Another outing for two of the busiest names in alternative pop, Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd is a behemoth title, one where the length of the title is as long as the tracklist. Lana Del Rey and Jack Antanoff come together once more, two years after the underwhelming Chemtrails Over the Country Club. Rey now presents herself as a constant commentator, sprinkling her seventy-eight-minute powerhouse with stars in her eyes, bold thoughts on her mind and a voice ready to push them through. Ocean Blvd struggles to stand out at times though and even in those moments of powerful contemplation, Rey falls short.
Take singles A&W and title track Ocean Blvd, two intimate and interesting contenders that see Rey push her voice, her production and her musical ability to new patches. Territory like that is a sign of growth, but everything spirals and flows in different directions. Antanoff cannot keep a lid on it, and when he does, he provides the dull and obvious piano notions of Sweet. Rage-induced Judah Smith Interlude is not so much a song as it is a contextualisation of thoughts and feelings. Pastor and influencer Judah Smith makes for a track that hardcore Lana fans will latch to as meaningful, but a skippable piece for everyone else. Does Jon Batiste need an interlude just two tracks later? No. They are vaguely worse than the awkward mixing on Fishtail and the forgettable but initially promising trip-hop flow that comes and goes at every turn.
What Ocean Blvd does need is consistency. For every marginally terrible and achingly, obviously faux poignant moment, there are truthful, heavy-hitting tracks just below the surface. Candy Necklace is tucked between a double interlude and that is likely for the best as the piano work flies off the chain, while the Father John Misty-featuring Margaret is a delicate piece that feels natural in its placement toward the end of this piece. Kintsugi has a mellow rise to it but feels misaligned when Fingertips strikes through straight after. Grandfather please…, for as intimate as it must be, feels horribly empty and misses the chance for emotional complexity through jovial titling, flickers of absent thought on the good intentions mentioned in Rey’s lyrics.
Collaboration heavy and dwindling in quality, Ocean Blvd is air-headed and shows off the scope of floundering and influence-chasing style Rey now finds herself in. This is no Norman Fucking Rockwell!, that is for sure. Little moments of collaboration show the additional artist has control, not Rey. Let The Light In might as well be a Misty track. With over an hour to spread her and Antanoff’s work over, it is stark and worrying just how little of it moves Rey and her new style on. Nothing particularly original or brand new beyond A&W, and even then the muddled display on that track kills off any major momentum for a new avenue of artistic interpretation. Rey coasts along on mellow emptiness that has neither the promising complexity of the opening track The Grants nor the spotty spoken-word renditions on Margaret.