Inevitable pressure and expectation: the second album’s labelled “difficult” for a reason.
Despite extra EPs and deluxe editions, Lana Del Rey has greater expectation than most for her second studio album after breakthrough ‘Born to Die’ made her a teenage icon. ‘Ultraviolence’ has been received exceptionally well though, as the consensus seem to believe it eclipses ‘Born to Die’ with its newfound sleepy psychedelica.
Del Rey is quite clearly a perfectionist and has been making this album since early 2013. She’s recruited the help of The Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach, whose multi-faceted production creates a distinct and cohesive sound across ‘Ultraviolence’. The record as a whole remains true to the themes of ‘Born to Die’ dealing with power, sexuality and love drawing inspiration from geographical opposites, California and New York. There’s a polarising of emotions too, as she moves from the 60’s bond girl and damsel in distress as found in the titular ‘Ultraviolence’ and ‘Sad Girl’, to the empowered 21st century starlet of ‘West Coast’ and ‘Money Power Glory’.
Album standouts include slow-burner ‘Cruel World’, which opens the album with trademark cinematic vocals and dismisses the poppish tone of ‘Born to Die’ in favour of a darker soundscape and ‘Shades of Cool’ whose chorus explodes in a kaleidoscope of Melody Prochet–esque psychedelica. Of course, first single ‘West Coast’ must not be forgotten, encapsulating the hope of the American dream with lyrics like ‘I get this feeling / like it all could happen, that’s why I’m leaving’.
‘Ultraviolence’ builds well upon the niche Lana found in her debut, with only ‘Pretty When You Cry’ sounding every bit the filler track; perhaps no surprise, it lacks Auerbach’s mesmeric influence. For a so-called difficult album, it’s as effortless a record as you’ll ever hear, but then that’s exactly the kind of contradiction you’d expect from Lana Del Rey.