The first moments of Lana Del Rey’s latest release, “Honeymoon,” orient listeners into a world of tainted opulence Ð high-pitched strings and breathy, harmonic vocals bring to mind a Hitchcockian leading lady in love with a madman. The image is crystal clear: cherry red lipstick, big white sunglasses, and a revolver.
Del Rey wastes no time in getting to her subject matter: “We both know the history of violence that surrounds you/but I’m not scared, there’s nothing to lose now that I’ve found you,” she croons on the opening title track, “Honeymoon.”
On Del Rey’s last release, “Ultraviolence,” she traded in much of the pop production from her debut and sophomore albums in favor of a haunting, dreamlike, hook-free sound. “Honeymoon” seems to have found a happy middle ground, featuring more of the drums and word play that “Ultraviolence” lacked while retaining lyrical maturity. Rolling Stone called it the “morning after” album. And she has far from abandoned what she does best, which is to grapple with walking the fine line between love and torture, whether there’s a line at all.
Single “High By the Beach” is probably the deepest foray into pop territory on the album, simultaneously catchy, disturbing and lovely. “The Blackest Day” stands out as one of the best tracks with its eerie, layered vocals and just a twinge of desperation as Del Rey grapples with longing for an absent partner.
The unexpected highlight of “Honeymoon” is “Freak,” notable for its lilting hook as well as for Del Rey’s cooing “come to California/be a freak like me too” and making you really, really want to.
Of course, it’s this alluring quality Del Rey is so known for that is rife with potential for dangerous ideology. This album, like its predecessors, romanticizes a controlling, vicious kind of love which, while poetic, is unquestionably toxic.
Critics of the title track on “Ultraviolence,” which featured the line “he hit me and it felt like a kiss,” will not find a kinder picture of relationships here. “When all my friends say I should take some space/well I can’t envision that for a minute/when I’m down on my knees, you’re how I pray” Del Rey sings on “Religion,” an ode to obsessive love that grows more unsettling with each listen.
Still, if much negative can be said about this record, it’s only that the transitions between tracks are so subtle and seamless that it can be difficult to identify them at all. On first listen, “Honeymoon” blurs by, a kind of art that takes some time to develop an ear for. But with a little patience, the trance becomes less ethereal and a little bit grittier, the dark and dirty parts exposed for what they are without ever becoming uninviting. “A little party never hurt no one” Del Rey sighs on “Art Deco,” and if the party is as luxurious as this album, it’s a party everyone will want to attend.