For all the lacquer and haze of Lana Del Rey’s heavily stylised albums, they have often been cries of pain that cut near the bone. “Fuck me to death, love me till I love myself,” she sings on the title track of this sprawling ninth album. On the extraordinary A&W, she despairs of ever being loved: “This is the experience of being an American whore,” she offers, almost offhand. At 16 tracks, …Ocean Blvd leans heavily on a combination of muted piano, hovering strings and Del Rey’s voice. That instantly recognisable instrument is by turns ghostly or Joni Mitchell-pristine, often multitracked, or accompanied by the backing vocalists whose first take opens the album (The Grants; Grant is Del Rey’s real family name).
But although one mood is uppermost, spine-tingling stylistic swerves happen too, where the songwriter’s old-timey atmospheres abruptly turn digital (Fishtail is just one example). Del Rey appears to have recorded a sermon from a pew and put it straight on the record (Judah Smith Interlude), while on closer Taco Truck x VB she reuses great swathes of her old song Venice Bitch, with added textures and trap beats. Elsewhere, the act of remembering, family and metacommentaries on her own fame enliven this engrossing, audacious record.