Lana Del Rey’s music has always felt rather monotonous to me. Albums such as Ultraviolence and Lust For Love felt tedious to get through, insipidly written, filled with unimpressive and stiff singing, superficial, and, worst of all, boring from nearly front to back. She is decent at creating a dense atmosphere, but there is not much more of interest going on below the surface layer. However, even as a routine Lana Del Rey hater, I had to admit that Normal Fucking Rockwell was a major step-up from her previous material. Even if I don’t think it’s an amazing record by any means, still plagued by the superficial stiffness that eternalized her other works and many songs ending somewhat abruptly, Norman Fucking Rockwell was Lana’s opus at the time; the record had marginally improved songwriting in comparison to its predecessor and was the album that captured her engrossing atmosphere the most for me as she embraced a more folky sound. My greatest hope going forward was that Lana would only progress as an artist and improves on the shortcomings of Norman Fucking Rockwell, but sadly, Chemtrails Over The Country Club, despite continuing in that folkier direction, feels just as lifeless as her earliest albums.
The shtick of atmospheric, mellow, and spacey folk songs that Lana established with a few key tracks off of Norman Fucking Rockwell isn’t really improved on Chemtrails Over the Country Club. On the contrary, Chemtrails feels like a regression of many things Norman Fucking Rockwell was doing so well. Chemtrails is much more spectral than its predecessor and, as a result, feels far too barren and restrained for its own good. Many tendencies pop up on Chemtrails that I felt as if Lana seemed to rid herself of on Norman Fucking Rockwell. Sometimes, the songs suffer from buildups that end up feeling like they fizzle into nothingness, other times, melodies lack any bit of disposition. Worst of all, however, has to be the album’s colorless feel. It’s boring and rather mundane for most of its runtime and, in a word, feels consistently boring.
In terms of songwriting, Chemtrails, more often than not, feels like Lana’s most intimate record yet, like an open book straight from the heart. Her songwriting has clearly improved since the days of Born To Die. This feeling of intimacy is only complimented by Lana’s hushed demeanor and faint, frail singing voice that sounds as if Lana is whispering her secrets directly into your ear. As much as I admire this quality about Chemtrails, the album still feels just about as dull and hard to sit through, primarily because of how sonically mundane it is, as her early works are to me.
Chemtrails is at an odd place honestly. It's far too bare to be interesting through and through yet feels like Lana overdoes her intended sound. There's a special beauty in minimalism, and Lana doesn't fully grasp that minimalistic magic I ever so desire from this album. It feels stripped of the organicness that seems to be a prevailing theme all my favorite folk albums seem to have. In albums like those, you can feel every ounce of emotion that strums the acoustic guitar; the crowd chirping away in the background; the passion of their words flowing through their silky smooth voices, but Chemtrails feels... well, manufactured to some extent. Lana seems lost as for which direction she wants to go in; melodramatic art-pop and barebones folk, and Chemtrails ends up in an awkward middle ground. Truthfully, if I had to give Lana any advice as to what I would want to from a future Lana Del Rey folk project, it would be to go all in; a more organic folk album that uses minimalism to its advantage rather than to its detriment, has slightly fewer reverby instruments infesting the mix (TALKING ABOUT THAT HEARTBEAT PERCUSSION), and had more expressive vocals. I doubt Lana will ever do this and, until then, her music will forever be hindered by this lack of organicness. If you enjoy this record, then go ahead and enjoy it, but for me, this album just doesn’t really cut it, and that’s a real shame.
Favorite Track: White Dress, Wild at Heart, Breaking Up Slowly
Worst Track: Yosemite