Review: 'Ultraviolence' by Lana Del Rey
Credit: Interscope

Review: 'Ultraviolence' by Lana Del Rey

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You are an ashtray

Lana Del Rey has come a long way from her debut “Born to Die.” New “Ultraviolence” is legions more cohesive, conceptually stronger and packaged better than her scarlet starlets of 2011.

The improvements are still in want. Del Rey is wearing, again, the troubled, beautiful and bored persona for this experiential album, which upfront demands a certain suspension of reality. From psyche-lilting opener “Cruel World” to dead-eyed cover “The Other Woman,” “Ultraviolence” doesn’t so much get exhausted as it exhausts you on this lethargic fantasy. She and producer Auerbach need for you to go there, even as you side-eye the payoff.

Del Rey battles some of the tiresome tropes of fame (“Money Power Glory”) or the bitter backbiting (“Fucked My Way To The Top”) that have nipped at her heels during the last couple of years, during her rise to pop prominence, co-writing every song. But she does it in the most world-weary ways at times, with slurs and sighs and cartoonishishly lethargic composure. Her “Ultraviolence” characters are disillusioned and addicted to other misanthropes, as if she has no agency to fall out of love with the worst of them. (This is fine, by the way, until the self-mockery of “The Other Woman” breaks the will to breathe). The woozy anthems like “Sad Girl” are so pitiable, “Brooklyn Baby” so sarcastic, it makes it almost seems like she has skin in the game.

She has Auerbach making some lush choices to echo this culty purview, particularly with some guitar lines that hover over the mess like Del Rey’s reverb-dripping hum.  Pretending she can’t sing for the sake of “Pretty When You Cry” is helped by an equally janky arrangement; a Wah-wah pedal cries out over the angelic “Shades of Cool” like a maternity ward. Sharp co-writers and –producers like Daniel Heath and Greg Kurstin, snap onto the lyrical and sonic template with eerie accuracy. All the skeletons are out of the closets and arranged and organized so impeccably on the lawn. If only it hit a different note.

In the track-by-track review below, I try to highlight the finite differences.

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“Cruel World”: Nearly 7 minutes baby babble with a Black Angels jam. Bibles and guns, women and fun (and heroin), Del Rey says that she’s “so happy now that you’re gone,” but can you believe the protagonist is capable of happiness? That may be exactly the point.

“Ultraviolence”: It’s too bad the best lyrics here – which summarize the story – are borrowed (“He hit me and it felt like a kiss”). This one is a grower, a dirge on the moon. Why ruin it with a spoken word bridge?

“Shades of Cool”: Lana Del Rey is the spinning ballerina in your musical box, the one where you keep all your cocaine. I love the blue mood of the coherent and interesting chorus, which helpfully puts her voice in a key that plays up her talents.

“Brooklyn Baby”: What is more annoying than hipsters? Complaining about hipsters.  

“West Coast”: This actually has a nice clip to it, and it wouldn’t be out of the imagination if Auerbach had Danger Mouse behind the wheel of this Laurel Canyon night ride.

“Sad Girl”: Her voice reporting like a slinky trumpet, Del Rey just went into the other room to slip into something a little more cloying. She’s a sad girl and a bad girl, and 92% OKCupid compatible with the dude from “Video Games.”

“Pretty When You Cry”: Slow down an Eagles song, and combine it with a wounded vocal take that doubles as a skin irritant.

“Money Power Glory”: This would be an utter triumph had Pink or Christina (or, OK, Leonard Cohen) growled through it. This is all Kurstin, who tries to amplify the visceral sadness and only has a deflated vocal performance to work with. I wanted something nasty and daring. It’s a paper crane when it could be an eagle.

“Fucked My Way Up To The Top”: Spoiler alert: this song is extra needy. “Lay me down / in linen and pearls / lay me down tonight / I’m your favorite girl.” She’s making a joke, and I’m looking for the bar.

“Old Money”: This song makes me think of people who watch “Wolf of Wall Street” and fail to see Leonardo DiCaprio’s character as the miserable sh*tpile he is. This is some excellent, heart-filled work, all-deserving of the mist and a grand piano.

“The Other Woman”: I am an ashtray, and the last cigarette’s just been stamped out.



"Ultraviolence" is out today (June 17).

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<p>Jon Hopkins</p>

Jon Hopkins

Credit: Steve Gullick

Jon Hopkins' 'We Disappear' video dances in smoke

Featuring Lulu James,

Jon Hopkins' "Immunity" made it into my Top 10 Albums of 2013, so it is only good and right to make sure you hear its opening track, in video form.

"We Disappear" featuring Lulu James is intoxicating and emotional, like a fancy robe in a blacklit room.

It would have fit right in with my recent mix for Vevo, for their Guest List column; I outline other dance and electronica jams to kick your summer off right, including Tove Lo's "Stay High," Sia's "Chandelier," Porter Robinson's "Sad Machine," Gorgon City's "Ready for Your Love," La Roux's "Let Me Down Gently" and Le1f's "Sup." Listen to them all here.

Get ready for your heart to hurt around 1:18.

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<p>Hank Williams and Tom Hiddleston</p>

Hank Williams and Tom Hiddleston

Tom Hiddleston to play Hank Williams in biopic: Here are some videos of the actor singing

Hey good lookin': 'Thor' actor to perform as country icon, voice and all

Tom Hiddleston is on tap to play one of the greatest American music icons, Hank Williams.

Named for one of Williams' best known songs, "I Saw the Light" will see the British actor trying on a deep South accent and tackling tunes from the Williams songbook.

The British actor has risen to fame in recent years for his delicious turn as Loki in the "Thor" films, for dancing on command, and co-starring as a storied and tortured musician in one of 2014's best films "Only Lovers Left Alive."

Williams, on the other hand, rose to fame in his teens and died at 29 of complications due to his raging alcoholism and drug abuse, leave behind a rep of at least three dozen country, blues and gospel originals and renditions one could easily qualify as stone-cold classics. The singer/songwriter's fabled death alone could fill volumes (or at least a 90-minute film and a spin-off).

Looks like "Only Lovers Left Alive" may have been a good training ground after all.

"I Saw the Light" will be directed by Marc Abraham ("Flash of Genius") from his screenplay  based on Colin Escott’s non-fiction title "Hank Williams: The Biography."  Bret Ratner's RatPac Entertainment and Aaron L. Gilbert's Bron Studios lead, with other producer credits going to G. Marq Roswell and Abraham. James Packer is executive producing.

And don't be daunted with the possibility of an estate catalog-block, a la Jimi Hendrix and "All Is By My Side": the rights for tunes like “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” “Hey Good Lookin’” and “Your Cheatin’ Heart” have already been cleared.

Which leads us to Hiddleston, who'll be singin' them. But who knew Loki could sing? OK, to be fair, we did. Below are just a mere smattering of times Tom Hiddleston has sang on camera.

The Hank Williams story has been approached before, like in 1964's so-so "Your Cheatin' Heart," and 2012's "The Last Ride." With big names like RatPac and Hiddleston batting, hopefully "I Saw the Light" will be more of a holler.

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Up all night to get nerdy: Watch Mastodon's awesome 'High Road' video

Up all night to get nerdy: Watch Mastodon's awesome 'High Road' video

Metal band spell grants +4 enhancement

How do you feel about live action role playing? D&D? "Role Models?" Your grandma?

Check in with your local gamemaster and join in the fun of Mastodon's "High Road" music video, which should speak to your inner dweeb-among-nerds (the fact that you are a nerd a given, you're safe here).

Pressing the heavy riffage up against soft foam swords gives this single from the metal band's forthcoming "Once More 'Round the Sun" some oomph, while the last shot may take the wind out of you. (Did we mention you can buy "Once More 'Round the Sun" with BitCoin?)

"High Road" and "Chimes After Midnight" are the first two songs so far to arrive from the June 24 release. Check out both below.

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Morrissey cancels tour, new album still on: 'World Peace' with singer is impossible

Morrissey cancels tour, new album still on: 'World Peace' with singer is impossible

Your relationship status update with Morrissey: 'It's complicated'

I was at Morrissey's Los Angeles stop of his North American tour last month, and was the guest of someone who had warned me that, mid-set, she'd be stepping out. She knew the introduction and performance of "Meat Is Murder" was coming and that the video presentation that came with it contained footage of animals being slaughtered and abused, and the generally very poor conditions meat animals endure in slaughterhouses.

When these videos finally did launch, I saw streams of people headed up the aisles of the Sports Arena. Some people fired up their lighters, or "woooed" and gravitated closer to the stage, others crossed their arms or checked their phones or took video of the screens.

The guy standing left of me -- who arrived to the concert, like so many Morrissey fans, dressed to the nines --  started shelling out obscenities, as loud as he could. "F*ck you Morrissey! I love meat! I wish I had a big f*cking burger right now!" he'd rattle at the famous PETA spokesperson, giving the bird to his entertainer and his friends. "No! Shut the f*ck up and sing!"

The man in front of me was either making out with his arm or crying into it.

They both were singing every word to "First of the Gang to Die" a couple tunes later.

Fans' relationship to Morrissey, and vice versa, is fascinating. That is not to say that Morrissey is necessarily some rare beast or species. I think his activism, how he articulates his manner and politics, the branding, the imaging, the sex and the age make a very particular mix of him as an icon. He is a complicated artist, and I think it's good for people to have complicated relationships to art.

This week, Morrissey canceled the rest of his tour in support of "World Peace Is None of Your Business" his next album. Via his Facebook:

"It is with great sadness that the remainder of the US Tour has been cancelled. The respiratory infection Morrissey contracted in Miami has worsened, and in the interest of making a full recovery, all further touring plans have been halted. Morrissey thanks his fans for their compassion, understanding, and well-wishes during this difficult period as he recuperates."

And it's not just that he is stepping away from the road due to illness -- speaking through soapbox True To You, he explained further.

"Difficulties had arisen on May 31st following Kristeen Young's opening set at the Miami Knight Concert Hall, after which Kristeen confessed to 'a horrendous cold,' the symptoms of which were passed on to Morrissey resulting in the cancellation of the next show in Atlanta. For the good of all, Kristeen was asked to step down from the immediate upcoming shows, but instead she decided to leave the tour entirely. Morrissey and the band wish her well and hope she is now in good health."

So Morrissey is, effectively and with no known motivation, blaming Kristeen Young for getting him sick and causing cancellation of the tour. Young volleyed back that in Miami she "had an allergy attack that was over within 16 hours," that she offered to have Morrissey and his camp a follow-up with her doctors. She also said that she was asked to leave the entire tour because a replacement had already been called.

"I am very sorry that Morrissey is not feeling well. But I will not tolerate these lies....particularly about my health," she wrote on Facebook. "This is really too much and bizarre."

Kristeen Young (under the name KRISTEENYOUNG) also opened for Morrissey in 2007. Described as his protege at one point, she as was booted from that tour for what she later called a metaphor, for telling the crowd, "Morrissey gives good head, I mean, um, cunnilingus..."

Morrissey has cancelled and postponed many tour dates in years past on the basis of illness,  visa problems, a blown voice, meat on arena menus or rowdy and unruly crowds. He nixed more than 20 shows in 2009. Longtime bandmembers would quit mid-tour. Morrissey would sometimes quit mid-show. (For a fun read, here's "Every Time Morrissey Has Canceled.")

In the Bay area last month, concert-goers, the band and the singer himself were in danger due to a "stage invasion," of fans rushing to get hugs from the former Smiths singer.

He's also stormed off stage for being hit in the head with a water bottle.

Read the concert reviews of the shows that actually transpired on this tour, and you'll see raves up and down, about what a fine and stunning performer Morrissey is. And it's true. I'm not a dyed-wool fan, but the man has swagger, a voice like a muscle ripples, tone and control for days. He's coquettish, romantic, chic and mean as a presence.

When I saw him, he seemed somewhat guarded as fans clung to his outreached arms to the front row, and who can blame him. For a misanthrope whose best-love rep includes titles like "The More You Ignore Me, the Closer I Get," "Disapoointed," "We Hate It When Our Friends Are Successful" and "I Have Forgiven Jesus," he's got the poetry of push-and-pull, a little something with which Kanye West fans may be familiar.

Look to the title of his next album: "World Peace Is None of Your Business" (due July 15). Most people (the ones I know anyway) are firmly pro-World Peace. The confrontation begins.

For every song on the album, Morrissey also recorded a spoken word version of the song. In the case of the third single "Earth Is the Loneliest Planet," he released a video, but for the spoken word version, featuring another PETA enthusiast Pamela Anderson and him standing on the roof of the Capitol Records building. It went wide while the song itself could only be streamed via Spotify. (Also: spoken word, but there's bathwater and there's babies.)

On the 17th this month, all three of the available songs from the record will be officially go up on Vevo and YouTube and the other usual suspects. Then, or now, you should give them a spin -- so far, the album is shaping up nicely with an especially lovely croon on "Instanbul." It's high-minded stuff, and yet easy to rally around, even when the extraordinary artist himself makes even the act of enjoyment all the more complicated. It says as much about us as it does him.

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<p>Spoon</p>

Spoon

Credit: Tom Hines

Spoon releases new song 'Rent I Pay,' and it's pretty great

First new music to arrive from band's 'They Want My Soul'

Efficient, distorted, fresh and messy. That's how I'd describe Spoon's "Rent I Pay,"the first song to arrive from their forthcoming album "They Want My Soul."

The band has in various forms of away-time for the last four years, their longest break. Singer Britt Daniel formed the Divine Fits, drummer Jim Eno has produced some great records from !!!, Heartless Bastards and more, for instance.

I've gotten the impression from talking to Daniel before that he needs a certain amount of distance from his band to get anything done. He moved out of Austin, for instance; he writes lyrics separately, which is one of the hardest part of his job description.

I love the crunch and pop of 2001's "Girls Can Tell" and the tight empty spaces of 2002's "Kill the Moonlight." I don't think I or the band could explain how those albums -- released one after the other -- felt so different and so much the opposite of stale. 2010's "Transference" had some of that wear (I hate to say it) and it had more than three years to boil.

All this to say, I think "Rent I Pay" is a really good sign. It's something very straight-forward and viscerally rock 'n' roll, even with the metronomic mid-tempo. As previously reported, Spoon added a permanent new member, keyboardist Alex Fischel (who also served in Divine Fits), and you can hear his organ sprinklings here, too.

Pre-orders are up now for "They Want My Soul," due Aug. 5 via Loma Vista, their first for the label.

Listen to the song below; tour dates are below that.

06/14/14 - Burnaby, BC - CBC Festival

06/21/14 - Toronto, ON - NXNE Festival

06/14/14 - Vancouver, BC - CBC Music Festival

06/22/14 - Minneapolis, MN - Rock the Garden 2014

06/26-28/14 - Las Vegas, NV - Brooklyn Bowl Las Vegas

07/12-13/14 - Telluride, CO - The Ride Festival

07/18/14 - Louisville, KY - Forecastle Festival

07/25/14 - Seattle, WA - Capitol Hill Block Party

08/01/14 - Chicago, IL - Metro

08/02/14 - Chicago, IL - Lollapalooza

08/08/14 - Los Angeles, CA - "They Want My Soul" on The Fairbanks Lawn of the Hollywood Forever Cemetery

08/10/14 - San Francisco, CA - Outside Lands

08/17/14 - Portland, OR - Musicfest NW

08/30-31/14 - Philadelphia, PA - Made in America Festival

09/05/14 - Raleigh, NC - Hopscotch Music Festival

09/07/14 - Boston, MA - Boston Calling Music Festival

10/03-05/14 - Austin, TX - Austin City Limits Music Festival

10/10-12/14 - Austin, TX - Austin City Limits Music Festival

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<p>Jenny Slate and Gillian Robespierre</p>

Jenny Slate and Gillian Robespierre

Credit: HitFix

Jenny Slate, Gillian Robespierre on 'Obvious Child' and confessional comedy

Women In Film, People In Film

A lot of people have danced in their bedrooms to Paul Simon's "Obvious Child," and told Gillian Robespierre and Jenny Slate so after seeing their film of the same name.

It's the stuff that people find in common with Slate's character Donna -- whether its drinking wine to excess to tend a wounded heart, pants-off dance-offs or pregnancy scares -- that gives the movie its charge. And it's the comedy in every circumstance, even when Donna opts for an abortion, that gives "Obvious Child" its spark.

Calling the Robespierre-directed film an "abortion comedy" is reductive. "Rom-com" isn't quite right either. Its New York setting and Donna's arrested development has caused a lot of critics to lump it in with "Frances Ha," "Broad City" and "Girls"; those assessments just go to show there's not a lot of solid, hilarious coming-of-agers in film or TV that lend humanity and hard-edged wisdom to 20-something independent women.

Ampilified more, then, is the fact that "Obvious Child" was written by women, directed by a woman, led and carried by women. In our conversation this week about the film, Robespierre doesn't dig the term "Women in film," just as Slate isn't a "Woman in comedy." They're the people who know uniquely how to illustrate a POV, what it's like to bomb on stage, dance in their skivvies, fear the moral wrath of their mothers and make drunk fart jokes like everyone else.

Watch our whole interview above. Read more about "SNL" alum Slate and our review of "Obvious Child" here. The film is in theaters now.

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Blood Orange's throwback video for 'You're Not Good Enough'

Blood Orange's throwback video for 'You're Not Good Enough'

Gia Coppola directs, you dance

Blood Orange's album "Cupid Deluxe" was in my Top 10 of 2013, and "You're Not Good Enough" is one of the reasons it was good enough.

Now there's a music video for this catchily depressing (depressingly catchy?) new-wave-n-b single, directed by "Palo Alto" helmer Gia Coppola. Blood Orange kicked in 30 minutes of music for her film, so it looks like the favor was returned.

Throw on some leggings and get to your crunches: this vid takes me back to "Kids Incorporated" and the finale of "Scrooged" in a scrunchy kind of way. Did you know Blood Orange's Dev Hynes can dance like that? You should.

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<p>Lana Del Rey</p>

Lana Del Rey

Credit: Neil Krug

Lana Del Rey's new song 'Ultraviolence': Lipstick and corpses

Of the three new songs, which do you like best?

Lana Del Rey has consecrated us with the dirge-like title track from her next album "Ultra Violence" opening with lines like -- among others --  "I was filled with poison / but blessed with beauty and rage," just like we like her.

I'm now going to chew bubble-gum in slow motion, filing my nails over a dead body.

Del Rey's sophomore set "Ultraviolence" is out in less than two weeks, on June 13. It was produced by Dan Auerbach, who recently saw the drop of his band The Black Keys' album "Turn Blue."

Other tracks to be released from "Ultraviolence" so far include "Shades of Cool" and "West Coast," also below. Which song do you like the best so far?

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Washed Out's 'Weightless' music video: Come for the makeout, stay for the story
Credit: Sub Pop

Washed Out's 'Weightless' music video: Come for the makeout, stay for the story

Rebuffed romance and window sheers: Washed Out on tour now

The latest music video for Washed Out is all window sheers and cross breezes. It is, in essence, why I wish to be in near-constant proximity to Washed Out, to queue up a makeout at a moment's notice.

This long-form clip, directed by David Altobelli, also has a really beautiful, heart-rending story, about youth, first touch and "unrequited love." Check out the disappearing scars, the times of slow-motion's employ. And do you remember rollerblades? God, do I remember rollerblades, and waking dreamers who were in them.

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