Review: LDR’s Chemtrails Over the Country Club

April McBride, Staff Writer

Lana Del Rey is taking us back to Long Island with her 9th studio album “Chemtrails Over The Country Club”. Lana welcomes us to her world of late night bars, endless folk references and skating through the suburban outskirts of LA where the 10-track record lives. It is a meditation on the complexities of fame and serves as an explanation for Lana’s mysterious behavior over the course of her career.

 This is her first official dive into country and folk music, that was alluded to on several tracks of her previous albums including Lust For Life of 2017 and Norman F*cking Rockwell of 2019. This also marks a turning point back into her original sound that (along with her name and persona) was frequently changed and manipulated to create a more successful image early on. You can hear 2008 unreleased track samples spilling out all over the record. 

As the album dropped on Friday, March 19th Lana released her second music video of the era track “White Dress”. She teased the video with a 13 year old video of herself living at the trailer park and talking about her ambitions to make serious videos. It follows Lana skating through a abandoned road in LA. (Credit: Lana Del Rey / YouTube)

Beginning with a long melodious track ‘White Dress” Lana recounts her time living in a trailer park and working as a waitress on Long Island in the early 2000’s. At the time she had learned to play guitar for the first time and wrote over 150 unreleased songs through a summer. The five and ½ minute track looms over her experience that year at the Men in Music Conference in Orlando, FL that she had attended over 14 years ago saying “I only mention it cause it was such a scene”. The drums snare to close and she reflects how far her small dreams have come since long night shifts a tight white uniform, “It kinda makes me feel like maybe I was better off”. 

The soft guitar and folk dulcimer integrate through more classical Lana sounds with tracks ‘Wild At Heart’, ‘Dark But Just A Game” and “Let Me Love You Like A Woman”. These all contemplate a life away from LA, her dotted past, and her current engagement with 32-year old guitarist Clayton Johnson.She details their dynamic on 7th track “Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost”, she croons over their intimacies, “the thing about men like you if you got a lot to say, but will you stay? You got my name on your tattoo (…) You talk to god like I do, I think you would know the same secrets that I do”. Third track ‘Tulsa Jesus Freak’ is rumored to be about her ex-flame Live PD star Sean Larkin and their trips to middle America. 

A standout on the collection is five minute slow-burn ‘Yosemite” originally written in 2016 for her record “Lust For Life. Lana states to a Beats 1 Radio reporter that the track was “too happy, to a point where she’s not there”. Including it now over five years later sends the clear message that this era would be marked as happier and calmer thematically . This song is about wondering over your intentions. Lana states many times she had to change her voice, clothing and persona to fit into a more marketable place in the industry. Those changes  that eventually did land her international success in 2012. There is a hint of doubt on this track that if she was doing music for the “right reasons” she wouldn’t have gained that same feat. Mentioning her old self again she wraps the track with the line “When I was young ‘till eternity, I’ll do it for the right reasons”. 

Stevie Nicks has been a heavy influence for Lana over the past 6 years they have been friends, Stevie not only is featured on Chemtrails but is referenced to multiple times through the album. Stevie spoke about Lana in Harper’s Bazzar 2017 saying “Working on your (Lana’s) songs have changed me forever, we are witchy sisters and that’s it”. (Credit: LDR’s Instagram)

The remaining three songs serve as a transition from Lana’s sounds to a folk conception. Starting with “Breaking up Slowly”, a track written and produced by Nikki Lane. That also features her heavily. The country references are laid on thick with mention of Tammy Wynette and use of fictional storytelling. This is even more apparent in “Dance til We Die”, a homage track to classical singer-songwriters Joan Baez, Stevie Nicks, and Joni Mitchell, “I’m Covering Joni and I’m dancin’ with Joan, Stevie is calling on the telephone”. It also features Nicks one of Lana’s most out-of-character bridge that spins into a folk dance square.

The closing song is a cover of the 1970s Americana song “For Free” by Joni Mitchell. Lana originally performed on her Norman F*cking Rockwell tour of 2020 with her friends Weyes Blood and Zella Day who are featured on the released version. The impact of this track being last solidifies the motif of fame as this song follows a famous singer watching street performers play what she does for free. 

Though it did not surpass Norman F*cking Rockwell in terms of both fan and critical acclaim it was a surprisingly new sound for her. The concepts suggest that the struggle with the fame she held over the past 16 years is coming to a close. From countless 2008 unreleased songs begging for a piece of the crowd to being chased by fans and cameras down Sunset Boulevard in 2013. Now though she is moving on from those extremes and altogether is going back to roots with her sound. 

Alongside this record, she has been working on a separate album called “Rock Candy Sweet” that was announced one day after her Chemtrails release set to be released on June 1st. All of her current work is produced by Jack Antonoff, arguably the most influential producer working in music today who just won Album of the year for his work with Taylor Swift on her 2020 record “Folklore”. 

Check out April McBride’s other reviews of LDR’s Work: 

‘Violent Bent Backwards Over The Grass’ (Poetry Book):

The first single from Chemtrails “Let Me Love You Like A Woman”:

Second single and namesake of Album ‘Chemtrails over the Country Club’: