Lana Del Rey – Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd

Imagine walking through said tunnel, and the arraignment gets fixed to include remnants of sparkling, twinkling lights guiding you through between ends while following a musical rhythm that emboldens the imagery visualized from the listener. Now, while in that tunnel, you notice a few stones loose like threads on a simple but character-filled dress held together by some quality stitching that makes it look brand new. That’s what it feels like taking the journey through Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd, the new album by Lana Del Rey. A lot of that comes from Jack Antanoff, whose production has become more of a weary point of emphasis, despite matching middling effort to contort Lana’s approach toward this intricate narrative that’s self-reflexive. It’s rewarding as it is inconsistent due to some poor pacing between tracks. But we get significant highlights when someone else brings something instrumentally besides Del Rey and Antanoff; you get enough here to satisfy the ears with bountiful music that hits the right chords.

Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd sometimes doesn’t incorporate sounds that reflect Del Rey’s strengths, aiming to shift slightly known. These sounds become lost in obscurity as it brings some trap notes or an oversaturation of electronica without adding depth to the core of its production. Fortunately, these moments are merely sparse, becoming slight components that get forgotten, yet, how it gets incorporated makes it harder at first. The various high points take away from the off-kilter choices that take her through these uncharacteristic avenues, showing the minimal limitations of the areas Jack Antanoff can reach in pop. He brings trap notes at the end of “A&W,” a track I thoroughly enjoyed but loses that spark that made the first five minutes so radiant – additionally, the Trip-Hop Griminess elements of “Taco Truck x VB” aren’t deeply explored. It’s the same with “Peppers,” a Father co-produced track that brings some imagination to the beat the trap/hip-hop undertones, but Lana Del Rey doesn’t align with the conjectures of the sound, feeling like an afterthought next to Tommy Genesis, at time.

Most of the production carries antiquated notes that sometimes don’t feel as unique within the beat because it gets bolstered by the performance of Lana Del Rey, like on “Kintsugi,” where the piano isn’t as pronounced, despite being a focal point. “Fingertips” doesn’t feel like anything new or intriguing, despite solid songwriting and performance. For the most part, the production is good, but it becomes more of a balancing beam for Lana Del Rey and the featured performers. They use their moments triumphantly, even in the bad, as they deliver beautifully poignant and potent performances that further become resonant of a more creative, streamlined narrative structure where we get an essence of creation while Lana’s breaking walls around her. The featured artists match that potency, even in the weaker songs, from Jon Batiste to SYML and Tommy Genesis; there isn’t a moment where the quality of their addition isn’t compelling. She lets others get through, bolstering the thematic pertinence about her character, family, and the world around her in the immediate. 

The themes flow fluidly throughout; whether it’s reminiscing on family and the Grant ancestry on the “The Grants,” reflecting inner growth in “Sweet,” or detailing a secret love affair on “Let The Light In,” you hear who Lana Del Rey is as an artist, especially as she weaves a thematic throughline with the interludes. One significant highlight comes on “Fishtails,” which showcases the remarkable talent within Lana Del Rey; she bridges two different threads of family and relationships through the same path creating this vibrantly wistful path where the synergy between vocals and production excels. Though the orchestration is comparatively weaker, Del Rey continuously elevates it further with the writing and vocal performance. She excels through the elevated atmosphere from these otherworldly ingredients, almost as if she wants to bring us together within that central theme regarding the love and virtues of one’s family. One of these ingredients is the consistent studio or outdoors-like ambiance breaking down the performances before our eyes; it makes the “Jon Batiste Interlude” and “Margaret” such joyous and fulfilling arrangements. It’s a different level of catchiness, where it becomes less reliant on a melody and more on the vibes.

By having the kind of catchiness it does, Lana Del Rey keeps you entrenched in the sounds her producers make, as the words she sings blossom through your ears, despite its lack of a consistent pace. It can sometimes push you away as songs run long, which is typical for Del Rey; however, unlike past songs, this ballad-like pacing doesn’t translate to a predominantly smooth listen, despite rarely shifting off path. It creates a slight impatience as the album slowly dampens the speed and tempo in the middle and end, progressively getting so. Though noticeable, getting through the tracks at such a pace can equally be as rewarding. Fortunately, having producers other than Jack Antanoff allows Lana to tap into these oeuvres of different string rhythms where you get some exuberant moments like Zach Dawes’s bass playing, which adds dimensions to the production he works on, like “The Grants.” It’s making that first and possibly second listen rewarding.

Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd delivers, and on some tracks, pushing further than expected based on what you heard through singles released. Significant highs stand out viscerally, but the lows are tolerable as it goes the limits to make it work, falling short of delivering something unique. It leaves you with an album bloated from these sidesteps, specifically from the pacing within tracks that can turn anyone impatient. But as it rounds out, It’s there, with many quality Lana Del Rey albums – as memorable as Chemtrails Over the Country Club and Lust For Life, reaching the highest peak for something that is replayable, despite bringing a lot to the table.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

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