Re-defining violence with Lana Del Rey, re-visiting Nebraska with Springsteen and Shiina Ringo’s Reimport deal

titleVideo Games was the first Lana Del Rey song I heard and it intrigued me from the very start. The song stood out among other tunes played on the radio – it was hauntingly beautiful and dreamy, but the lyrics had this rare dark, depressing overtone, which you cannot easily forget. Then Summertime Sadness and Dark Paradise came along and although these two did not leave as much of impression on me as Video Games, they convinced me that this singer was amazing at conveying emotions and had a fascinating, gloomy voice.

It did not take long before I finally decided to buy Born to Die: The Paradise Edition, and well, I did not regret it. I ought to say the songs I had heard earlier proved to be so-so compared to some of the other gems included on the CD, like Off to the Races (this one showcases Lana’s voice capability), Carmen, Lolita or Million Dollar Man. The Paradise disc offers additional 8 tracks, including a cover of Blue Velvet (originally by Tony Bennett) and Cola with its powerful, sparkly description of the lady part (but I have to say my favorite moment of the song comes around 2:44 mark when falsetto kicks in).
I had Ultraviolence on my radar the moment the release date has been announced but due to various circumstances I did not pre-order it. Then someone uploaded Lana Del Rey’s performance at Glastonbury Festival to Youtube and I decided to check it out. Guitar chords resonating in the intro led me to believe I’m in for a treat. Cola kicked off the show in the mind-blowing fashion. West Coast and Ultraviolence sounded amazing, so 2 days after watching the concert I had my own copy of the new album.

Ultraviolence1

Digipak release.

Lana continues with her stories about mistresses, Lolita-kind of women, cruel love, money, death, broken American dream and violence. Hard to say how much of it is autobiographical, but Ultraviolence is definitely a record which lives up to its name, theme-wise. There are some crazy ideas going on in Lana Del Rey’s head, that’s for sure. Her eerie and somber voice works just astoundingly at expressing these tragic womanly tales. I must say I like the slight change in the sound department. Songs are more guitar-driven; at times Ultraviolence feels more like indie rock album than a CD of a pop singer who gets constant airplay on commercial radio stations. Born to Die was glamorous and dazzling in Hollywood kind of way. Ultraviolence seems darker, more obscure and more rock-ish.

Ultraviolence2On a side note, I’ve been a member of last.fm for a while now and as much as I am fan of that website, it tends to be inaccurate particularly when it comes to modern performers. In the similar artists’ category for Lana Del Rey, we can find Miley Cirus, Marina and the Diamonds, Lily Allen and Iggy Azalea… The only common ground I can see between the aforementioned singers and Lana is that they are all young and popular these days. The recent album reminds me more of stuff done by Cat Power than anything else.
Born to Die and Ultraviolence bring about mature and thought-evoking music and songwriting and I’m curious what the next stage for Lana Del Rey it will be.

As I mostly listen to classic rock and the 80s music I obviously heard the name Bruce Springsteen. ‘Born in the U.S.A.’, ‘The River’ or ‘Born to Run’ are all albums which I hold in high regard. I’ve heard several songs from other releases as well and I appreciate the music the Boss makes, but for some reason I never considered him to be one of my favorite music acts. ‘The River’ and ‘Born to Run’ songs are definitely among the best rock songs ever but when it comes to Springsteen’s work as a whole, I simply liked other bands or artists more.

NebraskaI love Japanese cardboard sleeve ‘mini-LP’ releases of the classic CDs

The moment I gave a listen to ‘Nebraska’ something has changed. The 1982 record is a raw, acoustic, anti-Americana endeavor; I can imagine how surprised people were in 1984 when ‘Born in the U.S.A.’ was released, as it turned out to be a complete opposite of its predecessor. Nebraska tells us stories of killers, broken dreams and failure; it offers little to none hope – the disheartening mood of the album and the minimal arrangements are its strongest points. It heavily relies on Springsteen’s voice and only one track features electric guitar (Born in the U.S.A. hits the listener with synthesizers and whatnot the 80s had to offer). Hearing Nebraska was one of those times when I realize that especially in regards to music, less is more. I see your value now, Boss.

Shiina Ringo was the face of the late 90s rock music scene in Japan. Her first albums wrinkle my brain every time I listen to them and it’s a good thing. Time passed, she mellowed down, and it’s been few years since she released a new solo album. The latest offerings from Ringo are a cover album of songs she previously wrote for other singers, and a single ‘Nippon’ which came up when the World Cup took place.
Gyakuyunyū: Kōwankyoku (逆輸入 ~港湾局~ “Reimport: Ports and Harbours Bureau”) is actually a satisfying record. I’ve never heard these songs being sang by the performers for whom they were written so they were all new to me. The majority of the album has the jazzy/bossa nova feel to it, reminiscent of Ringo’s work with Soil & Pimp Sessions, particularly heard on the first track, 主演の女. Following tunes have more of electronic sound, until near the end of the CD where we can hear 雨傘 and 日和姫 – two rockers, with the guitar finally appearing. The closing song – 幸先坂 – is a ballad accompanied almost exclusively by the accordion. I have to say I find this one dreadful and if it was up to me I’d burn it with fire.

Reimports1

The first press edition of the album came with a huge B2-sized poster. I pre-ordered Gyakuyunyū: Kōwankyoku from CDJapan, and they had the poster rolled up separately in a tube. Thanks to that, I could hang it up on the wall as it was not hideously folded.

Reimports2Neat.

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