Lana Del Rey
18 September 2015, Polydor
The dark-haired songstress’s image often evokes the timelessness of a free spirit in classic Hollywood, an image fully encapsulated with her melodies and words in Honeymoon. The orchestral scoring and mellifluous sounds create a vintage vibe, and the lyrics seem frozen in a moment in time, capturing an emotion or event which define all those around it.
These fourteen songs plays like snapshots from dreams or an old cinema reel; while there is little variation in tempo or tone between songs, this works in the album’s favour by seeming hypnotic, a quality that takes the listener straight to the emotion. This is an album which is best listened to all in one go, with nothing else breaking this atmosphere and minor keys. Del Ray’s impressively wide vocal range is even throughout, with a distinctly sweet vibrato that contrasts with the bitterness of her lyrics. There is quasi-spirituality in the way she sings about heartbreak, bad decisions, and paths of destruction, a hopefulness as the world falls apart.
The title track opens the album; ‘Honeymoon’ is a searching plea for a chance at happiness just out of reach. The next track, ‘Music to Watch Boys To’, is one of the album’s most upbeat; it intersperses the refrain “I like you a lot” with omens of doomed relationships. ‘Terrence Loves You’ is trapped in such a doomed pairing, with the singer expressing what she has lost to an unchanging partner. It is logically followed by ‘God Knows I Tried’ – a plaintive melody asking for respite. ‘High By the Beach’ and ‘Freak’ are more defiant numbers: the former a solo a vengeance trip, the latter an invitation of love. ‘Art Deco’ explores fragility beneath fierce exteriors, and the interlude ‘Burnt Norton’ is almost a musing on immortality. ‘Religion’ is a simple, beautiful, all-encompassing declaration of love, while ‘Salvatore’ teases and entices her lover.
“[The album] evokes the timelessness of a free spirit in classic Hollywood”
The next track, aptly titled ‘The Blackest Day’, is an excruciatingly evocative, long, and painful exploration of a breakup. The torture continues in ‘24’, where the singer reflects on the hours she spends fearful of and for her lover. ‘Swan Song’ returns to the poignant hope of the first tracks, a plea for a lover to join her in freedom. Sadly, the weakest note on the album is perhaps Del Ray’s cover of Nina Simone’s ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’. Her original take on the tempo and orchestration falls flat, though this could be due to the original’s iconic status and the difficult task of re-envisioning it.
Perhaps the album comes across as a little self-indulgent, but that’s hardly a fault given its melodious intrigue and heart-on-sleeve honesty. Lana Del Ray has more than earned the right to explore any theme she wants in any way she desires, and it is a pleasure to hear that her distinctive voice singing out clearly and evocatively. It may just be one of the most finely crafted albums of the year.
For fans of Lana Del Rey’s Honeymoon, see also Flower Face.