The Big Listen: Lana Del Rey – Chemtrails Over The Country Club
Sultry songstress Lana Del Rey has kept herself busy since her last album release by dabbling in poetry and getting herself caught up in controversy on the internet, yet she’s returned gracefully with her seventh studio album: Chemtrails Over The Country Club. It’s a record that gives fans of Lana’s vintage pop aesthetic plenty of what they expect, while also layering elements of southern rock and jazz, often via the deft and delicate guitar interludes of producer Jack Antonoff.
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“There’s always turmoil and upheaval” Del Rey stated as she introduced her album on Instagram, “and in the midst of it, there’s beautiful music too.” As a means of summing up a record, it’s hard to imagine how you could put it better than that. Lana Del Rey creates music that feeds the imagination and is carried by storytelling; before the album’s release, she wrote, “I am literally changing the world by putting my life and thoughts and love out there on the table 24/7, respect it.” As a true pioneer for many young women in music, Lana is clear and confident in her musical expression. Whilst the album is so fresh, it’s easy to predict that Chemtrails Over The Country Club will be the perfect moody soundtrack to spring.
Opening track White Dress gives us a taste of Lana’s higher vocal range with mixes of falsetto with whispers and cries. Atmospheric electric guitar bends and slides give the track it’s authentic Lana character; being both cinematic and southern, it fills a void between country music and dream pop that brings both genres together somewhere in the middle.
Tulsa Jesus Freak explores religion, alcoholism and a love affair. Brushed snare drums deliver textures of 50s and 60s smooth jazz, whilst high position plucked guitar matches seamlessly with the vocals as they chant “White hot forever”. Producer and co-writer Antonoff, has Grammy-winning pedigree with both Taylor Swift and St Vincent, and co-produced Lana’s Norman Fucking Rockwell in 2019.
Here, he once again compliments Lana’s southern, love ballad aesthetic with his tasteful, restrained guitar work, bringing his wealth experience across many genres to bear on this body of work. As lead singer of indie band Bleachers, Antonoff is an asset to this album, as his own indie pop work giving Chemtrails… a sheen of modernity that keeps this album from veering too far into retro-indulgence. Song credits also feature Rick Nowels, whose production discography spans from Stevie Nicks to Joan Jett to Weezer – he and Antonoff are a dream pairing to realise Del Rey’s vision.
Often the guitar is not the obvious ingredient to the recipe, certainly on the first few tracks, but it’s always there, carrying the song delicately but as the album progresses the guitar becomes more of a focal point, but in some unexpected ways. Yosemite is lead entirely by Spanish guitar. Reflecting on a relationship, the lyrics pair perfectly with a desperate ballad: “I did it for you, you did it for me, we did it for the right reasons.” As an outtake from 2017 album Lust for Life, the song fits delicately between dreamy finger-plucked tracks Not All Who Wander Are Lost and Breaking Up Slowly.
Dance Till We Die gives us a tasteful key change and transforms to a fusion of soul and funk, with playful saxophone, guitar slides and bends with sass-driven vocals before returning back to a string-infused outro. The album closes with an extremely bold choice – a stripped-down cover Joni Mitchell’s 70s classic For Free, but it feels entirely earned.
Featuring vocals of Zella Day and Weyes Blood, the entire focus of the album is boiled down to its true backbone: female empowered, instrumental music which explores the female experience and themes of love and loss. Having performed this song on her last tour with Day and Weyes, we’re glad it made it to the studio to be encapsulated forever as a celebration of women in folk music. This isn’t the first time Lana has shown her appreciation for folk legends, in 2019 she sang Diamonds & Rust with Joan Baez during her concert in California.
Lana Del Rey will have a legacy of strong songwriting, most women in modern music will reference her as one of their inspirations. This album adds to her consistently fruitful discography and delivers what we expect from the Summertime Sadness singer, but with new twists on her old-fashioned ways.
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