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Music Culture cheat sheet: Lana Del Rey, “Her” score, and more

Mar. 22, 2021
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Listen: Chemtrails Over the Country Club by Lana Del Rey

During the release day of Lana Del Rey’s previous album Norman Fucking Rockwell back in 2019, the artist announced the follow-up White Hot Forever, slated for a 2020 release. It got pushed back like many other releases, and plenty has unfolded in that extra pocket of time: the album got renamed Chemtrails Over the Country Club; Del Rey complained that she was being singled out for “glamorizing abuse” while other female artists sing “songs about being sexy, wearing no clothes, fucking, cheating,” namedropping mostly women of color; and just this January she insisted that Trump didn’t mean to incite the Capitol riots.

It seemed Del Rey just kept making things worse the more she tried to defend herself, and anyone could see how this much bad press could potentially overshadow an album release. She released Chemtrails anyway, and to much critical acclaim—the record is currently enjoying an amicable 7.5 from Pitchfork and “universal acclaim” from Metacritic, with Del Rey being dubbed “one of the finest songwriters of her generation.” And it’s true! All feminism left my body once I heard the five-minute raspy, atmospheric opening track “White Dress” about Del Rey being “a waitress working the night shift” (the music video is, of course, of her roller skating).

Chemtrails is produced by resident pop girl manufacturer Jack Antonoff, though Del Rey has shaved off all pop tendencies from this record. Additional production was provided by Rick Nowels, who is also behind “Summertime Sadness,” “High by the Beach,” and other quintessential Lana tracks. You can always count on Del Rey to bank on nostalgia—inasmuch as white Americana is something to be nostalgic for—and perhaps this is what makes Chemtrails such a worthwhile listen. She can crystallize this feeling like no other, and her refusal to reinvent her persona, unlike her fellow 2014 Tumblr muse MARINA, drives that point even further. You know this is still Born to Die Lana, “Brooklyn Baby” Lana, but more "emotionally innocent"—especially since she continues to feign said innocence in her public image.

Stream Chemtrails Over the Country Club by Lana Del Rey on Spotify here.

Watch: Shangri-La (dir. Isabel Sandoval)

Auteur Isabel Sandoval is horny as fuck. The chaos of her Twitter account is made even better by her regular declarations that she is the "QUEEN OF SENSUAL CINEMA" (which she is), and to commemorate the release of her short film Shangri-La, she asked her followers who the horniest director is "besides me."

If she’s horny on main, she’s even hornier at work—Lingua Franca, her latest feature released last year, thoughtfully depicted longing, touch starvation, and sex fantasies in a way that effortlessly emanates from your screen. Her newest, the ten-minute Shangri-La, contains the same sentiments multiplied by a hundred. Its meek visuals—mostly of Sandoval herself, speaking to a lover off-camera—cast the viewer’s attention to the dialogue, narration, editing, and camerawork, which Sandoval all drives together toward the singular mission of creating sensuality so palpable you can cut it with a knife. When she whispers, “Your body makes my lips want to be the Earth so that they can kiss you everytime you touch me,“ I think I died and high-fived God. This film was made in partnership with Miu Miu, and perhaps it’s just one long ad for the fashion label, but at this point I would watch anything Sandoval puts her hands on. 

Shangri-La is available to stream on Mubi.

Listen: Her (Original Score) by Arcade Fire and Owen Pallett

From the years 2013-2020 I held such deep resentment for the Canadian indie rock band Arcade Fire for creating one of the most hard-hitting, emotionally-charged film scores in recent cinema, then never releasing any copy of it anywhere, physically or digitally. The musical accompaniment of Spike Jonze’s Her has earned an Oscar nod and a cult following over the years, with a YouTube compilation of the only two tracks with a clear version online—“Song on the Beach'' and “Photograph”—garnering over 17 million views. The comment section is rife with diaristic admissions of heartbreak, loneliness, and the occasional joy and catharsis. “This comment section is special,” one user posted. “To anyone who has commented or will in the future, know that we feel with you.” The video is six minutes of just piano, with an unmoving photo of the movie poster.

Now the entire score is on vinyl and every streaming platform, 40 minutes of pure emotional reckoning its composers just decided to drop out of nowhere. (Gone are the days when I would play its knockoff version on YouTube, where an ominous voice announcing,“Writing’s not easy, that’s why Grammarly can help…” is always just a few seconds away.) “There is a mysterious alchemy in the way sound and picture work together, notes and moods shifting and reacting to one another like a kaleidoscope,” Win Butler of Arcade Fire said in a statement. “And even in the absence of visuals, the emotional landscape still remains.” We’ve been stranded and parched in that emotional landscape for seven years, but thank you for noticing.

Fans are baffled as to why this was only released now, but considering this was the score for a film about a man in love with an AI on his phone, perhaps the band thought there is no better time than now. 

Stream Her (Original Score) by Arcade Fire and Owen Pallett on Spotify here.