An original soundtrack for another slog
Lana traces here the relentless calamity that unfolds around her, but she spends as much time, if not more, sketching the contours of her inner life. “If this is the end, I want a boyfriend,” she says over the chime of the music box of “Black Bathing Suit,” a song explicitly rooted in her forties – someone to eat ice cream with. , she adds, someone to walk with at home with the mall. She spends the start of “Violets For Roses” exhilarating as she watches the girls turn in their summer dresses, no mask in sight, but she quickly goes from the seemingly waning pandemic to the condemnation of a man who tried to change it. These parallels seem deliberate: the end of a relationship and the disappearance of the world around it. She looks for fragments of tenderness in both.
But it’s also an album about research itself, and Lana carries her wandering gaze not only through the sweeping of cities and states whose names she sings as prayers (“Oooklahoma”, “Cali-forn- iiii-ayyy “, no matter a” Brooklyn bayou “is) but through her past. Trapped in quarantine we are led to believe, Lana has thought a lot about childhood trauma, how our families fold in diagrams. She checks her sister Chuck’s name in the title song (“Chucky makes a birthday cake”) and sings about a strained relationship with her parents on “Wildflower Wildfire.” “Here’s the deal,” repeats -she again and again on this track before telling us about her enraged mother and her soothing father, as if to signal that she is finally letting us in. “I was looking for the father I wanted to find”, breaths- her, cavernous and trembling drums on “Text Book.” It is both intoxicating and inevitable to hear Lana app to link his gift of myth to his education. (There’s more than just a touch of defense here, too: Fans and critics have called her inauthentic throughout her career, and analyzing her past seems like a relatively safe bet to overcome her endless controversies.)
None of these ideas or stories are new, she says on “Text Book,” and Lana hasn’t enjoyed living in a cliché like this since her previous albums, when she could do poetry from it. worn image of a girl with a fake ID flirting for drinks. But sometimes on Ramps, she deploys clichés without questioning them or adding a layer of irony. “Let me show you how bad girls are,” she moans over “Black Bathing Suit,” before a choir of layered chants sings, “Because no one does it better! ” Is it a Born to die-soaked tribute to MIA? Is she rolling her eyes or looking us straight in the eye? On “Beautiful”, she assures us that she can turn grief into art. “I can turn blue into something beautiful,” she whispers, a tense, over-determined feeling. It tells us what we already know; it is strangely like playing it safe. “Ever since I fell in love with you, I fell in love with myself again,” she recounts on “Violets For Roses,” a Carrie Bradshaw style that seems out of place in the generally incisive songwriting of Lana.
But Lana can be fantastic at deconstructing a breakup, squeezing all the melodrama she can from a failed relationship. She gives a woozy waltz for the end of the world on “If You Lie Me Down”, begging a lover to spin her around a room until she is sick. In “Thunder,” she watches a boyfriend transform into “Mr. Brightside” at parties, warm and whiskey-breathed and glistening. As the song builds, she gets more and more frantic all over. begging him to end things already, not to make her wait. There is an eventful momentum running through even the slowest songs on the record. “Dealer” begins with quivering drums, a placid duet, but halfway through. – way to the track, Lana starts to moan, “I don’t want to live!” she screams, as if dragging the vowel down her torn throat.
It’s a raw sounder than the one she got attached to Chemtrails. After working closely with Lana on his last two LPs, Jack Antonoff is not involved in Ramps. He is replaced by an assortment of co-writers and producers, most commonly Drew Erickson (Weyes Blood, Tim Heidecker), Gabe Simon (Maroon 5, Mat Kearney) and Zachary Dawes, bassist for rockers on side project Last Shadow Puppets and Mini Mansions. Longtime collaborator Rick Nowels returns for “Cherry Blossom”. Hip-hop legend and longtime Kanye West sidekick Mike Dean also pops up here and there, but it’s Lana Clayton Johnson’s fiancé and brother Chantry who throw trap-lite drums under a score of Ennio Morricone on “Interlude – The Trio”. A screeching of strings at the start of “Thunder” sounds like a fraction of the orchestral elegy that launched “Born To Die”. Lana checks out Nikki Lane’s name on the title song and adapts the country twang and rumble throughout the record, a continuation of Chemtrails‘ ring. She resumes the high, panting voice that she used for much of Chemtrails but also plunges into its lower register, almost sinking into a growl at the start of “If You Lie Down With Me”.
She tries out new tactics and hatches the ones she hasn’t used in years. In some ways Ramps looks like the purest distillation of the Lana Del Rey project, the grandeur and seizure of her previous albums fused with the romance and scope of her more recent music. The glittering closing track “Sweet Carolina” reads like a parody of Lana’s lyrics, an explosion of poetry found for a shattered era: “You name your babe Lilac Heaven / After your iPhone 11 / ‘Crypto forever’ you, Kevin. Only Lana could do this job.
There are some sublime parts on the album, but it slows down and dulls in the later songs. Those lyrics to “Sweet Carolina” bring you out of the silky soup, layered singing voice. There’s a shiny album hovering just below the surface, and I wonder what Lana might have dug up if she had let the record sit a little longer; It’s hard not to remember Taylor Swift’s twin pandemic records released in rapid succession, how monumental an album she could have made if she had combined them into one. Between Chemtrails and blue ramps, you could piece together a record with the pain, verve and complexity of Norman fucking Rockwell! That’s the downside of having such a titanic and triumphant record in your catalog – every album that follows will be compared to Lana’s best work. In this context, blue ramps may well be a bummer, but in another sense it’s appropriate that the album sometimes merges into the background music. Here’s another soundtrack for another slog – something to play while refreshing the news and charging your phone, waiting for a moment when normal becomes something other than that.
blue ramps released on 10/22 on Polydor / Interscope.