Saturday, February 04, 2012

Born To Die - Lana Del Ray

There will be a lot of people who will have come to this album with preconceived ideas that will take a lot of shifting. Some will have swallowed the hype hook, line and sinker and will be afraid to declare this as anything less than genius. Others will have taken offence to the "manufactured" nature of proceedings and will immediately have labelled it as the work of the devil and only a minor step up from the Simon Cowell led "death of REAL music."

What were my preconceived ideas? Well I wasn't a fan of Video Games when I first heard it but slowly it lodged in my brains and I would concede it was one of the best songs of last year. The "marketing" behind it didn't phase me, largely because anyone who thinks that that is solely a 21st Century invention is kidding themselves (look up Elvis peddling "black music" to white Americans, or the fact that The Beatles were all given the same haircut). So basically I was willing to give it a chance.

How organic (or not) Video Games was it seems clear that it set in stone the Lana Del Ray template. If it was truly was the first step that got her noticed and led to her record deal and the subsequent hype then all the co-writers on the album soon caught up with exactly what that had to offer and tailored their work with her accordingly. If it was all done prior to that "breaking" then they've merely took the best song of the bunch and made that the focal point of the campaign.

Because Video Games is truly the stand-out moment on the album. It's a world away from anything else that was a truly mainstream phenomenon in 2011's pop charts (give me that over Adele's risible Someone Like You any-day - although Adele's album contains a handful of absolutely stunning tracks, to be fair) and deserves it's "classic" status. Nothing else comes quite close enough to matching that. Follow up-single Born To Die is good but can't escape the feeling that it's an inferior retread of it's predecessor and the likes of Dark Paradise echo those emotions too.

It's not all the "one" sound though but it's only really Diet Mountain Dew of the others that really takes off and comes close to matching the unique charms of Video Games.

My real problem with the album is that it seems to have taken one really good concept/idea/personae and stretched it out as far as it can possibly go over twelve (or fifteen if you've got the deluxe album) tracks without letting Del Ray loose with what she can REALLY do.

Unlike some reviewers on here who can't see how she can follow up this debut album (meaning that's it is so good how can she match it) I'm actually thinking that the follow up might be the time that Del Ray really nails it. She has the voice (if not the "rapping" abilities), the interesting lyrical personae's and, as much as it might upset some people to point it out given that the music is the "important" thing, the look to be a lasting star.

Of course, it could also be the time when I find out she really was just the product of hype after all. But I'd like to think that that won't be the case.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Lindi Ortega LIVE

Lindi Ortega's Little Red Boots was my album of 2011.  Admittedly her "Dolly Parton meets Johnny Cash" personae and music could almost have been genetically modified to appeal to my tastes (I've long been a sucker for a country and  western girl whose sound harks back to the days before Shania Twain became the country "benchmark") but that's hardly her fault and, furthermore, wouldn't matter a jot if the album wasn't so great anyway.

Of course it's not always the case that a great artist on record makes for a great artist on the stage but if I had been worried that Lindi Ortega would prove to be less on stage than she is on record those doubts wouldn't have lasted for long.

Because, quite simply, she was awesome.  It was just her and a guitar (and some charmingly amusing asides between songs) and it left you in little doubt as to just what a talent she is.  Songs from the album sounded just as good "stripped down" as they do with full backing on the record, new songs were sublime (the only title I can remember now is "Use Me" which was pegged as a "public service announcement") and her cover of Johnny Cash's Folsom Prison Blues was expertly pitched and got one of the reactions of the night from a quiet, but genuinely interested/entertained audience.

Ortega's songs of heartbreak, lost love and the like may sound like traditional country and western themes but they're presented here with a fresh, modern twist that deserves a huge audience.

And thanks again to the Big Man for doing his customary photo duties.  Three must be a record even for you!