Lana Del Rey
Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd
More confounding, confessional, and contagious with each release, Lana Del Rey has become, by the time of her ninth album Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd, baroque-pop’s melodic poetess of discontent—a subtly abstracted cross between the violence of Kathy Acker and the playfulness of Nellie McKay, with the Cottonelle tenor of Chet Baker at his huskiest for a grand, soft sell at rainbow’s end.
Shame, sex, death, and family all black-comically wriggle through Del Rey’s new album as if pouring mercury through a sieve, a lightly orchestral sifting process designed by Del Rey’s producer Jack Antonoff to go down easy without missing out on any sonic or lyrical drama. Like its cinematic sister, Norman Fucking Rockwell!, Ocean Blvd carries her torch for torchiness on the gospel-inspired family-panorama “The Grants” and the album’s wrung-and-strung-out, string-filled title tune, while allowing for experiments in breezy folk (her Father John Misty duet “Let the Light In”), ambient trap-hop (“Fishtail”), and Spector-Springsteenian grandeur (“Margaret”).
The finest test of Del Rey’s artistry on Ocean Blvd comes on the epic longform “A&W,” a hypnotic lament worthy of The Doors at their fantastic LA peak—a winding, minimalist, electro tone poem of childhood anecdotes pleading innocence to copping to an adulthood where sex is the only salve. Despite these sharp sonic turns, the course that Lana Del Rey drives on Ocean Blvd is a familiar one, a pleasant vacation with just enough tourist traps to engage the visitor in discomfort and glad-to-be-unhappy musical melancholia.