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La Vie En Rose

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Amid the dusty Americana iconography and unshakable gloom, Lana Del Rey's fourth album manages to be her most optimistic output yet.

Lana Del Rey/ Lust For Life

At this point, there's really no need to delve into the back story of Lana Del Rey, a carefully crafted persona of the artist previously known as Lizzy Grant. Over the course of the last five years and three number-one studio outings, Lana Del Rey has earned her place in mainstream pop with a very specific Tumblr aesthetic -- an all-American girl whose penchant for ne'er-do-well men, vintage cars, and drugs and rock 'n' roll might one day just be her downfall. On her latest, Lust For Life, Del Rey continues to luxuriate in the despondent nostalgia and Polaroid-filter narrative, but this time there's an undercurrent of flower-child hopefulness that comes through both in her music and that little smile on the album cover.

"Look at you kids with your vintage music/Coming through satellites while cruising/You're part of the past, but now you're the future/Signals crossing can get confusing," she croons on lead single/opener Love, by far the most uplifting thing we've heard from her. Sure, plenty of artists have sung about being young and in love, but the restrained, almost cautious way in which she approaches the song is full of intrigue.

Keeping the positive vibes going, the title track finds her and R&B stalwart The Weeknd chasing after some good ol' carpe diem by climbing up "the H of the Hollywood sign" while alluding to the opt-quoted last stanza of William Ernest Henley's "Invictus" ("'Cause we're the masters of our own fate/We're the captains of our own souls"). 13 Beaches follows with a less cheerful message about avoiding the paparazzi and the go-to subject of doomed romance. "The fact that I can't deal/And that I've been dying for something real," she sings, then repeating the sentiment on Cherry and Tomorrow Never Came (featuring John Lennon's son Sean Lennon).

And it's not a LDR record without a mention of an iconic American automobile (White Mustang) and a collaboration with her favourite rapper A$AP Rocky (Summer Bummer, Groupie Love). Also worth noting here is her newfound propensity for long-winded song titles from Coachella -- Woodstock In My Mind and God Bless America - And All The Beautiful Women In It to When The World Was At War We Kept Dancing and Beautiful People Beautiful Problems (suitably featuring raspy-voiced Stevie Nicks).

Clocking in at 72 minutes, Lust For Life is one dense album that requires a bit of patience going in. But when you get to the final two tracks Change and Get Free, the payoff is worth it. Both a revelation, the former is a stripped-down piano ballad that sees Del Rey aiming for personal growth ("Change is a powerful thing, people are powerful beings/Trying to find the power in me to be faithful") whereas the latter is an upbeat '60s girl-group number about embracing positivity ("This is my commitment/My modern manifesto … Sometimes it feels like I've got a war in my mind/I want to get off, but I keep riding the ride … And now I do I wanna move/Out of the black into the blue").

THE PLAYLIST

Hundred Waters/ Blanket Me

After dropping a five-track synth pop-leaning EP Currency earlier this year, Florida quartet Hundred Waters have unveiled Blanket Me, an impressive new cut which sees them revisiting the elegiac, submerged soundscape that made up the majority of their self-titled debut and 2014's follow-up The Moon Rang Like A Bell. "You're my blanket, you're my skin/You're everything within," whispers vocalist Nicole Miglis just over plinking piano chords. "You're my guardian, I'm your sail/A boat in your harbour/Gone under, capsized and sinking." As Miglis ardently chants the song's title, the drums bleed in, creating a quiet turmoil that's both devastating and gorgeous.

Smiles With Teeth/ We Fight In The Prettiest Places

If the song's title has caught your attention, wait until you hear what it sounds like. Hailing from Montreal, Smiles With Teeth has been making electronic music (or "pretty music" as suggested by one of his tags on Bandcamp) since 2013. We Fight In The Prettiest Places, lifted from his latest EP Suddenly Constantly, serves up a lush composition inspired by the landscape of Iceland and loss of a loved one. Fans of soft-focus electronica acts like Boards Of Canada, Bonobo and Bibio should find this one a delight.

Kesha/ Learn To Let Go

Kesha's comeback reaches its peak with Learn To Let Go, the latest track from her long-delayed third LP Rainbow. "Been a prisoner of the past/Had a bitterness when I looked back/Was telling everyone it's not that bad/'Til all my shit hit the fan," she sings on the uplifting pop-rock production, clearly alluding to her embittered past with former producer Dr Luke and finding peace in letting go ("I think it's time to practise what I preach/Exorcise the demons inside me").

The War on Drugs/ Strangest Thing

The War On Drugs' fourth album, A Deeper Understanding, is set for a release at the end this month. But before that happens, we're treated to Strangest Thing, the third single following Holding On and the 11-minute Thinking Of A Place. Here, frontman Adam Granduciel mulls over an existential conundrum ("I've been hiding out so long/I gotta find another way … Am I just living in the space between/The beauty and the pain?") as the song takes its own sweet time building up to a crescendo of synths and guitar solos. This is a nostalgia-inducing slow-burner you didn't know you needed.

The Killers/ Run For Cover

We've previously heard disco-inspired The Man, lead single off The Killers' forthcoming fifth LP Wonderful Wonderful. Now, Brandon Flowers and Co have shared Run For Cover, a propulsive track built around urgent guitar riffs and new-wave basslines reminiscent of New Order, or more recently, Future Islands. "What have you gathered to report to your progenitors?/Are your excuses any better than your senator's?" Flowers asks at the opening before proceeding to reference famous American boxer Sonny Liston and rhyme "an apology" with "an A in toxicology" with a straight face.

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