her own love life. “Chemtrails Over The Country Club” does not carry the same old Hollywood mystique that was found on “Honeymoon” or Ultraviolence” nor is it a masterpiece like “Norman Fucking Rockwell.”    

There is something to be said about taking a break from what made you famous and going in a quieter direction. I think of “Chemtrails Over The Country Club” as a calmer spiritual successor to her previous album. 

There is something to be said about taking a break from what made you famous and going in a quieter direction. I think of “Chemtrails Over The Country Club” as a calmer spiritual successor to her previous album.  

With a new album, “Rock Candy Sweet” set to be released on June 1, it will be intriguing to see where Del Rey takes her career, especially since he aims the new album to address her critics which is something she avoided on this album.  

Whichever direction Del Rey decides to take her career, it is certain that her gift for poetry and harmonies will continue on just like they did on “Chemtrails Over The Country Club.” There are only a handful of artists who I can listen to and continually feel inspired by and Del Rey is one of those artists.  

Rating: 4 out of 5 

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