Lana Del Rey has impressed audiences since her 2010 debut, and her latest album "Chemtrails Over the Country Club," released Friday, is no exception. Nearly two years since her last record, “Norman F***ing Rockwell!,” Del Rey's latest offering is a captivating, deep dive into the thirty-five-year-old's dealings with fame and romantic outlook on life.
The album opens with “White Dress,” a nostalgic narrative on the artist’s early years working as a waitress. Name-dropping acts like Sun Ra, The White Stripes and Kings of Leon, the track’s lyrics reminisce on Del Rey’s time before fame: “When I was a waitress wearing a tight dress handling the heat / I wasn't famous, just listening to Kings of Leon to the beat.” Her vocal tone fluctuates from resonant to breathy as she regales listeners with past experiences.
Soaked in autotune, the vocals on "Tulsa Jesus Freak" juxtapose the record's overarching theme of settling down. Producer Jack Antonoff layers Del Rey’s vocals at the forefront of the mix, intertwining heavenly harmonies with echoed vocal samples that create a warm feeling of familiarity. While the tracklist leans heavily on classic Americana sounds, Antonoff and Del Rey don’t shy away from trying new things.
Adding to the record’s country-inspired theme, “Let Me Love You Like A Woman” highlights Del Rey’s desperate need to leave Los Angeles and move to a small town: “I come from a small town far away / I only mention it 'cause I'm ready to leave LA / and I want you to come.” The track is filled with ethereal passages that border psychedelic folk, which add to the song’s dreamy vibe and pairs perfectly with the artist’s journey in the West.
As romantic as she likes to portray America, Del Rey tells it like it is, revealing harsh conclusions reflected throughout the entire record. Country duet “Breaking Up Slowly” (ft. Nikki Lane), depicts this most with the lyrics, “It’s hard to be lonely, but it’s the right thing to do.” These lyrics show the grounded style of writing that faces the facts of reality, regardless of the pain that comes with it.
Reminiscent of Taylor Swift's 2020 albums "folklore" and "evermore," the record's stripped back approach leaves listeners with simple pianos and acoustic strings. While this technique contrasts nicely from Del Rey's iconic style of heavy synths and dramatic undertones, it stays true to her love for the '50s and '60s.
The tracks are repetitive in structure, which allow them to build to a climax. The tenth track, “Dance Till We Die,” features an infectiously groovy bridge that transitions its style from soft country to uptempo and jazzy.
The album ends with a cover of Joni Mitchell’s “For Free,” in collaboration with modern folk artists Weyes Blood and Zella Day. Mitchell’s lyrics contrast her life of fame and fortune with a street performer who plays his clarinet for free. Faithful to the original, the artists’ rendition of the track is the perfect closer for an album concerning newfound fame.
“Chemtrails Over the Country Club” perfectly encapsulates Del Rey’s sound evolution. Starting with a femme-fatale persona on her 2012 record, “Born to Die,” the artist’s style has morphed into a more introspective, mature outlook. This record feels like a hug after a difficult year, and further cements Del Rey’s place as one of the greatest songwriters of her time.